Flawless skin is a sign of youth, wellness and health. A smooth glowing complexion can be the envy of every dinner party guest, if you have it. If you don’t, you may be familiar with the constant battle against the blackhead. Among the medical community blackheads are classified as a widened hair follicle that becomes filled with skin debris and clogged with bacteria and oil (called sebum). The result? Nasty dark spots in all the places you do not want them.
Most commonly blackheads are formed when a clog or plug develops in the opening of the hair follicles in your skin. A small gland, known as a sebaceous gland, is found at the base of each hair. These glands secrete sebum, an oil intended to keep your skin supple and soft. But when dead skin cells accumulate in the tiny crevice of the sebaceous gland, oil builds up and the area becomes blocked. This results in a blackhead. So how do you prevent this chain reaction from taking over your face.
You may be unaware of your daily habits and regular surroundings that contribute to your growing facial blackhead population. Excessive smoking, too much alcohol, caffeine and heavy makeup are a few common causes of blackheads. We took the time to research for you the most commonly occurring reasons for blackheads popping up on your face, because a little awareness will do your skin some good!
5 most common causes of blackheads
Are you struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance? Are you working late nights just to pay the bills? Stress is a sign of our busy lives and times, and unfortunately it causes a cascade of health issues. It’s not just grey hairs that will result from our daily dose of stressing; blackheads are known to appear when you are suffering with stress and your skin will be the first to take the strain. Studies have indicated that stressful life situations can make a person more prone to acne and other skin conditions.
Familiar with the saying “you are what you eat?”. This is an inescapable fact. The food you put into your body (good or bad) Is going to affect your body, and usually the first place is your skin. A healthy glowing complexion is common in people who follow a consistently healthy diet low in processed sugars and hydrogenated vegetable oils. The direct relationship between the food you eat and blackheads is not only proven, it makes perfect sense. If you notice that your blackheads and acne tend to flare up when you eat foods like chocolate, fries, ice-cream and donuts, you know where to cut down. This is also supported by numerous studies that conclude that foods with a high glycemic load such as white grains (bread, rice, pasta) and sweets have been linked to acne and blackhead formation.
Lazy make-up removers
It is quite frankly a crime against your skin to fall asleep with makeup left on overnight. Foundation (and dirt from the day) left on your skin while you sleep clogs pores. This can be the primary cause of your blackheads despite eating well and having a stress-free lifestyle.
If you have one New Year’s resolution you want to stick to, ceasing smoking should be it. Not only is this addictive habit a potential cause for cancer, smoking also blocks your pores, leading to acne, blackheads and other skin related disorders. The reasoning behind this is the fine tar, ash and chemical compounds found in cigarette smoke. As you puff away, these irritants damage the surface of your skin, create more dead skin cells and ultimately result in more blocked pores. You do the math.
Hormones and menstruation
Our hormones control every single process within our body’s. A fine balance is required to facilitate the optimal functioning of your cells and your overall health. Hormonal imbalances (particularly during menstruation) can trigger acne and blackheads. Teenagers are the age group most commonly thought to struggle the most with acne, but dermatologists are finding that late-onset or adult-onset acne is becoming increasingly common in women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s. While this may be out of your control, late onset of unusual skin behaviors should be investigated by your doctor in order to rule out any underlying health issues or triggers.
Nobody wants blackheads. These unwelcome guests on your face need to be exterminated permanently. But if you feel like you are fighting an ongoing battle against acne, you are not alone. According to American Academy of Dermatology, Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually. And it often is the cause of significant physical and psychological problems affecting people of all ages and genders.
Blackhead quick facts:
- Not all blackheads are actually black in color. Surprise! Though most are dark, which is why they get their name, some such blemishes can actually be yellow in color.
- Because blackheads are the result of blocked hair follicles, chances are, if you have blackheads you have blocked pores. This can result in pimples (and even worse yet!) your blackheads can morph into full-blown zits. Gross right?
- Without proper treatment, blackheads will keep returning.
- Contrary to what you may think, scrubbing your skin does not prevent blackheads, in fact it can worsen them.
Nobody really wants to deal with these awful little blemishes. However, no matter how porcelain-perfect your skin is, every girl has to manage blackheads at some stage in her life. There are stacks of skincare products available, all promising to give you fresh, youthful flawless skin and banish the blackheads from your life. But do these really work? You may believe that the quickest fastest method to ridding your face of the dreaded blackhead is to squeeze them out the way. False! This adds only creates trauma to your skin and increases the dead skin cells that caused the blackheads in the first place. So we decided to get some clarity and advice from the professionals. We have compiled the six best methods of preventing and eradicating blackheads from your face. Our list is a mix of home-remedies, prescription advice and over-the-counter methods that will ensure you have victory against your war on blackheads.
Top 6 Blackhead Prevention Strategies
Strategy 1 – Exfoliation
The key to permanently treating and preventing blackheads is to stop your pores from becoming blocked with dead skin debris and oil (sebum). The regular removal of dead skin cells is achieved through gentle and regular exfoliation of the skin. Exfoliation is an effective method of minimizing the appearance of blackheads and polishing your skin so it shines. A variety of exfoliating cleaners, brushes and sponges are available. It is important to use a gentle exfoliator if you are going to use it more than twice a week. Over exfoliating can be harmful to the skin and irritate the skin, causing it to become red and inflamed. Baking soda is often used in microdermabrasion salon treatments. Baking soda is alkaline and when mixed with water, forms a gentle scrubbing paste that can be applied to your skin. You can also add apple cider vinegar to your baking soda mix instead of water). Apple cider vinegar has astringent and antibacterial properties. This is a fabulous natural method of cleansing and unblocking your pores.
Home recipes for exfoliators are effective, inexpensive and give the best results. Mix up your own exfoliating potion once a week. You can add aromatherapy oils for added sensual scenting.
Our list of favorite natural home exfoliant recipes
Lemon and Sugar Face Scrub
- 1/2 fresh lemon
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp organic honey
Made from fresh lemon juice, sugar, olive oil, and honey. This provides a simple exfoliating face scrubs recipe while moisturizing. The lemon juice may help brighten the skin.
Honey and Oatmeal Facial Scrub
- 1/2 cup of uncooked oats
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 15 drops lavender essential oil
- 15 drops melaleuca essential oil
- 1 tsp dried lavender (optional)
Honey, Oatmeal, Nutmeg, Lavender and Melaleuca essential oils are joined together in this simple exfoliating face scrubs. It may help to reduce breakouts, even skin tone, and moisturize.
Pumpkin spice sugar scrub recipe
1 cup of granulated sugar
¼ cup of coconut oil
2 T raw honey
8-10 drops each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger essential oils
Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer but combined with the sugar and honey, leaves the skin feeling clean and fresh. The delicious aromas of pumpkin spice may see you wanting to repeat this recipe every week!
Strategy 2 – Clay masks
Regular use of a clay mask assists in lifting debris and oil from the skin. This is especially effective against deeper blackheads, where surface exfoliation cannot reach the deeper layers of the clogged pore. Clay can have a dehydrating effect on the skin, therefore it is essential to moisturize the skin well after a clay mask. The result of under moisturizing? Your skin will react by overproducing oil in order to compensate for the lack in moisture. This will have the opposite of the desired effect. Because more oil results in more clogged pores and more blackheads. Abrasive pastes, powders and clay masks (with kaolin) have a gentle exfoliating effect and help to absorb existing oil. Masks do need to be used regularly (at least once a week) in order to achieve effectiveness, as the skin will quickly produce oil again after the product is removed.
Strategy 3 – Retinoids
Retinoids have long been used in anti-ageing skincare ranges around the globe. They are chemically related to Vitamin A and are targeted primarily at acne, anti-ageing and pigmentation of the skin. They assist your skin in naturally exfoliating (sloughing) off its top layers at a normal (instead of an increased) rate. This prevents dead skin cells from clogging the pores. Aside from helping your skin shed more normally, retinoids also have some anti-inflammatory effects. It is important to use retinoids for an extended period of time and use them consistently. You may notice an initial breakout or dryness of your skin at the start of your treatment. However, when used consistently, retinoids can keep your skin clear, even out skin tone, repair sun damage, and prevent premature aging. This Vitamin A derivative is the best way to clear clogged pores according to dermatologists. The strength of the preparation is essential to its success. So you may need a prescription from your dermatologist in order to obtain a formulation with a high enough retinoid concentration.
Strategy 4 – Tea Tree Oil
This miracle natural oil will zap your blackheads quicker than you ever imagined. It is truly effective and can prevent blackheads from returning long term. In addition, it is the only treatment that can shrink and permanently eliminate blackheads from your skin with prolonged use. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic. So it removes and kills bacteria that causes blockages in your pores. After applying, the tea tree oil dissolves the sebum in your clogged pores, lifting out the dead skin cells and killing trapped bacteria. The pore is allowed an opportunity to close naturally and over time, shrink. Magic! You can add 2-4 drops of tea tree oil concentrate to your face wash and wash your face with this twice a day. After your bath or shower, apply a diluted tea tree oil formulation to your skin with a cotton pad. Avoid your eye area. Focus specifically on your T-zone (chin, nose and forehead). Wipe outwards (NOT a circular motion). Then apply your usual moisturizer. After just a few days you will see a noticeable improvement in your complexion and your blackheads will miraculously begin to fade.
Caution: When using tea tree oil it is essential to dilute it. Tea Tree Oil is potent and can burn your skin in its concentrated form. This is even more important if you have particularly sensitive skin. Most skincare preparations are already diluted for use on the face. It is best to check the labels of the products you purchase. If it does not indicate whether or not it is diluted, add 3-4 drops of oil to 2 teaspoons of water.
Strategy 5- Facial Steaming
Steaming your face once a week should form part of your ritual for blackhead prevention and removal. Steaming your face can be equated to a spring clean for the pores and the hair follicles. Home steaming is simple and fun. But there are some important rules you need to follow for the steam to be effective and safe. Firstly, do not hold your head over boiling water. This is too harsh and potentially damaging for your skin. Remember this is a gentle steam. Another important tip is to not drape a towel over your head whilst steaming and the pot is still on the burner. There are many stories of people who have started a fire with a towel like this and lost hair. So take the necessary precautions. The steam will soften the blackheads and your pores. The pores will also open up and the trapped dirt and debris will be easily removed.
Strategy 6 – Egg white mask
You may not like the idea of smelly egg whites on your face, but this strategy does work, so it is worth the hassle. Egg white can tighten the pores of your face temporarily, which will not only remove your current blackheads, but also reduce the chances of future blackheads. Egg whites do not dry out the skin and they are rich in nutrients. This is a delicious mask that will feed your skin whilst also evicting the unwanted visitors.
Blackheads develop quickly and easily when the skin produces too much oil. The situation is worsened if you do not clean the skin properly and remove the oil daily. This leads to a buildup of dead skin cells, especially in people who wear a lot of makeup every day. If bacteria starts to invade the pores, blackheads start to turn into pimples. Though it’s important to remember, as with all skincare regimens, regular maintenance is just as crucial as the ingredients or methods themselves. So once you’ve found the approach that works best for your skin type, sticking with a routine is half the battle.
We also recommend you try to avoid regular caffeine and alcohol intake. Caffeine and alcohol will aggravate your skin and disturb the delicate pH balance of your body. This will also contribute to an increase in blackhead accumulation.
So there you have it. You are now well-equipped to make the necessary change to your lifestyle and your habits in an attempt to lessen blackhead formation. We have given you a list of proven methods to cure and eradicate blackheads from your life, for good! As with any long term treatment plan, consistency is key. Plan a weekly exfoliating, steaming and masking routine so that you don’t miss out on the positive long-term effects of these treatments. Maintain a healthy diet, free of alcohol and minimize your caffeine intake. You should start to see an improvement in your skin’s appearance within 2 weeks. Good luck!