Blackheads: what are they and how do I treat them?

Blackheads, or comedones which is their official name, are hair follicles that become clogged with a substance known as sebum.

Sebum is an oily secretion from our skin to keep our skin soft and supple. Sometimes our skin produces too much sebum, this can get trapped in our pores along with dead skin, makeup, sweat, dirt and bacteria. When this build up is trapped in an open pore and exposed to the air, it starts to oxidise which turns it into its black colour. You know you’ve squeezed out a blackhead before, to find what comes after it is more of a white or cream colour, that is because this part has not been exposed to the air like the part on top.

So now we know what they are, the big question is how do I treat blackheads or prevent them? First you need to look at your current skincare habits. What are you applying to your skin daily? Where are the blackheads appearing? Blackheads on different areas of the body can be caused by different factors. Blackheads are common on the chest and back on adolescents and teenagers who may be suffering with acne. This is generally caused by your body producing too much oil. Blackheads on the face, which are very common and can also be caused by over production in oil and hormonal changes and can also sometimes be caused by poor or improper skincare.

An ideal skincare routine will consist of a thorough cleansing, proper exfoliation and and a suitable treatment and protection for your skin type.

If you are prone to blackheads start with avoiding anything on your skin that contains mineral oils. Look for the likes of parraffinum liquidum or petrolatum on the ingredients label. These will often be found in moisturisers and makeup because mineral oil is cheap to produce and bulks up a product. Mineral oils are too thick for the skin and just sit on top clogging the pores. Try opting for a mineral makeup (it’s different to mineral oil, but I know sounds very confusing) as it won’t cause blackheads. I often  see this with younger girls in the salon from applying tan. Using the same tan on your face as you use on your body is a big no no. Look for specific facial tanning mists that are formulated specifically for the face, these do not contain mineral oils and are designed to be non-comedogenic.

Cleansing needs to be one of the main parts of your routine. Cleansing morning and night with the right cleanser for your skin type, and make it a double cleanse at night time. A double cleanse is just like it sounds, cleansing twice. Cleanse first with an oil based cleanser such as the Geranium & Orange Cleansing Oil which will break down any makeup, spf, excess oil and sweat on the skin. Next you would cleanse with a more active cleanser such as the Hydrating Orange Blossom Cleansing Milk. By cleansing off anything on the surface first, you are allowing your more active cleanser to reach the skin and work more effectively. The cleansing milk contains Aha’s (Alpha hydroxy acids) which help to gently exfoliate the skin but is mild enough to use morning and night. This mild daily exfoliation will help keep the build up of dead skin at bay.

Proper exfoliation will help your skin to easily shed the build up of dead skin that may be adding to the blockage in your pores. The Aha Tonic is an exfoliating tonic which breaks down the bonds that hold the dead skin cells together on the surface of your skin. Used as part of your night time routine, 3- 5 nights a week, this will also clear the way for the rest of your products so that they can work more effectively.

When the skin is properly nourished it doesn’t need to keep overproducing oil so make sure hydrating and moisturising is also part of your routine.

Others factors that play a part in the cause of blackheads are:

    • Too much sun exposure as this causes the skin to overproduce oil.
    • Haircare products such as conditioners which are not properly washed off can often cause blackheads around the forehead, hairline and back.
    • Stress can lead to blackheads as it effects our hormones.
    • Excessive sweating from exercising without proper cleansing after can cause sluggish skin metabolism

If you are looking to get started treating your blackheads, speak to a professional and get started with a facial. Your therapist will be able to advise you on the best plan for your skin type and how you can treat them going forward.

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