Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated January 10, 2020)
You look in the mirror and your eyes are drawn immediately to a few blackheads—tiny black pinpoints on your face, shoulders, or upper arms. In a word, clogged skin pores cause these blackheads. The clogging occurs when dead skin cells or some other agent (makeup, grease, etc.) stops excess oil from flowing freely from the pore. The characteristic black color of a blackhead is caused when the oil and blocking material interacts with the air.
People with oily skin are more prone to blackheads. The best way to deal with blackheads is to prevent them in the first place. Make sure that you regularly and frequently cleanse your skin. This helps to remove the dead skin cells and excess oil—the two primary ingredients for blackheads.
You should also take a look at any makeup you may be using. Women with oily skin often apply powder or other items to help dull the "sheen" that often accompanies oily skin. This is understandable, but you should make sure that the powder doesn't build up and that you wash it away regularly. Also avoid greasy, creamy, and thick makeup products or moisturizers that can block pores.
When you wash, don't use the trusty bar of soap next to you sink. Bar soap includes ingredients that help the soap hold its shape. These agents, which can be left on your skin, may add to the blockage of your pores. Instead, use a gentle liquid cleanser or a light cream cleanser that is water-soluble. These will wash off fully and not add to your problem.
You could also try a gentle exfoliant. These are great for removing the dead skin cells not only on the surface of your skin, but also from within the pores themselves. This allows the oil to flow freely, and stops the blockage that can occur. If possible, look for an exfoliant that contains 1% or 2% beta hydroxy acids (BHA). If your skin cannot tolerate BHA, then try a product that contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHA).
To remove a blackhead, first exfoliate your skin as already described. Then place the affected area over hot water in a basin for a few minutes, as this helps to open the pores. If necessary, pat your face dry. With clean fingertips, tissues or a blackhead remover, press gently against the sides of the blackhead to squeeze it out. You want to apply pressure from behind or beneath the blackhead to force it out. Never squeeze hard and never break the skin. If the blackhead resists pressure, try again a few days later.
Afterwards; dab the area with medicated cream or witch hazel to prevent the pore from becoming infected.
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