We spoke to some of the world's top derms to find out the best blemish-busting secrets
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.
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.’
How to get rid of blackheads with your skincare routine
A regular cleanse and exfoliate routine is key, according to our experts.
‘The best regime is the good old fashioned cleansing and toning of the skin,’ says skincare expert Sunita Chouhan at Paul Edmonds London. ‘Make a good quality cleanser your every day 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 help getting rid of blackheads. ‘Using a cleanser such as Epionce Lytic Gel, 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 acid and skin barrier repair lipids to adequately cleanse the skin without unwanted harsh stripping.’
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. ‘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,’ she adds.
‘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.
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’.
Dr Patterson recommends trying microdermabrasion and a 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 blackhead extraction 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.’
At-home blackhead extraction
You can try and shift your blackheads yourself at home, by using a hot flannel on the area and applying gentle pressure, but avoid sharp fingernails as these can cause skin trauma.