How to get rid of blackheads

So many people are looking for the magic method to get rid of their blackheads. A quick Google search exposes so many home remedies, for the removal of blackheads; it is truly frightening, and you should avoid them. Now, I know what you are thinking, I am a professional aesthetician so of course I am going to say you need to have your blackheads professionally removed. Well, yes I am, and there is a very real reason home remedies for the removal of blackheads are to be avoided.

Especially for a woman’s skin and sensitive skins, it is impossible to remove blackheads without causing damage to the surrounding tissue; without a suitable process preparing the epidermis for the extraction process. What is even more worrying is the increased usage of blackhead extraction tools. Many have the false assumption that using an extraction tool will remove the blackhead, without damaging the surrounding tissue. Extraction tools are the easiest way to damage the skin without a proper preparation method; personally, I try to avoid using them at all cost.

Preventing and removing blackheadsWhat is a Blackhead?

Shall we start from the beginning, although I have already covered how acne forms, we will recap and concentrate specifically with the open comedone commonly known as the blackhead. Consisting of a mixture of dead skin cells, sebum, dirt and bacteria that forms a solid plug, exposed to the air, it oxidises and gives the darkish appearance coining the blackhead term. Pores do not have doors that open and close; however, they do enlarge and improper extraction leads to enlarged pores.

A hair follicle houses one hair and the sebaceous gland, the sebaceous gland produces an oily substance called sebum. Sebum helps protect your skin from environmental factors, aids in lubricating the skin and helps prevent dehydration. When the sebaceous gland produces too much sebum, it blocks the follicle canal coupled with dead skin cells creating a keratinaceous plug, called an open comedone or blackhead.

Pores do not have doors that “open” and “close”.

While people hope that pores are just going to clean themselves magically, this is just not true and without extraction, the core of the blackhead will remain to create more chance of infection and may lead to full blown acne or enlarged pores at best.

Our skin is under a constant barrage of all the products we use, primers with silicones, makeup, sunscreen, all day makeup polymers, these compact into our pores and are difficult to shift without a top-notch skin routine. That’s before we even consider our lifestyle and profession, gym bunnies, mechanics, chefs in the kitchen; the assault from environmental factors is simply huge. Often a grey appearance will form over time and one of the main reasons people comment on their skin looking so radiant after a professional facial is because we just deep cleaned your skin.

Do home remedies for removing blackheads work?

The biggest problem with home remedies is all you are doing is removing the lid of the blackhead. It is not so much that home remedies are going to damage your skin, although some containing lemon juice requires extreme caution if going out into the sun. By just removing the lid you are further increasing the chances of infection, enlarging the pore and continuing the acne cycle.

Remember, blackheads are an acne, you need to be addressing the cause of the excessive sebum production. Many home remedies are drying to the skin; this further increases the sebum production and exacerbates creating even more of an environment to progress into more severe acne.

The right methodology for preparing the skin for extraction is of vital importance and many estheticians get this wrong.

This problem does not just exist in home remedies, those blackhead patches you can also buy, only remove the lid of the blackhead. When you come in for a professional facial and need extractions, the skin is prepared beforehand for the extraction process.

Extractions Are Important! When people suffer from congested skin, the extraction process is vital in the treatment of blackheads and other acne. Cleaning out the hair follicles is needed for your skin to begin the process of recovery and to get on top of the blackhead congestion. You should have a facial every four to six weeks dependent of the severity of the blackhead infestation, and follow that up with a good home care routine.

Exfoliation, the skin is lightly exfoliated removing dead skin cells, impurities and general debris. A cleanser is used to remove exfoliation products and debris from the exfoliating process better preparing the skin for the extraction process.

The Serum & Moisturiser, applying of the serum and moisturiser, helps in keeping the skin hydrated and the serum assists in diminishing the irritation and redness caused by the extraction process.

Steaming, this step is vital for the extraction process softening the keratinaceous plug to aid in removal. Many facialists have the misconception that the steam is to open the pore; this is not the case it is to increase the temperature of the skin and soften the keratinaceous plug. In fact, if too much time is left in between stopping the steamer & starting the extraction process, allowing the skin to dry out, it will have the opposite effect. Once the skin dries and from the heat of the steam, the skin will instantly tighten making the extraction process difficult. It is imperative to keep the skin moist throughout the extraction process. The facial steamer also helps cosmetic and dermatological formulations absorption into and through the skin.

The facial massage, many estheticians, get this the wrong way around only performing the massage after the extraction process. The massage aids in putting more heat on the skin’s surface help in loosening the keratinaceous plug and lessens the irritation and redness caused by the extraction process. Performing a lymphatic massage after the extraction process, further assists in removing toxins.

The facial mask, the mask calms the skin and further draws out any impurities left behind it also helps lessen the redness and irritation.

To extract or not to extract the debate raging between facialists

It is obvious I am of the extraction camp, comedones do not clear themselves, increase enlarged pores and increase the likelihood of further acne problems. Finding facialists trained correctly in the removal of blackheads is difficult. As a side note in my advanced acne treatment course coming up shortly, I will be teaching extraction methods and correct procedures. Advanced acne treatment is not taught within the standard beauty therapist curriculum. It is of my belief that this has added fuel to the debate. Dermatologists extract blackheads often as part of their treatment process. Despite giving dermatologists a hard time with their use of a drug first treatment process, it still gives credibility to the reasoning behind removing blackheads.

Product companies have added their voice to the anti-extraction camp, I do find this a little interesting. Clarins, for example, are advocates against extraction, if you are in the market for selling acne skin care products, it makes sense not to want facialists removing blackheads.

Acne treatment products contain keratolytic ingredients, salicylic acid and glycolic acid; these are the most common included active ingredients. The active ingredients help in loosening and softening the keratinaceous plug. The correct name for skin cells is ‘keratinocytes’ and the suffix “lytic” meaning to decompose or disintegrate, therefore, ‘kerato+lytic’. Enlarged pores are one of the concerns when not performing extraction; when using a correct procedure and products specially formulated for acne, we have a proper and professional treatment treating and managing the blackhead infestation.

Even though there are many home remedies for facial masks, pore refining remedies and even moisturising compounds; remedies for removing blackheads are not the best of ideas. If the use of blackhead strips should be avoided, then that same thinking should be passed through to home remedies.

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Emma Ryall
Educator, Proprietor, Aesthetician at Zest Skin Clinic & Laser Hair Removal
Licenced Aesthetician, CIBTAC, ITEC and CIDESCO accredited professional therapist with over 14 years industry experience, specialising in skincare. Emma is also a master trainer City & Guilds – Accreditation No: 500/5753/4