If you suffer from blackheads and breakouts, then you need to keep reading. We asked a Dermalogica skin therapist to answer some questions we get asked a lot by our Jersey Beauty family. The answers to some of these questions may surprise you and may even change how you treat your blackheads.
1. What causes blackheads under my skin?
Let’s start with the basics. Blackheads are those dark looking spots that can appear on your skin. Your skin naturally produces sebum from your sebaceous glands. When your skin produces too much oil, it can clog up your pores and trap inside dead skin cells, pollutants and bacteria. What looks like black in your pores is actually this clog of excess oil production and dead skin cells. Some skin types are more prone to blackheads and some areas - particularly the T-zone - are more likely areas for blackheads.
2. How do I remove blackheads from my nose?
It’s really tempting to squeeze blackheads, especially on your nose… but DON’T DO IT! Your fingers will likely have even more bacteria on them, which can end up in open pores. Also you can risk pushing the bacteria even further into the pores, rather than extracting it.
To remove blackheads you need to use a targeted skincare product that has active ingredients like salicylic acid that penetrate into the pores and work to de-clog and remove dirt and excess oil. This will have a longer lasting impact on blackheads and breakouts.
3. How do I treat blackheads if I have dry skin?
The problem with a lot of spot treatments and skin care products for blackheads and breakouts is that they have a tendency to dry out the skin. Too much salicylic acid can make your skin dry, by removing not only excess oil but also the lipids your skin needs to rebuild the lipid barrier - that’s the layer on top of your skin made up of oil and skin cells that protects your skin. Physical exfoliation can also dry out and irritate your skin, if you overdo it.
To treat blackheads on dry skin you need a skincare treatment that both works to purify and de-clog your pores but also puts goodness back into your skin, soothing and repairing the lipid barrier.
4. How should I treat my congested skin (blackheads, hyperpigmentation)?
Congested skin is where a lot of your pores are blocked with excess oil, dead skin cells and pollutants. When you have spots or blackheads that you have squeezed you can end up with spots of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, where the skin has tried to heal. Congested skin needs treatments to exfoliate the skin, to get rid of the skin cells that are darker and to both clear out the pores, rid the skin of excess oil and stop new dead skin cells from clogging pores. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid, which means it has smaller particles that can get deep into pores and so is often used in skin exfoliants for blackheads and hyperpigmentation. In the right amounts, this can be effective. But you also need skincare products with active ingredients that will build back in moisture and oil and also protect against killing off the good bacteria in your skin’s microbiome.
5. What causes milia?
Milia are those small, hard white bumps under your skin that you can’t squeeze, even if you try (which you don’t want to be doing!). They aren’t red or painful but they are a sign the follicle is closed, hard and capped. Milia is caused by sebum and dead skin cells getting trapped, as with blackheads, but in this case the skin grows over the milia.
6. What causes whiteheads?
Whiteheads start off in a similar way to blackheads, with excess oil and dead skin cells clogging up a pore. They are a closed comedone, unlike blackheads that remain open and so oxidise. They need similar treatment to blackheads to stop them becoming inflamed or infected and becoming a breakout.
7. Why can’t I see dead skin cells?
Every hour you shed at least 35,000 skin cells. If you have acne prone skin or dry skin that can multiply by at least four times. So why can’t you see dead skin cells? Well, because they are tiny. You can sometimes see the effects of dead skin cells , with flaky patches on your skin. To be visible, thousands of cells are clumping together to shed.
8. How do I remove dead skin cells without over exfoliating?
It’s important to get rid of dead skin cells and exfoliation is great to achieve that. You should use a gentle exfoliator that has active ingredients to both exfoliate but also protect and soothe your skin.
9. Why is my nose full of blackheads?
Excess oil that causes blackheads can be as a result of age, hormones and even genetics - some skin is prone to being oily. When your cleansing routine doesn’t effectively clean out pores daily, they get clogged up with oil and dead skin cells causing blackheads.
Some of us also naturally have larger pores that can make blackheads look more obvious. Whilst enlarged pores are natural, blackheads don’t have to be!
10. Do blackheads cause acne? How?
There are links to blackheads and acne breakouts. Not all blackheads will become acne and some skin types are more prone to acne for a number of reasons but not treating blackheads can lead to breakouts. Let’s look at the science - blackheads are caused by excess oil and dead skin cells clogging up pores. Inside your pores, your skin has an entire microbiome - that’s like its own ecosystem, with good and bad bacteria. When blackheads are left untreated, the bad bacteria P.Acne is deprived of oxygen and this anaerobic environment causes it to thrive, multiplying and consuming dead skin cells and sebum. This can lead to papules, pustules and even nodules and cysts as the bacteria grows and the follicle becomes infected or inflamed. By treating blackheads, you are helping to prevent the conditions for future breakouts.
What is the best treatment of blackheads? What blackhead products actually work?
So we have discovered, through all of the answers so far, to treat blackheads we need a skincare product that can get deep into pores and get rid of the bad bacteria, excess oil and dead skin cells, whilst protecting and not drying out your skin. So we want to introduce you to:
This amazing new mask specially formulated to treat blackheads has a unique active fizzing formula. Yep, you read that right. When you put this mask onto your skin, it will gently fizz - this opens the pores so the active ingredients can get really deep and clean out pores.
The fizz mask has three active ingredients we love:
Sulfur - this active ingredient has been used to treat spots for centuries. It works to kill the bad bacteria p.acnes that can lead to breakouts. It works in a similar way to another ingredient you may have seen in spot treatments - benzoyl peroxide - the big difference being that sulfur doesn’t dry out your skin - it’s really gentle but really effective.
Kaolin Clay - this is a really absorbent clay that is amazing at purifying your skin. It works by absorbing oil, dead skin cells and actually sucking up the gunk out of your pores, with its absorbent qualities. It is a really gentle but effective way to get de-clog your pores.
Apple Fruit Extract - apples have so many brilliant properties and apple fruit extract on your skin can help with oil production and also is a great for hydration. When your pores are clogged, it doesn’t just mean the bad stuff can’t get out, it can also stop goodness going in. So once the sulfur and kaolin clay have done their job, the apple fruit extract puts back in some much needed hydration to soothe and repair your skin.
Try it for yourself! You can get Dermalogica Clear Start Blackhead Clearing Fizz Mask at Jersey Beauty.