How To Get Rid Of Blackheads Once And For All

Finally, the truth about those pesky pores and how to wave them goodbye

Image: Instagram/@Elleaus

If there’s a skincare concern that affects women of all ages it’s blackheads and enlarged pores.

Pretty much all of us have battled against both at various times and via different treatments. We’ve applied charcoal purifying masks, pasted on sticky strips and then yanked them off – we’ve even had skincare professionals apply various topical ointments and squeeze our faces like ripe tomatoes.

Some of these practises worked. Plenty didn’t.

We got to wondering why that is and so we hit up skincare expert and Skinstitut spokesperson Zoe Devine and hit her with the hard questions. We wanted to know pretty much everything about blackheads and enlarged pores and, most important of all, how to get rid of them. And this is what she had to say.

Firstly, what factors can lead to blackheads and enlarged pores?

A number of factors can contribute to formation of blackheads, including:

Comedogenic ingredients (some make-up primers, petroleum jelly, hair serums etc)
Spray tans
Make-up (thick foundations or heavily pigmented make-up)
Oil based products
Over exfoliating
Build-up of dead skin cells
Hormonal imbalance
Diet /nutrient deficiencies – particularly insufficient essential fatty acids

There are fewer factors that contribute to enlarged pores, genetically; some of us have pores that are more visible than others.
It is normal to be able to see the pores on our face (most people notice them across their ‘T-zone’ (nose, cheeks, chin).

Oily skin types are more likely to have visibly larger pores. For those that do have oily and congestion prone skin, it is possible for excess oil and congestion to stretch the follicle, giving the appearance of enlarged pores.
Those that experience longer term oily skin conditions and congestion (whiteheads, blackheads, moderate acne) will be more susceptible to enlarged pores. Trying to squeeze and extract can also contribute to the appearance of enlarged pores.

If you are experiencing blackheads does this mean your skin is unclean?

It’s easy to assume that if you have blackheads your skin is ‘dirty’ due to the dark colour these skin imperfections possess.

However, it is not dirt that causes blackheads but simply a combination of oil (produced from our sebaceous glands which are attached to our hair follicles) plus excess dead skin cells.

A blackhead will result when the oil and dead skin cells combine to form a blockage in a hair follicle.

This blockage has an opening at the surface of the skin which allows oxygen to oxidise the surface of the blockage, giving the black hue.

Why do oily skin types have an increased tendency for blackheads and enlarged pores?

Blackheads are a combination of oil and dead skin cells.

Those with oilier skin not only product more oil (contributing to more debris in the follicle) but additionally the quality of the oil can differ.

For example, instead of oil that flows easily, some produce thicker or stickier. This can contribute to congestion in the follicle. Nutrient deficiencies can certainly exacerbate this situation.

Long term blackhead and generous oil flow can stretch the follicle over time, giving the appearance of an enlarged pore.

Do lifestyle factors increase your susceptibility to blackheads and enlarged pores?

Nutrient deficiencies can definitely have an impact of the likelihood of blackheads. Namely, zinc and essential fatty acids have an impact here.

Insufficient essential fatty acid intake can ironically increase the incidence of blackheads and white heads.

The same goes for zinc. This mineral can affect the quality of oil produced from the sebaceous glands. Deficiency in zinc can produce thicker and stickier sebum and is also associated with acne.



How can you prevent blackheads and enlarged pores?

Be sure to remove excess dead skin cells to prevent blockages in the follicle. This would entail using the correct exfoliant for your skin type and condition (i.e. low intensity or high intensity).

The use of alpha-hydroxy acids in the skincare regime is helpful to as particular AHAs (such as glycolic acid) help to break down the intracellular glue that traps old dead skin cells. Incorporating a higher intensity treatment cleanser into your regime (one that contains AHAs) can keep excess dead skin cells at bay while providing decongesting properties.

In clinic treatment approaches for blackheads and enlarged pores will incorporate a course of peels and microdermabrasion. Best results for enlarged pores are seen with the addition of skin needling treatments.

Why is exfoliation important to reduce blackheads?

Exfoliation is essential for removing excess dead skin cells. If dead skin cells are allowed to accumulate within the hair follicle this creates the perfect environment for blackheads to form, which can then give the appearance of enlarged pores.

In most cases, exfoliation only needs to take place a few times a week. Over exfoliating the skin can be counterproductive and for some can actually exacerbate due to stripping the skins natural barrier function.

So there you have it.

Now you know exactly what does (and also what doesn’t) cause these skin issues and also how to resolve them. So go do just what Zoe suggests. And then get ready to enjoy the clear, perfect skin you deserve.

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