What exactly are blackheads and what causes them?
The technical name for a blackhead is an open comedone that can appear as an open blackhead or a closed whitehead on the T-zone, back, chest and arms.
Blackheads occur when a hair follicle becomes filled with oil and bacteria and the debris turns black due to oxidation. Although this is different to having a clogged pore, even though the two skin issues look similar, they should be treated differently.
Clogged pores, which are also called sebaceous filaments, form when the oils that line the pore build up, making it appear wider than usual. Blackheads are caused by a buildup of bacteria and excess oil that irritates the hair follicle and increases oil production.
Can blackheads be prevented?
The good news is that there are many simple ways that you can help to prevent blackheads from forming such as cleansing and exfoliating. Cleansing your skin each morning and evening will help to remove any debris in the pores that can contribute to blackheads while regular exfoliation – either physical or chemical - will help to remove more stubborn dirt.
What products and professional treatments are there?
There are various ways of treating blackheads ranging from the basic, to the invasive.
Cleanse, tone and treat
A cleanser containing a chemical exfoliant such as salicylic acid is an effective way of preventing and targeting blackheads. Chemical exfoliants reach the deep layers of the skin without physically scrubbing the surface of the skin.
If you want to introduce a chemical exfoliant to your everyday routine, try a cleanser such as Skinceuticals’ Blemish + Age Cleanser. Its gentle formula removes excess sebum and makeup from the pores while accelerating skin surface exfoliation and smoothing irregularities. This helps to refine the appearance of the pores, minimising blemishes and brightening the look of the skin.
You can also follow this with Skinceuticals’ Blemish + Age Toner which is formulated with a combination of three exfoliating agents: LHA, glycolic and salicylic acids. With regular use, you should start to see an improvement in the appearance of ageing signs and open pores.
Chemical exfoliants can also be found in serums such as SkinCeuticals’ Blemish + Age Defense. This potent yet lightweight serum combines a range of alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids - including salicylic and glycolic - that help to reduce the appearance of blemishes and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
A chemical peel is a professional treatment that involves a chemical exfoliant, such as glycolic or salicylic acid, being applied directly to the skin. This exfoliates the upper layer of the epidermis which helps to address blockages within the pores. The result is smoother, even skin with clearer and more refined pores.
Microdermabrasion is performed by a professional and involves a mechanised instrument with an abrasive surface. Also known as ‘microderm’, the treatment involves gently sanding down the top layer of the skin, which renews the surface and reduces the appearance of clogged pores caused by blackheads.
Laser and light therapy
Both laser and light therapy services are performed by dermatologists in skin clinics or spas and help to reduce oil production and kill off bacteria. Both treatments are an effective and gentle way of targeting blackheads without disrupting the upper layer of the skin.