How to Beat Blackheads

Written by Angela, 4th November 2021

Black plugs that form in the skin are know in Beauty Therapy circles as ‘open comedones’ and more commonly as ‘blackheads’. They are a very common skin challenge.

At Sensoria clients often come to us to remove blackheads and to give advice on how to prevent them from reoccurring.

They are very common in oily skin, and in areas of the skin that have more oil-producing glands such as the nose, chin, forehead, upper chest and back.

However they can also appear in other skin types, especially if comedogenic (blackhead forming) skin care products have been applied giving rise to ‘cosmetic acne’ (acne cosmetics) and may also be accompanied by pustules (spots).

The same can also happen for some skins as a response to excessive sunlight (solar acne).

How do blackheads form?

When skin cells undergo their natural cycle of shedding from the outer skin layer, if there is oil present on the surface of the skin, the dead skin cells will stick to it and clog the openings of hair follicles.

This plug of oil (sebum) and dead skin cells reacts with the oxygen in the air and turns it black, giving rise to a black head.

This means that a blackhead can only form where there are hair follicles – no hairs, means no blackheads which is why you will never see blackheads on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet.

Black heads can vary in size from the tiniest pin prick size to several millimetres in diameter and are nothing to do with being dirty.

Let’s explore the treatments and prevention methods of blackheads.

What salon treatments are available for blackheads?

There are many salon treatments for the removal and prevention of blackheads and the treatment or procedure selected will depend on several factors:

  • how big the blackhead is
  • How many of them there are
  • The location
  • How soft or hard (compacted) they are
  • How sensitive the skin is where the blackheads are
  • How firm or lax the skin is where the blackheads are
  • Your skin type and any other skin challenges you may have
  • Your health and any medication you may be taking

Your Skin Therapist will take all the above points into consideration before formulating a treatment plan.

Deep cleansing facial in Cheshire

If you have clusters of blackheads, for example around the nose, forehead or chin a good option would be to opt for a deep cleansing facial.

This usually starts with a double cleanse. The first cleanse is to remove any makeup or oil-based debris from the skins surface.

After this initial cleanse your Skin Therapist will usually analyse your skin under a magnifying lamp to have a closer look at your unwanted blackheads. This is also an opportunity for them to look at your general skin condition.

The second cleanse will take place with a cleanser chosen for your specific skin type. If you have a lot of blackheads and your skin is oily this may be with a non-soap, foaming cleanser, clay or charcoal based cleanser to thoroughly clean your skin.

If the blackheads are compacted this second cleanse may take place under steam or a special softening lotion used after the second cleanse.

In some instances an electric modality such as desincrustation using a galvanic current my be used to further soften the blackheads.

The blackheads will then be removed and the facial will continue with other deep cleansing and skin rebalancing elements.

Book your deep cleansing facial here

How to get rid of blackheads

The removal of blackheads requires a ‘two-pronged’ approach: salon treatments and home care routine.

If the blackheads are deep-seated, numerous of have been present in the skin for a long time a salon treatment is the quickest, safest and least painful way of removing them.

Once they have been removed the home care routine will help to keep them away.

Is it ok to squeeze blackheads?

Great care needs to be taken when squeezing out blackheads.

A lot of skin marking and damage can be done to your skin, especially if your skin is delicate.

Professionals are trained how to cushion their fingers and to ‘wiggle and roll’ blackheads out using even and minimal pressure, ensuring that skin damage doesn’t take place.

Sometimes a ‘loop’ shaped comedone extractor can be used. If in doubt, always consult a skin specialist.

Cheshire’s best facials for blackheads

If you have multiple and recurring blackheads my top choice would be a Dermalogica ProSkin 60 treatment. This is almost an hour of deep treatment to address not only your blackheads but other skin challenges.

A blend of manual and electrical modalities are used to leave your skin feeling clean, soft and hydrated.

Another great option is the ProPower Peel 30 or ProPower Peel 60 using salicylic acid to reduce and prevent congestion.

We have had superb results at Sensoria with a Treatment Plan alternating these two facials.

Benefits of using salicylic acid for blackheads

Salicylic acid works by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells so that they can easily release from the pore.

It breaks down and decreases the production of sebum (oil) in the skin, leading to fewer blackheads and breakouts.

The peels we use are ‘progressive’ rather than ‘aggressive’ peels and a series of them are usually needed to see optimum results.

Everyone reacts to peels in different ways, so a patch test is always needed for safety.
Some clients do actually ‘peel’ following a peel, and others not.

It is always difficult to ascertain how your skin will behave so never schedule a peel before an important occasion.

Best products to use at home for blackheads
We often find that clients who have blackheads use aggressive or abrasive products and techniques on their skin.

Generally this is not very helpful for finding a long term, good solution for this particular skin concern.

Due to the presence of blackheads clients will often identify as having an oily and choose cleansing products that strip their skin of oil.

Firstly, they may not have oily skin as blackheads can occur for other reasons and secondly, stripping the skin of oil will often produce more oil to compensate which exacerbates the whole problem.

The same can be said for exfoliants. Clients with blackheads will often choose very granular, abrasive products to ‘scrub’ away the blackheads.

As mentioned in previous posts, granular scrubs are usually the least beneficial exfoliants on the Bioactivity Scale for measuring effective exfoliation.

When Dermalogica had a gritty exfoliator called Skin Prep scrub, clients were often convinced that it would be really effective for removing blackheads. However, it was the least effective exfoliator in their entire suite of exfoliating products.

Skin Prep scrub had a Bioactivity Score of only 2 and was classed as a ‘skin polisher’ rather than an exfoliator.

This compares sharply to something like Rapid Reveal Peel which has a Bioactivity Score of 15 and doesn’t have a granule in sight!

Gritty exfoliators are only useful as skin polishers.

What are ‘extractions’ in a skin treatment?

You will sometimes hear Beauty Therapists talk about ‘extractions’, which can sound a little scary, and reminiscent of visiting the dentist.

All they are talking about is blackhead removal.

They will generally warm or pre-treat the affected area either with steam, hot towels or a black-head softening solution and then gently ease out the blackhead with tissue-cushioned fingers with a rolling and wiggling motion.

Following removal a mild skin antiseptic will be applied to prevent any infection.

Sometimes at Sensoria we will use an electrical treatment called desincrustation which super-softens the blackhead to make it even easier to remove blackheads.

Daily skin care for blackhead prone skin
Your daily skin care needs to be simple, but effective.

In the morning you will need to cleanse your skin to remove debris build up from the night. Choose a mild, foaming wash. We love Dermalogica’s new Daily Glycolic Cleanser or their Special Cleansing Gel.

Spritz with a hydrating liquid to add moisture to your skin and lock in with a ‘non-comedogenic’ moisturiser. This means a product that doesn’t have pore-clogging ingredients.

Finish of with a non-comedogenic full spectrum sunscreen to prevent skin ageing.

At night, start with cleanser to remove oil-based debris, especially if makeup has been worn.

Use something like Dermalogica’s Precleanse, remove with a damp cloth and follow up with the same cleanser that you used in the morning.
Continue with the same morning routine, avoiding the sunscreen and adding in a skin-specific serum before your moisturiser such as retinol serum.

Add in an exfoliator after the cleanse and before the serum and moisturiser one to three times a week, depending on the exfoliator chosen.

A face masque on a weekly basis to deep cleanse the skin is also helpful and, in addition, gives you a bit of ‘me time’ too!

Which ingredients should I avoid to prevent blackheads?

We mentioned ‘non-comedogenic’ ingredients in the section above.

You would be surprised as just how many ingredients are included in skin care and cosmetic products that can potentially cause blackheads …. especially if your skin is prone to congestion.

Our advice would be to avoid any ‘pore creeping’ ingredients such as isopropyl myristate and other ‘isopropyl’ ingredients. This ingredient is used to add slip and shine to a product and often replaces oil. It creeps into the hair follicles and can cause pore clogging.

Avoid F, D and C dyes. These are dyes used as colourings in cosmetics such as foundations, bronzers, blushers and other coloured products.

Articifical colouring can block your pores leading to a greater risk of acne. It can also increase the risk of skin sensitivity and irritation, so they are definitely worth avoiding.

Choose cosmetics without these colourings and pick natural mineral colours instead.

Coconut oil and lanolin are also best avoided as they too can clog pores. Carageenan or algae extract are also known to have pore clogging tendencies so again …. best avoided.

So read your labels carefully and choose non-comedogenic products.

Buy non-comedogenic skin care products here

Health, beauty & wellbeing in Cheshire

At Sensoria we like to think of your skin and facial treatments as part of your overall health, beauty and wellbeing plan.

We are keen to make you feel beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. For more advice on how we can help with your self-care and wellbeing so that you shine on the inside as well as the outside, get in touch today.

Originally published November 4, 2021 10:50am, updated January 15, 2024

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