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Hello Joanna,

I have been dealing with blackheads forever. I can’t seem to get them to go away! What causes them, and can I get rid of them?


What is a Blackhead? 

When a follicle or pore fills with sebum and dead skin cells, a blockage can form. These blockages are called comedones, and when exposed to oxygen, the material oxidizes and turns a dark color - hence the name blackheads.  

Blackheads can be found all over the body but form primarily on the T-Zone area of the face, where the most sebaceous glands are present. 

What Causes Blackheads? 

There are many causes, including: 

  • producing too much oil 
  • Irregular shedding of skins cells 
  • Hormonal changes that cause an increase in oil production during the teen years, during menstruation, or while taking birth control pills 
  • taking certain drugs, including corticosteroids, lithium, or androgens  

Can You Eliminate Blackheads? 

You can get rid of blackheads. Along with proper extraction, there are remedies you can use to prevent buildup and blockage in the pores. 

Gentle exfoliation is a good place to start. In the studio, we use multiple forms of exfoliation to help unblock clogged follicles. One of our favorites is a machine called the ultrasound water peel, which uses ultrasonic waves to gently exfoliate and remove cellular debris and excess sebum from the skin. 

At home, there are many great choices for gentle exfoliation as well.  

What Products Treat and Prevent Blackheads? 

One of my favorite gentle exfoliators is the Future Flash 10 Botanical Deep Cleanser. Using products with salicylic acid can help to keep comedones and breakouts to a minimum, as salicylic acid has a unique molecular structure that actively penetrates your pores and dissolves impurities. Be careful not to over -exfoliate, as this can aggravate the skin and even worsen acne.  

Vitamin A is another helpful ingredient when it comes to battling blackheads and acne. Vitamin A helps to promote cellular turnover and normalizes sebum production. A line that I love that is centered around these ingredients is Environ’s C-Quence Serums 1-4. These products are intended to start at level one, and then gradually increase to level four as the skin adjusts. 

I love Environ’s vitamin A product line because they are formulated with retinyl palmitate and propionate, which are lipid-soluble, making them easily absorbable by skin cells. This form of vitamin A is great for everyday use, and a consultation before buying the line is recommended to ensure that you are starting at the right level for your skin. 

To help slow down the natural process of sebum production, Biologique Recherche’s Serum Dermopore contains java tea extract, which reduces pore size and helps prevent the formation of comedones. 

What Should You Avoid When It Comes to Blackheads? 

Doing Manual Extractions 

Try and resist the urge to squeeze your blackheads as this can cause the follicle to rupture and create an inflammatory lesion. Leave extractions to a professional. 

Using Harsh Scrubs 

Harsh scrubs can strip your natural oils and create more oil. If you do use manual exfoliators, use them 2-3x week maximum. 

Suction Devices  

Suction devices can be harmful to delicate facial skin and can induce telangiectasias, or ‘broken blood vessels’ to appear, particularly on and around the nose. I would stay away from any of these.