Blackheads are a common form of acne that can pop up anywhere on your body. If you want to get rid of blackheads, the first step is identifying what is causing your blackheads. In this article, we’ll teach you more about what causes blackheads and also debunk some myths about blackheads.
What Are Blackheads?
Blackheads are hair follicles that are clogged with a mix of dead skin cells and sebum—an oily substance that is naturally secreted by your skin. The main difference between blackheads and whiteheads is that blackheads are a form of non-inflammatory acne. Erica Palmer, Head of Biore Skincare R&D, tells us that, “blackheads are non-inflammatory acne lesions. When follicles become clogged with dead skin cells or oil, it often results in a blackhead.”
Although blackheads look like they’re full of dirt, their color is actually due to oxidized corneocytes. The clogged material in your pores darkens when it is exposed to oxygen.
What Causes Blackheads?
Your pores naturally produce some oil to keep your skin moisturized and healthy. Palmer explains that “skin follicles typically contain one hair and a sebaceous gland that produces oil.” Blackheads are caused when these pores get clogged with excess oil, dead skin, and bacteria. Learn more about what could be causing your blackheads from the list below.
Build up of dirt, oil, and debris. “The primary culprit is actually pore clog accumulation which can be dead skin cells, sebum, and even makeup,” Palmer explains.
Oily skin types are more prone to blackheads. If your skin type is oily, you may notice that your skin gets shiny during the day. Oily skin is more prone to breakouts, so make sure to wash your face with a cleanser with salicylic acid twice a day. You can also prevent excess oil by regularly wiping off your phone if it regularly comes in contact with your face. Lastly, make sure to eat a diet full of good fats and oils—such as avocado and olive oil—and avoid greasy fast food.
Excessive sweat from exercise, heat, or stress. If you forget to wash your face after a sweaty workout or a stressful day, residue and grime can creep its way into your skin. Although there’s substantial evidence that working out is good for your skin, it can also clog your pores. If you’re strapped for time after a workout, give your face a quick once over with a facial cleansing cloth to clean off excess sweat fast!
Haircare product residue. Although serum and hairspray can help your hair look good, these products can wreak havoc on your skin. Excess hair product can travel from your scalp and hair to your skin and lead to clogged pores. Protect your skin from rogue hair product by keeping your hair out of your face during the day and by washing your hairline and scalp regularly.
Greasy Hair. In addition to hair products, naturally greasy hair can also clog your pores. If you have greasy hair, make sure to wash it regularly and keep your hair out of your face to avoid acne.
Myths About Blackheads
Myth #1: Hormones Cause Blackheads. Contrary to popular belief, hormonal fluctuations don’t actually trigger blackheads. Changes in your hormones, such as right around your period, typically lead to red and inflamed papules (a.k.a. inflammatory acne).
Myth #2: Squeezing Blackheads Is the Best Way to Get Rid of Them. Resist the urge to self-extract! Squeezing, picking, and popping your blackheads can actually make them worse by damaging your pores and adding more bacteria to your skin. Palmer says, “that deep down gunk easily lifts out with a pore strip, so no squeezing needs to be involved.”
Myth #3: Overwashing Your Face Removes and Prevents Blackheads. You may think that repeatedly washing your face helps get rid of blackhead-causing material, but it can cause your face to go into oil-production overdrive. Palmer warns us that “over-cleansing can strip your skin of moisture and irritate your skin. Keep cleansing to twice a day.”
Myth #4: Deep Exfoliation Gets Rids of Blackheads. Same with overwashing, many people think excessive exfoliation gets rid of blackheads. Although gentle exfoliation can help get rid of dry skin, which can clog your pores. Palmer says, “excessively scrubbing your face will not get rid of blackheads, it will only irritate your skin.”
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Top Tips for Preventing Blackheads
When trying to get rid of blackheads, it’s key to find the right balance of oil on your skin so that your skin stays moisturized without clogging your pores. Use these tips below to help prevent blackheads and learn more about how to get rid of blackheads.
- Use a pore strip for effective blackhead removal. Pore strips safely lift out deep down dirt, oil, and buildup to instantly unclog pores.
- Use products with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA). This type of acid gently exfoliates your skin and helps clear your pores. Make salicylic acid a part of your daily routine by using an acne clearing cleanser.
- Tighten pores and cleanse skin with toner. Witch hazel toner deep cleans your skin while also helping to refine and tighten pores. Many toners also contain salicylic acid to help prevent acne and blackheads.
- Exfoliate with gentle grains like baking soda or rice powder. Use a gentle exfoliant to keep skin clear of dirt and dead skin. Start by exfoliating weekly and increase if needed.
- Detoxify with a weekly mask. Clay masks help open pores and draw out impurities. Treat your skin to a mask once a week to purify skin and remove dirt and oil build-up which causes blackheads.