Blackheads: what's the deal?
Blackheads form when the opening of a hair follicle is clogged or plugged with dead skin cells and oil. Air causes this mixture to oxidize which causes it to appear black.
When attempting to get rid of the black specs on your skin the first thing you need is a cleanser that won’t strip your skin of the good stuff. If there is an imbalance in oil production, your skin will start to overcompensate by producing more oil which could lead to more clogged pores and thus more skin issues.
Depending on your skin type and condition, you will need to exfoliate 1-2x/week. Some products can allow you to exfoliate everyday (please refer to your facialist for advice). Using an enzyme exfoliant and/or a product with salicylic acid to help bring the blackhead to the surface of the skin will help! But please keep in mind, this needs to be done in moderation otherwise it could stress the skin making things worse.
Let me give you the rundown on acids
There are two types: AHA and BHA.
Lactic Acid & Glycolic Acid make up your AHA’s. These are water soluble and penetrate and exfoliate the upper layer of the skin, leaving you with brighter, more fresh skin. If you have sun damage or dry skin, AHA’s are the better option for you. This is due to its ability to increase the skin barrier to do its job - keep the bad stuff out and the moisture in. AHA also helps plump the skin and does wonders for fine lines and wrinkles.
Lactic Acid is gentle and exfoliates the skin to reveal smoother, brighter looking skin. It helps to reduce discolouration and balance oily skin.
Glycolic Acid is the stronger of the two. It boosts collagen in the skin and helps smooth fine lines and wrinkles.
BHA’s are made up of salicylic acid. It is oil soluble, meaning it can cut through the oils of your skin. Salicylic acid works inside the pores to break down the buildup of the oil and dead skin cell mixture. It will help to soothe skin and combat bacteria due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. You will also notice a smoother skin texture and experience less irritation as compared to AHA’s.
My favourite exfoliants tend to be chemical, for example, Active Serum and both versions of Lotion P50. These are formulated with both AHA’s & BHA’s which in my opinion is wonderful. It allows you to use the acids without making your skin freak out. It also keeps it simple for you - no need for mixing and matching, just simply apply the product and reap the benefits. Exfoliating the skin correctly allows the next step to penetrate deeper into the skin! You don’t want to apply your wonderful serums on top of dry skin. Right?
But here is where it gets tricky. Are you picking at your blackheads OR is it your pores that are filled with sebaceous filaments?
Sebaceous filaments occur naturally in the skin but for some they are considered "blackheads" because they look so similar. They may look the same, but they have a completely different effect on the skin. These sebaceous filaments act to help move sebum to the skin's surface for moisturizing. Yes, they HELP our skin, not clog it. Blackheads, on the other hand, form when there is excess sebum production, a build up of dead skin cells, or bacteria clogging your pores. Sebaceous filaments are normal and should be left alone, not picked at. Picking will only cause irritation, inflammation and scarring - everything we don't want!
Think of it this way: sebaceous filaments help guide the oil from your sebaceous glands, to the surface of your skin where the oil can get to work fighting environmental aggressors and dehydration. So don't strip away the filaments; embrace them, let them do their job. Now that you are aware they are not clogged pores and not problematic here comes the harsh reality - there's no true call to action. Meaning, there is nothing, I mean nothing, we can do about it.
But we won't leave you at a loss. Our favourite products that can help us avoid blackheads are just below.
Tri Active Exfoliating Masque
A physical exfoliant that is gentle! Contains powerful botanical enzymes, salicylic acid and eco-friendly micro-beads to provide an ideal combination of physical and biochemical exfoliation.