In the world of blemishes, there are whiteheads, cystic acne and their evil step sister, blackheads. And, though blackheads aren't painful, they're unsightly and—like ants–they seem to pop up in clusters. While you could spend your mornings squeezing, scrubbing and picking away at your skin, there are more efficient (and less painful) methods to deal with stubborn blackheads. We've broken down the basics for you: why you have them and how to treat them so you can get rid of them for good!
What is a blackhead?
When pores get clogged with oil and dead skin a blemish forms; when the pore is exposed to air a blackhead forms. Inversely, when the pore is closed and restricted from air exposure, a whitehead forms.
What Causes Blackheads?
Oily and acne-prone skin tends to be more prone to blackheads due to the over production of sebum, but various skincare products can also lead to blackheads. According to Dr. Cynthia Bailey, "Some skin care products actually increase this clumping and are called 'comedogenic. . .' It's usually the oil in the product that is the problem, Mineral oil and petrolatum (also called Vaseline) in products are particularly comdeogenic."
What Can You Do to Treat Them?
Blackheads are a mild form of acne, so salicylic acid and retinoids are key ingredients to look for in treating them. Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, which means it can actually aid in dissolving sebum, making it great for treating mild flare-ups and forms of acne. In an interview with Allure magazine, board certified dermatologist, Dr. Rachel Nazarian recommends using a leave-on treatment stating, "use a leave-on product rather than a cleanser or a soap, since the longer the exposure to the active ingredient, the better it'll work." We recommend trying Clear Days Ahead Overnight Repair Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment ($42, at sephora.com) and Murad Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel ($45, at murad.com)
How To Get Rid of Blackheads For Good
Remember that your skin is a living thing, so abrasive scrubs can irritate the skin and exacerbate issues with acne. Instead, try a gentle exfoliant like a Beta Hydroxy Acid, which has anti-inflammatory benefits and can help clear the pores. You should also continue to use salicylic acid in your morning and evening routine to prevent breakouts. To removed dead skin and pore build-up, you should also invest in an Alpha Hydroxy Acid cleanser like Skinceuticals Simply Clean Cleanser ($34, atdermstore.com)