At La Roche-Posay we’re often asked what causes blackheads, and how to treat them. It’s a complicated topic, so we’ve enlisted our Acne Skincare Expert, Rachel McAdam, to help you on the road to porefection.
Here she sorts the fact from fiction and discusses the best skincare for blackheads
WHAT ARE BLACKHEADS?
Blackheads are a common form of blemish that typically appear on the oilier t-zone area of the forehead, nose and chin, but can also occur on the chest and back. Specifically, they are open comedones – small bumps that appear when a pore is blocked with sebum (oil) and/or dead skin cells, dirt and bacteria.
WHAT CAUSES THESE BLOCKAGES?
These blockages occur when the cells that line the pore accumulate rather than turnover and shed away. When the skin’s natural oil combines with the skin cells inside this pore, it creates a ‘plug’. Factors that contributes to blackheads include oily skin, sluggish cell turnover, and environmental factors such as cosmetics, pollution and humidity.
WHY ARE BLACKHEADS "BLACK"?
Whiteheads are closed comedones, while blackheads are open comedones. With blackheads, the pore is open at the skin’s surface and there is a dark yellow, brown or ‘black’ appearance. This is because oxygen interacts with the blocked oils and oxidation takes place. This process makes oils look darker
HOW DO BLACKHEADS WORK?
CAN'T I JUST SCRUB BLACKHEADS AWAY?
No. An over-zealous approach can cause more harm than good. As with all types of acne, a gentle cleansing routine and chemical, rather than physical, exfoliation is essential to remove dead skin cells and debris from deep in the pore. You need to consider what is happening far below the surface of the skin.
IS IT EVER OK TO JUST SQUEEZE BLACKHEADS?
We don’t recommend squeezing blackheads – unless done by a doctor. This process can damage the skin and cause a rebound effect. Also, you’ll risk infection from bacteria on fingers which can lead to an acne flare up. It is always best to give your skin the tools it needs to make cell turnover more efficient and balance the oil on the skin.
DO BLACKHEAD STRIPS WORK?
Pore strips will give a cosmetic ‘fix’ by removing dead skin cells and dirt from the skin. Hence the blackhead might not be as visible. But they do nothing to stop more blackheads from appearing, and can cause irritation on more sensitive skins.
WHY DO MY BLACKHEADS COME BACK AFTER I'VE SQUEEZED THEM?
See answer above! If you are not regulating oil production and using ingredients that prevent blockages from occurring, blackheads will remain a persistent problem.
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE FOR BLACKHEADS?
CAN'T I JUST CLOSE MY PORES?
You might have heard the saying that pores are not windows – this is true. They don’t open and close. However, pores tend to be wider when there is a higher volume of oil in the skin. So oil regulation is key to improving the appearance of pores.
WHAT PRODUCTS ARE BEST FOR TREATING BLACKHEADS?
You need a regime that both unplugs the pore and targets the cause of the blockages. La Roche-Posay has created the Effaclar for tailored acne management.
The first step is twice daily cleansing with a soap-free, pH balanced cleanser designed for oily skins, such as Effaclar Foaming Gel Cleanser. (Makeup removal is obviously a non-negotiable if you want squeaky clean pores!)
Blackhead-prone skins still need moisture, as dehydrated skins will actually produce more oil to compensate. So opt for a non-comedogenic, oil-free product that hydrates while regulating sebum production. Effaclar Matte Anti-Shine Moisturiser is a mattifying, pore refining daily moisturiser that reduces sebum production with a powerful new active ingredient called Sebulyse.
Opt for products that contain beta hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid and lipohydroxy acid (LHA). These have a keratolytic action, gently exfoliating the skin and preventing blockages. Effaclar Mat contains LHA to visibly refine the skin, while contains both LHA and salicylic acid to increase cellular turnover, as well as linoleic acid to target the pores.
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