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Understanding Blackheads and How To Treat Them

What are blackheads? What causes them? And how on earth can I prevent and get rid of them?

Melody CarlRenude Skin Expert
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Melody Carl
Written byMelody CarlRenude Skin Expert
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Reducing blackheads is the second most common skin goal chosen by Renude members and one that our experts love to treat. Here, licensed aesthetician and Renude skincare expert Melody explains why we get blackheads, and how we can build a skincare routine to get rid of them.  

What are blackheads? 

Blackheads (or open comedones) are follicles in the skin that become clogged with dirt and debris. They typically appear on the face 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 from being dirty. Just as metal transforms into rust, sebum exposed to air turns black.

Blackheads 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.

What causes blackheads?

Blackheads are caused by an overproduction of sebum. 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. Although 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. 

How do I prevent and treat blackheads? 

BHA or Beta Hydroxy Acid as a chemical exfoliation agent is the key to preventing and treating blackheads. This can be in the form of a professional peel, an at-home peel, or an exfoliating toner or serum. BHA is oil soluble meaning it can cut through oil or sebum in the skin allowing the BHA to penetrate deep into the pore, to clear out sebum and dead skin cell buildup from within the blocked pore. 

(See Renude-Approved Products Containing BHA)

Benzoyl Peroxide (BP) is a tried and true treatment for blackheads. BP exfoliates the dead skin and removes the excess sebum in the pores that lead to the blackheads. Benzoyl peroxide for blackheads is used on the skin at night and left to work while you are sleeping. An initial tingle is normal when first beginning treatment with BP, some people like this sensation as they can feel it working. Use only as recommended by your skincare specialist and do not mix with any other topical acne treatment.

When starting any new active skincare product it is best practice to introduce it to the skin gradually 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. 

Common blackhead myths

  • Over cleansing keeps my pores clear. 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.
  • Scrubs work best 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 St. Ives 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 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.

Interested in receiving a personalised routine for blackheads?

If you would like support in building a skincare routine to suit your unique needs, you've come to the right place. Our qualified experts are on hand to guide you on your good skin journey, answer any questions you have, and hand-select a routine specific to your exact needs and budget. Start your skin consultation here

Melody CarlRenude Skin Expert
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