How to get rid of blackheads for good: the beauty hacks to know for clear skin

Model backstage skincare Rex Features

Not a blackhead in sight

Need advice on how to get rid of blackheads? Look no further. One of life’s niggling skincare issues, blackheads can be hard to shift. We’ve spoken to a team of top dermatologists to find out the best blemish-busting secrets so you can get rid of those pesky blackheads for good. 


Let’s start at the beginning; what causes blackheads?
“Blackheads are small plugs that form in the exit to the hair follicle (the pore),” says Dr Mervyn Patterson, cosmetic dermatologist at Woodford Medical. “Normally cells lining the entrance to the follicle gradually move upwards and outwards onto the skin surface as a constant natural procession. With blackheads, this movement is slowed causing a build-up of cells in the neck of the hair follicle. It is these cells combined with sebum that cause the plug in the follicle.”

So how can you get rid of blackheads? A regular cleanse and exfoliate routine is key, according to our experts. 

STEP ONE: CLEANSE

“The best regime is the good old fashioned cleansing and toning of the skin,” says skincare expert Sunita Chouhan at Paul Edmonds London. “Make sure you use a cleanser that is right for you i.e. if your skin is dry and sensitive use SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser. If prone to breakouts, then try SkinCeuticals Blemish + age. Make a good quality cleanser your everyday best friend – you don’t want to over stimulate your skin and create another problem. Instead, you need to be able to ensure that the cleanser is doing all the work it needs to when used.”

Once you’ve found a cleanser that works for you, use it every day to banish blackheads for good. “Using a cleanser such as Epionce Lytic Gel Cleanser (£27.50, epionce.co.uk) - a favourite among many dermatologists, helps to gently prevent blackhead formation by making the environment in the neck of the follicle unfavourable to the formation of a blackhead,” says Dr Patterson. “The cleanser contains a skin-friendly formulation of salicylic and skin barrier repair lipids to adequately cleanse the skin without unwanted harsh stripping.”

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STEP TWO: EXFOLIATE

Regular exfoliation is also important, but be sure not to overdo it. Dr Patterson warns: “Skin is not like a frying pan dotted with debris that can just be scrubbed clean.”

“The most important rule is not to over-exfoliate as this can strip the skin barrier,” agrees consultant dermatologist Justine Hextall, on behalf of Witch. “Pale, flushed and drier skin is often more sensitive and should only be exfoliated once a week if necessary; very oily skin, on the other hand, is often more robust and can be exfoliated a couple of times a week.”

So when should it be done? “Night time is prime time for exfoliation as it will prep the skin ready for any night creams to penetrate and treat. After exfoliating, I recommend using a gentle wash or cleanser to remove any traces of exfoliation before applying leave-on products to the skin,” says Hextall.

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STEP THREE: TREATMENTS

If your self-treatment programme isn’t working for you, try a specialist facial to tackle the problem. Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation Spokesperson recommends “regular facials with steam extraction or light chemical peels e.g. mandelic acid”.

Chouhan also recommends a steam-based cleansing facial: “Paul Edmonds London offer a bespoke SkinCeuticals Deep Pore Cleansing Facial incorporating a double cleanse steam and extraction, clay answer and a dose of antioxidants to hydrate and brighten skin texture.” 

Dr Patterson recommends trying microdermabrasion and an Epionce salicylic peel combination: “The microdermabrasion is controlled exfoliation combined with suction which helps to disrupt and extract the blackheads and the application of the salicylic acid helps to further loosen the blockage. The salicylic peel has additional anti-bacterial, oil control and anti-inflammatory effects. A skilled therapist adept at extractions is helpful but becoming a very rare commodity these days. I have to stress that combining these treatments with a long-term thought-out skincare regime is vital to preventing and treating blackheads.”

For SkinCeuticals products visit: www.pauledmonds.com/shop

SkinCeuticals Deep Pore Cleansing Facial, 60 min, £80 is available at Paul Edmonds, 17 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London SW3 2EJ, Tel +44 (0) 20 7589 5958.

TO SQUEEZE OR NOT TO SQUEEZE?

The all-important question: should we squeeze blackheads? Dr Patterson has the answer: “Simply squeezing the area may temporarily remove the blackhead but it will quickly reform unless you adopt a skincare routine to reduce blackhead formation. There is no reason why you cannot squeeze a blackhead, as long as you are careful not to cause actual damage. Gently heating the area with a warm and clean face cloth prior to extraction may help. Long, sharp finger nails are not ideal though as this tends to cause skin trauma.” 

So there you have it: our guide to getting rid of blackheads. Happy blemish-busting!

To find the right cleanser to help get rid of blackheads for good, get a personalised recommendation from our sister site Powder.

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