After more than a year sans facials, we are either itching to get in our favorite esthi’s seat asap, or feeling like we’ve almost mastered at-home skincare. Whether you’re simply between facials or have no plans to get one anytime soon, there are some serious considerations to keep in mind when it comes to DIY-handling of build-up. Blackheads are the lesser evil of an explosive or cystic breakout, but unsightly, nonetheless. And their dark color, while totally natural, has us feeling a little extra dirty.
First things first, we’re not filthy, disgusting humans if we have blackheads. We’re simply human, and for that, we try not to fault ourselves too much. Blackheads are the result of a pore that has filled with oil and dead skin cells. Once filled, the pore dilates slightly, and the mixture oxidizes, causing it to take on that darker color that makes us feel like we have literal dirt in our pores.
But before you go ham with your fingers and whatever arsenal of popping utensils you have, go softly, friends. Blackheads will come and go (sometimes it feels like they’ll never stop coming) so don’t attack your face until every pore has been ravaged. Take a calculated approach, and assess the situation.
If you have blackheads close to the surface, pause before trying to pop them all. Popping blackheads on cold skin or skin that hasn’t been prepped (especially done without the help of a professional) can lead to redness and inflammation, and can even exacerbate the issue. Start with a hot compress like a warm washcloth, or do an at-home steam. Pores don’t open and close like doors, but this will help loosen anything that is close to the surface and relax its grip for easier removal.
We don’t recommend anything super abrasive (remember apricot scrubs? RIP, more ignorant times), so don’t go sand-blasting your face in search of the smoother baby skin underneath. Instead, use a gentle scrub, or just stick with a cloth with a bit of cleanser while you’re washing your face. If you’re planning to steam first, wash your face, then steam, then go back for another cleanse with the cloth in circular motions. This will free up any of those pesky blackheads that are closer to the surface and rinse them away. You can also try dry brushing your face.
If blackheads are the reg like they are for many of us, then chances are some are a bit more stubborn and a simple deep cleanse won’t do the trick. This is where our old pal salicylic acid comes in. It’s a natural beta hydroxy acid that is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and amazing at eating away at the literal problem—dead skin and excess oil. It’s not a new chemical to be wary of; it’s been used for gentle peels for over 2,000 years. If blackheads are a common problem, put this ingredient into rotation.
Retinoids are a way to deliver retinoic acid to our skin, whether through OTC percentages or higher prescription concentrations. They have been a mainstay in acne treatment for years, and with good reason. However, even when we aren’t suffering a serious bout of inflamed acne and just exist with the annoyance of blackheads, retinoids can come to the rescue. They speed up cell turnover and regeneration, somewhat like a chemical exfoliant but different. Retinoic acid is great for texture and can break down the stubborn, gunky consistency that makes blackheads so unyielding to begin with.
Moisturize with a Quality Face Oil
When our skin is dry, our sebum glands kick into high gear to compensate, which causes, of course, oily skin. That extra oil can clog our pores, especially after mixing with dead skin and dirt from the day. Stay moisturized and hydrated to avoid overproduction, and top off your daily moisturizer with an oil to seal it all in. Products that contain jojoba are great for blackhead-prone skin because it most resembles our natural sebum, so it melts into skin effortlessly instead of sitting on top and, well, adding to the problem. It can also help dislodge those harder-packed blackheads for easier removal with the aforementioned methods above.
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