Taking care of your skin can seem like a full-time job. One of the most-asked questions from my patients is how to deal with blackheads and how to get rid of them.
The Real Cause
First, a very common myth I hear repeatedly that needs to be corrected is blackheads are caused by dirty skin. This is absolutely not true – and believing in this myth can cause you to treat your skin in such a way that it makes you even more prone to blackheads.
Blackheads are the result of what happens when your pores become clogged with excess sebum, which is an oil made by sebaceous glands that are meant to keep your skin soft and supple. If you know anything about skin care, this might sound familiar, and that’s because the exact same thing causes whiteheads. The difference is that whiteheads are formed when the pore is closed and blackheads are formed when the pore is open. Because the pore is open, it causes the sebum to oxidize as it comes in contact with the air and it turns black.
How to Get Rid of Them
Remember how I said that believing blackheads are caused by dirty skin can lead to a skin care regimen that creates more blackheads? I say that because I see a lot of people who over-scrub their skin to get rid of the “dirt” they believe is causing the blackheads. Over-scrubbing can lead to over-drying, and overly dry skin produces more oil in an effort to keep itself from drying out. This creates more sebum, which means more blackheads – it’s a cycle. Instead of obsessively scrubbing your skin, which will not work, here are some ways to get rid of blackheads:
- Gently exfoliate your skin – A gentle exfoliator with plant enzymes can help you carefully wash away dead skin cells. Talk to your dermatologist about what would work best for your skin.
- Find a cleanser with salicylic acid – Salicylic acid is an active ingredient in many over-the-counter skincare products and can be instrumental in your fight against skin problems. You can also look for a salicylic acid gel that can be left on problem areas for a prolonged period of time. If you’re having trouble finding something or feel overwhelmed by the choices, talk to your dermatologist.
- Talk to your dermatologist about medication – If the problem you’re having has been a long-fought battle, it’s possible that medication can fix the issue. Some prescription medications can reduce oil production, which can help clear up present blackheads and prevent them from appearing in the future. This is typically an option for people who have moderate to severe acne, so talk to your dermatologist to see if you fit that description.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize – This may sound counterintuitive, but if you think about it, it makes sense. Your skin produces oil to prevent it from drying. If your skincare regimen is stripping your skin of oil, the only way to signal to your sebaceous oil glands that you have enough oil is to make sure you’re properly moisturized. Of course, talk to your dermatologist first to see what they recommend for your specific skin type.
Again, your skin is unique to you, and no one knows that better than your dermatologist. If you have any questions at all, it’s time to schedule an appointment and see what he or she suggests for you.