Blackhead Treatment Guide
They’re irritable, they’re unappealing, and most of all, they lower your self-esteem and confidence. Blackheads form in many different ways and require due diligence with your skin care regimen in order to keep them at bay. But what are blackheads, how do we get them, and what can we do to get rid of them?
This guide is designed to bring you from the beginning stages, all the way to eliminating blackheads, preventing them from cropping up in the future and busting some of the worst myths about treatments that have somehow still survived the information era. After this, you’ll be on your way to clearer, radiant skin.
First of All, What Are They, and How do They Form?
Blackheads aren’t the same as whitehead pimples. With those, you have pus, inflated skin, redness, and irritation, but blackheads usually just present themselves as these slightly raised dots on your face. You might have noticed whiteheads on other parts of your body from time to time (perhaps one under your arm if you waited too long to shower after the gym, etc.). Blackheads are almost always found on your face because they’re a reaction from your hair follicles located in your pores.
You have a gland that secretes something called sebum. It’s oily, it coats your hair as it pokes through the surface, but it’s usually in such small trace amounts that it would never bother you. We’re going to get into treatment options that will show you the best possible solution, but for now, let’s just assume that you’re in good health with a fairly decent diet. You can still get blackheads.
Sebum buildup can occur from multiple reasons, but it reacts in the same way that pus and whiteheads do: it inflames the skin. While it’s not usually visual, since you’ll see a lot of blackheads have little to no discoloration or reddening around them, it’s sebum buildup irritating your hair follicles. This is like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object: one refuses to budge (the hair follicle), but on its own, the other force (sebum) isn’t going to move out of the way. That’s where treatment options come in.
It should be noted that even those of you with an incredibly excellent diet and exercise regimen can still encounter blackheads. To a certain degree, this sebum production is hereditary. While it’s not fair, we’re going to give you every weapon you’ll ever need against sebum buildup and blackhead formation.
Start by Examining Your Dietary Habits
We often think that we’re eating right, simply because we’ve cut down on the chemical-filled junk that we eat. Everyone’s bodies react differently to different stimuli, and for some, even a single serving of potato chips can be enough to throw your stomach into disarray and make your skin produce more oil. It all depends on the person.
Your skin reacts differently as well. If your dietary habits include an insane amount of healthy food, and those include healthy, fatty acids most commonly found in seafood and fish, you could still run into a problem. Sebum is primarily made up of triglycerides, which comes from these fatty acids. An overproduction can still cause blackheads, even when you’re eating properly.
Since sebum isn’t the only element that creates oil on the surface of your skin, it’s combating against other oil buildups. That’s where our treatment options are going to come into play. Sebum is, however, the only thing that really creates blackheads.
If You’re Not Drinking Enough Water, It’s Time to Start
On the subject of diet, we know that healthy foods help optimize our organ function, and improve our overall well-being. What you may not have known, is that your skin is also technically an organ. You ingest healthy foods for the internal benefits, and you should be drinking more water for the same reason: to promote healthy skin.
Water is ingested, it goes through your stomach, blood vessel, digestive tract, and other organs, all before it reaches the skin. It’s like a ripple in a pond: the last place that it reaches is the outermost area, and usually in much calmer waves. There are some experts that state you only need three glasses of water per day, so long as you’re drinking other things throughout the day (coffee, tea, etc.), but for the best possible results for your skin, you need to be drinking eight 8oz glasses per day, or half a gallon.
The best way to do this is to get a half-gallon container, bring it with you wherever you go (work, gym, make it accessible while driving so you don’t reach for coffee), and get through it over the course of the day. Many people make the mistake of trying to down it as quickly as possible so they can get to more flavorful beverages, but that’s not the most beneficial way for your body to absorb water.
You lose massive volumes of water every single day. It’s required to keep your organs functioning, it’s excreted through bodily waste, and your salivary glands require it as well. Drink those eight glasses throughout your sixteen hours of being awake, which is one every two hours. The skin benefits are not immediate but are some of the most powerful results that you’ll see.
Proper hydration “waters down” the oil that your skin produces. There isn’t as much of a concentration of elements like sebum, so it doesn’t sit heavily on your skin and weigh it down. More water means less skin problems across the board, including wrinkles, whiteheads, and dry patches.
Identify Your Skin Type (One of Five Major Types)
We’ve covered all of the internal things you can do to combat blackheads, but that isn’t always enough. Your body is complex, so it’s time to explore some external treatment options. The first step is identifying your skin type, and it usually falls into one of five major categories:
- Normal: Most products don’t bother you, you haven’t had many encounters with dryness or acne, and for all intents and purposes, you’ve had a fairly easy time with your skin. This is, of course, the easiest skin type to work with.
- Oily: If you feel like you need to scrub your face four hours after a shower, then you could have oily skin. You don’t even have to sweat to get this slick feeling on your face, it just sort of happens.
- Dry: Just as it sounds: you’re always dry, applying body lotion or moisturizer. This is because your body isn’t producing enough sebum or other skin oil elements. This sounds awesome in theory, but your skin then holds onto oil ten times harder because it needs it. It can still result in blackheads.
- Sensitive: Certain chemicals or products bother you. You’re prone to hives, itching, redness, all for no apparent reason. Diet and environmental damage seriously affect your skin, and it doesn’t take much.
- Combination: This is the wildcard type, where you have a little bit of everything going on. These are some of the most difficult skin types to treat, requiring more effort, but still viable to be perfectly clear in no time.
Once you’ve determined what skin type you are, it’s time to contour your skin care regimen accordingly. Understanding your body is half the battle, so if you find that you have oily skin, for example, you now know that you’ll need to tend to it more frequently, etc.
Check Your Current Hygiene Products for Counterintuitive Ingredients
Regardless of what skin type you identify with, you could still be causing problems for yourself based on what personal hygiene products that you use. Contents of alcohol, benzoyl peroxide, and fragrances, just to name a few, aren’t doing any favors for your skin.
If you’re using a prescribed skin care treatment, as a little exercise, you can compare those ingredients against over-the-counter treatments. You’ll find that many of them are similar, but prescription medication is in a much higher concentration of those that dry out your skin. Resolving one problem by creating another is not a way you want to proceed.
We recommend getting as close to nature as possible with your solutions. All-natural and organic solutions are not only less abrasive to your skin but don’t have chemicals and additives that negate the positive benefits. You’re getting skin treatment the way nature intended.
We’d like to discuss a few different all-natural skin care methods that will prove faster, better results, and most of the time it costs less than your prescription ointment. The problem with prescription solutions is that you run out, have to go back to the doctor’s, and since many of the ingredients aren’t actually that good for your skin, you can build up an immunity. It takes far more exposure and for longer periods of time to build up a resistance to natural products.
All-Natural Solutions That Work Universally
You know what causes them, how they form, and how much your body needs to change in order to eliminate them from within. Now let’s discuss all-natural methods that can help to provide immediate relief. To put it frankly, you could perform some of these methods, and be rid of blackheads in twenty-four hours (of course, this won’t remove the cause, but will treat the results).
Try Out an Activate Charcoal Face Mask
You may remember this 2016 trend that swept across every social media feed. Activated charcoal isn’t some new discovery: it’s been around since the Roman Empire in 300 A.D., and just got a bit of spotlight recently. Activate charcoal was also used in age-old medicines to help rid the body of toxins and illnesses. It naturally binds with just about everything it comes into contact with. That means it pulls sebum and other oils from your skin, absorbs it into the charcoal, and then gets disposed of properly. Use these to three times per week. For extremely oily skin, find a daily use one, but be careful not to dry out your skin in the process from overuse.
Sugaring is another archaic method that’s stuck around, and for good reason. If you look it up, you’ll find that sugaring has been around since the Egyptian era as a means of hair removal. It’s another trend that’s arisen in recent years, most commonly used in place of waxing. But as we discussed earlier, sebum builds up in your hair follicles and creates blackheads. You have hundreds (possibly thousands) of hairs on your face, even if you can’t see them all. At the very least, you can see your pores and the little nubs within them. Sugaring removes these microscopic hairs while dually pulling sebum off of your skin. It’s a two-in-one win in our opinion.
Exfoliate Your Skin on a Daily Basis
Exfoliation products are commonly known to be heavily chemicalized, but there are a staggering amount of all-natural solutions that have been created in recent years. You can use this gentle process on your skin via an exfoliation cream or alternative methods (which we’ll get into in a moment), all to open up your pores and empty them of all that oily gunk that’s building within.
Exfoliation doesn’t strip your skin of its hydration, just oil production. Your body will continue to create oils, but a quality exfoliator can limit that production to clear up your skin on a consistent basis. Your skin has pH levels, and when those are out of whack, your body is told to produce additional oil even when it doesn’t actually need it. Exfoliators lock in moisture with their ingredients and restore some natural order to your skin.
If Exfoliating Creams Don’t Help, Use a Spin Brush
Not everyone likes the beaded sandy feeling that exfoliation creams come with. You can avoid it altogether by using an exfoliating spin brush. Now, these are going to be better for oily or combination skin types, because it’s not going to leave in any elements to rehydrate your skin. These brushes are gentle but tough on sebum and other oil production. It clears up your pores, and can usually be used every single day.
For the first few minutes after you’ve exited the shower, your skin is absorbing everything it comes into contact with for approximately two minutes. It varies depending on age (pore size is affected after age thirty-five), but this window of time is enough for some serious relief or serious damage to occur: the choice is up to you.
Using an all-natural face moisturizer helps to lock in essential nutrients, and replenish hydration in your skin that may have been lost in the shower. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t take extremely hot showers, or if you do, keep them to under five minutes. The hotter the water, the more damage it does to your skin in terms of hydration. On the same note, taking a cold shower doesn’t allow your pores to open up enough to get sebum and general dirt out, so you have to find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle.
Consider Carrying Around a Dopp Kit
Can’t remember to tend to your skin as often as you’d like? There’s a solution for that. Whether it’s your spin brush, an on-the-go moisturizer or exfoliating cream, you can bring some of your essentials with you in a dopp kit when you head out for the weekend or out on the town for the night. If you’re traveling into any downtown area, your skin is going to endure far more environmental pollutants than it would in the safety of your own home. Give it some extra TLC. You can keep trial/travel sized solutions in your dopp kit so you’re never left without skin defense.
This one sounds arbitrary, but it actually helps you out majorly. We know that hydration helps your skin, but working out also helps your skin tremendously. You ever see someone with a set of six-pack abs, that perfect V shape we’re all going for, and a bunch of blackheads on their face? Nope. Working out makes you sweat, which stimulates just about every pore on your body (provided you’re doing cardio or a full-body workout regimen).
When that happens, your regularly-created sebum, among other skin oil components, is drained from your body to allow for new production. This helps, so long as you shower quickly after you’re done so you can wash it all down the drain. The most beneficial and natural way to fight blackheads is undoubted with a healthy exercise regimen.
Consider Getting a Professional Chemical Peel
This is where the recommendations for all-natural approaches come to an end. Chemical peels can help to reboot your skin, in a sense. Chemical peels remove your top layer of skin, but in that effort, they also remove sebum, dirt, oil, patches of dry or dead skin, and help jumpstart your skin. We talked earlier about it being an organ, and when any organ receives something unnatural (think alcohol in your liver, for example), it has to find a way to recuperate from that experience.
In this event, your skin is repairing mild damage. Yes, chemical peels do damage your skin but provide a ton of benefits as well. If you get a chemical peel in the middle of attempting a new skin care regimen, it can help you get some visual results that you want, and reduce the time that natural methods take to effectively clear your skin.
Common Myths That Don’t Actually Help (Avoid These at All Cost)
We’ve seen them in movies, clickbait news feeds and other untrue articles. These are the myths that everyone says will help fight your blackheads and other forms of acne, but just don’t do the trick. We’re here to debunk them.
Myth #1: Toothpaste
Apparently, it’s supposed to dry out your skin, but it doesn’t do that at all. It just gets crusty, technically dries itself out, and just creates a less hospitable environment underneath. You’re actually doing more harm than good when you use toothpaste to get rid of blackheads.
Myth #2: Tanning Helps
This was ridiculous to find, but a ton of articles and personal opinions out there all say that tanning is somehow supposed to help. Tanning at a salon or in a tanning parlor does not help with removing blackheads, it just causes UV damage to your skin. It’s not a good method for anything.
Myth #3: You Can Just Wash Them Away
Another falsehood. Should you clean your face in an effort to remove dirt and oil? Yes, but it’s not going to remove the blackheads that are already there. Your health starts from the inside, and more thorough measures, such as exfoliating, are what’s required to actually pull those oils out of your skin.
Myth #4: Drying Out Your Skin is Good
There were tons of “breakthrough three-step programs” emerging in the early 2000s that promoted their cure-all acne solutions but really just dried out your skin. Is it a short-term solution? It might possibly make your skin look a bit better, but it doesn’t treat the cause of blackheads, and will eventually make your skin patchy and extremely dry.
Myth #5: All-Natural and Organic Solutions Don’t Help
There are arguments (usually made by the skin care industry leading companies) that all-natural products are weak and don’t work to treat the problem. Not every natural or organic method is going to be for you, but that’s the same with chemical-filled treatment options. If someone is oppressing one idea, it’s because they have something to gain from that. There is plenty of independent research by scientists and dermatologists to prove that all-natural is an excellent path to take.
What You Can do About Blackheads Today
What you can do today is exfoliate, drink tons of water, and assess your diet. There are no quick fixes, but exfoliation can bring on some seriously major improvements in a short amount of time. You should see a dermatologist if issues persist beyond trying out these methods. Remember that your skin is an organ, so hydrate and care for it properly to get the best possible results. Blackheads are often seen by others as a lack of personal hygiene, which isn’t going to help you land that job or score that date. Take action today, build a skin care and nutrition routine to maintain a flawless complexion, and you’ll be good to go.
- How Your Skin Produces Sebum, Very Well Health
- What Are Blackheads, What Causes Blackheads, Acne.com
- The Benefits of Drinking Water for Your Skin, UW Health
- Skin Exfoliation 101, The International Dermal Institute
- Chemical Peels and Your Skin, WebMD
- 7 Bad Things That Happen When You Don’t Use Moisturizers, Good Housekeeping
- Activated Charcoal – Past, Present and Future, US National Library of Medicine