Blackheads, you are not welcome here. I mean, we really don’t tolerate whiteheads either. Or cystic bumps. Or hormonal acne. But they are all their very own beast, and blackheads seem to be the most universal.
First of all, you’re not gross if you have blackheads. It doesn’t mean you’re extra dirty, hygienically negligent, or damaged in any way. Pores are human, and we need them. They tend to be attached to sebaceous glands and hair follicles that get clogged and attract particles in the air.
Sometimes it’s not even about dirt or particles, but just sebum that has oxidized once it’s in contact with the air. The result is what looks like a clogged pore with dark coloring. Popping it will only be temporary and will cause inflammation, and perhaps even a pimple from harming the skin around the area.
Some people are more prone to blackheads than others, and that’s OK. Essentially, that means that we cannot make ourselves completely free of them permanently with at-home, natural tactics, but we can stay on top of them and clear them out regularly. Here are five simple steps to staying ahead of blackheads.
Even if you’re not a fan of oils, oil cleansing as the first step in your evening routine is non-negotiable for eliminating blackheads. It may seem counterproductive to use oil to pull, ahem, oxidized oil out of our pores, but it works like a charm.
Be sure to spend at least 60 seconds massaging an oil cleanser into your face, paying special attention to the T-zone—the forehead, between the brows, the nose and surrounding area, and the chin—where blackheads tend to occur most. Use a washcloth dampened with warm water to remove the oil, then add more oil to the cloth and work in gentle circles in the area, buffing the oil cleanser into the offending pores. Rinse with a non-oiled side of the cloth, and follow with your non-oil cleanser. Make sure it’s gentle, as to not dry out the skin and trigger more oil production.
We don’t like the idea of over-steaming your face, so only do this once or twice a week. If you’re someone who simply cannot avoid picking or are addicted to your extraction tool, while we advise against it, we won’t judge you. Just make sure to cleanse and steam first, and cleanse again or tone after.
Heat gently softens the pores. They won’t open and close like a trap door, as we’ve been conditioned to think, but steam or a hot towel does loosen stubborn dried sebum and grime from the pores and make them malleable for the next step.
We don’t want to scrub too hard in that washcloth oil-cleansing step, because this is where we apply our favorite chemical exfoliant to help dissolve dead skin, which will prevent new blackheads from forming and also dissolve the stubborn sebum we just softened with our facial steam. Find a gentle exfoliant with fruit enzymes or BHAs to gently dissolve impurities and encourage the skin to regenerate for a vibrant glow.
After thoroughly rinsing off your favorite chemical exfoliant and gently patting your face dry, use a gentle yet effective clay mask to do an extra little cleanup. No need to clay mask the entire face post-exfoliation—if blackheads are the issue, stick to those areas. We don’t want to over-exfoliate healthy skin, which can cause disruption to a perfectly functional skin barrier.
Finish with an antioxidant-rich serum or moisturizer
Because blackheads are rarely actually the dirt they appear to be, but rather oxidized sebum, we can do our best to prevent them from occurring by using antioxidants. Makes sense, right? Using a potent antioxidant or antioxidant-like ingredient (hello niacinamide) product daily, and definitely following these steps (do all steps once a week, twice max, as it can be too harsh and drying for the skin barrier) will help to keep newly cleansed pores looking fresh.
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