What are blackheads? What causes them? And how can you prevent and get rid of them?
Reducing blackheads is the second most common skin goal chosen by Renude members and one that our experts love to treat.
Blackheads (or open comedones) are follicles in the skin that become blocked with dirt and debris. They are non-inflammatory and are slightly raised on the skin. A blackhead should not cause any physical pain or discomfort but is visible due to the black colour in the pore. Blackheads being present in the skin is considered a mild form of acne. When blackheads are present with pustules and papules (larger, inflammatory forms of acne) it is considered more advanced acne.
Blackheads are caused by an overproduction of sebum and occur when dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria clog your pores. Sebum is an oily waxy substance produced by the sebaceous glands. Sebum is essential to healthy skin, as it keeps the skin lubricated and prevents it from drying out. However, overproduction of sebum can lead to the pores/follicles becoming clogged and causing blackheads and other forms of acne.
Internal factors, for instance, hormonal life events can lead to the development of blackheads such as puberty, menstrual cycle and hormone replacement like birth control pills. These events all trigger the hormone androgen and this hormone is linked to overproduction of sebum.
External factors can also block the pores such as heavy makeup on the skin, excessive sweating and humid environments can all cause the pores to become blocked and form blackheads.
Blackheads typically appear on the face, often around the nose and chin but can also appear on the chest, back and neck.
They are referred to as blackheads due to the black appearance on the top of the clogged pore. This black appearance is caused by oxidation (the process of reacting with oxygen in the environment), not by being dirty.
Yes, blackheads are a type of acne. Acne is a broad term used to describe various skin conditions characterised by the clogging of hair follicles with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Blackheads are one of the two primary types of acne lesions, the other being whiteheads.
BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) is a chemical exfoliation agent great for preventing and treating blackheads as it’s oil soluble meaning it can cut through oil or sebum in the skin allowing the BHA to penetrate deep into the pores, to clear out sebum and dead skin cell buildup from within the blocked pore.
When introducing any new active ingredient into your skincare routine, it is best practice to introduce it to the skin gradually. Start by using it 2-3 times the first week, 3-4 times the next week and so on until your skin adjusts and you can increase the frequency.
In some cases, blackheads may resolve on their own over time as your skin's natural processes gradually push the clogged material to the surface. However, this can be a slow process, and some blackheads may persist for a long time or even become more prominent if not properly managed.
To effectively address blackheads and prevent them from worsening or becoming more noticeable, it's often recommended to follow a good skincare routine that includes regular cleansing, exfoliation, and moisturising.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliator This liquid toner is the no.1 best-seller for Paula's Choice around the world. It contains 2% salicylic acid to decongest pores, reduce blemishes and refine skin texture, alongside green tea extract for antioxidant protection.
Medik8 Press and Clear This exfoliating toner is a perfect choice for skin prone to congestion and discolouration. 2% salicylic acid to unblock pores and dissolve oil, combined with tranexamic acid to fade dark marks left behind from breakouts.
COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment This is a fantastic mixed-acid toner for those with congested skin types. The joint action of pore-clearing BHA and exfoliating AHAs leaves skin clearer, smoother and more glowy! What's not to like?
Once blackheads have been treated, there are also a number of things you can do to prevent them from returning.
Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser.
Avoid touching your face throughout the day.
Using oil-free makeup and skincare products.
Getting enough sleep
Keeping your skin as clean as possible will avoid blackheads: Over-cleansing strips the skin of essential oils and can lead to more blackheads and a sore face. Use a suitable gentle cleanser for your skin that will not damage the skin’s barrier function.
Facial scrubs are the best treatment for blackheads: Keep the scrubs for the body and opt for chemical exfoliation on the face which is gentler and will not tear the skin. Put down the Salt Scrub and book in with your Renude skincare expert for guidance on which chemical exfoliant is best for you.
The stronger the percentage of active ingredients the better the result: Skincare products that are too strong for your skin will leave you red, inflamed and upset. You need to work your way up to the higher percentages. Skincare is a journey, not a race.
If you would like ongoing support in building a skincare routine to suit your skin's needs, take our skin quiz to get started on your skin journey. Our qualified aestheticians are on hand to guide you, answer any questions you have, and hand-select a routine specific to your exact needs and budget.
Complete our quick quiz, then book a free video call or upload photos.
Your aesthetician will hand-select a personalised skincare routine for the evolving journey of your skin.
Get ongoing advice as your skin changes for just £20 every 3 months (which is deducted from your purchases).