Out of the countless varieties of spots, however, very few prove more stubborn than blackheads. If you feel like you’re in a never-ending battle against those pesky black pin-prick blemishes, this is all the information you need to banish them.
What are blackheads?If you thought blackheads are little more than dirt trapped in pores, you’d be mistaken. EV expert and Ashley Aesthetics Founder, Dr Emmaline Ashley explains, “Blackheads are a type of acne known as open comedones. When hair follicles get blocked, a plug forms, containing a variety of substances including dead skin cells, bacteria and sebum.”
Blackheads actually get their black appearance as the ‘plug’ remains open to the skin’s surface – unlike whiteheads that are ‘closed’ with a layer of skin over the top – exposing it to oxygen. “Oxygen causes the material in the follicle to oxidise and turn black. Whiteheads remain white as they are not exposed to oxygen in the same way,” adds Ashley.
Who is most prone to getting blackheads?“Like all forms of acne, contributing factors for blackhead breakouts can include hormone fluctuations, and stress,” says Ashley. And while it’s true that anyone can get blackheads, those with oiler skin types might experience them more than others due to an increase in sebum production, which can cause follicles to become blocked.
Can they be squeezed?While experts generally recommend avoiding squeezing any type of spot, they do tend to acknowledge that sometimes we can’t help ourselves. Squeezing blackheads, however, should be avoided at all costs. “Extraction tools, like metal rods with a hook or loop on the end, are often seen on social media.
However, these are designed to be used by licensed professionals and using them incorrectly can do more harm than good,” warns Ashley. Unlike whiteheads, the ‘plug’ that forms in blackheads tends to be stubborn, and very hard to budge with a gentle squeeze.
So how do you get rid of them?First, take a look at the sorts of ingredients in your skincare routine. “Beta-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid is an excellent and widely used ingredient. It is oil soluble which means it’s able to penetrate deeply within pores to dissolve excess sebum to keep pores clear. It also has some anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits too,” says Ashley.
She also recommends considering products that contain retinoids. “These vitamin A derivatives help speed up cell turnover, to stop dead skin cells from clogging pores,” she explains.
Other ingredients that can help reduce the prominence of blackheads are alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic and lactic acid. This type of exfoliating acid is water-soluble working on the skin’s surface, dislodging dead skin cells that would otherwise clog your pores.
On top of a daily blackhead busting regime, regular in-clinic chemical peels work a treat. Peels rapidly slough away the top layers of skin but at a deeper level than every day at-home acid laced products. As a result, your skin should be left at a good base point to carry on the good work at home to keep pores free of excess sebum, and dead skin cells.
Emmaline Ashley, Aesthetic Doctor
I'm Dr Emmaline Ashley, the founder of Ashley Aesthetics. I'm passionate about beauty, wellness and science. I wanted...Book with Emmaline Ashley