Blackheads. Enlarged pores. We all have to deal with these confidence vampires at some point in our lives. The good news is, there is a way to prevent them and get rid of them for good (and it doesn’t involve pore strips!). But before we dive into the solution, let’s talk about what’s actually going on here.
What Exactly Are Blackheads?
The ugly cousin of whiteheads, blackheads can be just as frustrating. They’re both called comedones, which is a fancy medical term for pimple1. While they’re both the result of dead skin cells and sebum (oil) getting trapped in pores, they’re quite different in appearance. Whiteheads are referred to as closed comedones because they are enclosed by skin, trapping the sebum inside. Blackheads are not protected by skin so they’re referred to as open comedones, but since that trapped sebum is exposed to air, it causes oxidation (hence the black colour)2 .
Why Do They Happen?
We know what you’re thinking – greasy foods and chocolate? Interestingly enough, those have little to do with it. There are a lot of potential factors at play here, some can be prevented while others are just the result of our DNA. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest culprits.
Hormones – Hormones play a large role. In regards to gender, women are more prone to breakouts than men at any age3 . Likely because of the hormonal fluctuations that happen to women throughout their lives – PMS, taking birth control, pregnancy, menopause – all of which can wreck havoc on skin.
Stress – Stress doesn’t cause breakouts, but it can definitely make the situation worse. Studies have shown a strong link between severity and stress levels - the higher the stress, the more prevalent4.
Pollution – Environmental pollutants in the air, like dirt, are more prevalent in bigger cities and definitely a contributing factor when it comes blackheads5.
Diet – Maintaining a healthy diet is always important in overall skin care health, however there isn’t one food that actually causes breakouts. Though studies have shown a correlation between dairy products and an increase of pimples and/or acne, it’s not what you think. 75-90% of marketed milk and milk products are bring derived from pregnant cows, hence more hormones (see above) 6.
Skincare Routine – Scrubbing and washing your face too much can irritate the skin even more 7, as can using the wrong products. Washing your face regularly is really important, but washing it right is even more so.
Some Effective and Not-So-Effective Treatments
There are a lot of crazy ideas out there, but only a few that have actually been proven to work. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Pore Strips - Disgusting, yet utterly satisfying, pore strips seem like a wise choice mostly because you can see the progress. Literally. Unfortunately, this blackhead-free bliss is extremely short-lived (we’re talking 24-48 hours) and then it’s back to black 8. The other problem is, they don’t just pull off dirt and oil but they take the top layer of skin with them. Ouch.
Squeezing – You’ve heard it a million times, squeezing is no good for any kind of
pimple. It almost always results in some kind of skin irritation which can lead to infection and even scarring (which is a much worse problem to have).
Steaming – Long hailed as a great solution to opening the pores and making blackhead removal easier, steaming as an effective practice has not actually been confirmed by research. Some have even complained that it made the situation worse 9.
Exfoliating – Now we’re talking. Scrubbing away those dead cells is the ideal pore minimizer and key for blackhead removal. But it’s only part of the solution.
The Best Solution? The Blackhead Facial
Take it from Dr. Rivers, certified dermatologist and creator of Riversol skincare
products, and follow this 3-step pore reducer facial once a week to start enjoying a blackhead-free life.
- A cleanser formulated for oily sensitive skin – First remove the skin’s impurities and unclog pores.
- A glycolic peel – Next up is the best way to make pores look smaller and key to dissolving those blackheads for good (this step only needs to be done once a week).
- A light moisturizer – This final step helps maintain balance in the skin by locking in moisture and revitalizing the skin underneath.
In addition to this weekly blackhead facial, you should continue to use the cleanser and moisturizer twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, to maintain skin’s balance and block out those blackheads. Remember, consistency is key to keeping these unsightly guests away for good.
- Medical Definition of Comedo. Retrieved from:
- PubMed Health. Acne. Retrieved from:
- J Clin Aesthet Dermatol (2009) Hormonal Treatment of Acne in Women. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923944/
- Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets (2014) Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging. Retrieved from
- Dermatoendocrinol (2009) Environmental pollution and acne: Chloacne. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835904/
- Kaisar Raza, Vaibhav Talwar, Arvind Setia and Om Prakash Katare (2012) Acne: An understanding of the disease and its impact on life. Retrieved
from: http://www.ijddr.in/drug-development/acne- an-understanding- of-the- disease-and-its-impact- on-life.php?aid=4993
- Kaisar Raza, Vaibhav Talwar, Arvind Setia and Om Prakash Katare (2012) Acne: An understanding of the disease and its impact on life. Retrieved from:
http://www.ijddr.in/drug-development/acne- an-understanding- of-the- disease-and- its-impact-on- life.php?aid=4993
- Ashley Decker, BS, MA and Emmy M. Graber, MD. (2012) Over-the- counter Acne Treatments. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366450/
- Adam Felman (2017) Everything you need to know about blackheads. Retrieved