We all have experienced the feeling of resisting the urge to “pick” at our faces. It’s hard… I get it there is something about extractions that feels so satisfying. It’s like “Ah, mission complete.” But we all have also heard how bad it is for you; it leads to scarring and spreading of bacteria which ultimately makes it worse. Blackheads can be a main source of why we pick… they are extremely common and everyone wants to get rid of them.
What is a blackhead? Blackheads form when a clog or plug develops in the opening of hair follicles in your skin. Each follicle contains one hair and a sebaceous gland that produces oil. This oil, called sebum, helps keep your skin soft. Dead skin cells and oils collect in the opening to the skin follicle, producing a bump called a comedo. (1) When the skin over the bump opens, exposure to the air (or oxidation) causes it to look black and a blackhead forms.
How do we get black heads? Oftentimes we can get blackheads from an overproduction of sebum which ultimately clogs the pore. Enlarged pores unfortunately make things worse. Sebum production from the sebaceous glands exists all throughout the body to lubricate the skin making sure it does not dry out and these glands are determined by androgens or sex hormones (which is why in our teen years, there is such a spike in breakouts because the sebum production is quite high). Hormonal changes such as your monthly cycle or taking birth control certainly have an effect on blackhead production as well. Other ways we can get blackheads are from irritation of the hair follicles when the skin does not shed dead skin (which is why we push exfoliation so much!). Having an excess of Propionibacterium acnes bacteria can also cause blackheads because, when the pore is blocked, this bacteria uses sebum as a source of energy; therefore, promoting more of it!
So what do we do to combat this very ordinary problem we all wish to resolve? First in foremost, you need to make sure you clean your face thoroughly morning and night. Leaving excess makeup and dirt on the skin is exactly what gets into your pores and then oxidizes- simple first step. To be honest, a lot of us think our skin is clean when it really isn’t. At night, use a makeup wipe, wash your face twice, and use a washcloth on the first wash. Toner is also great to remove anything left including excess soap. Icing your skin after you wash is just another way to lightly exfoliate and reduce inflammation. Make sure in the mornings you don’t skip your exfoliation- THIS IS KEY! You have to be sure that you remove excess skin, dirt, and debris otherwise that will live in your pores. Next, you should use something with retinol in it (or Bakuchiol- a plant based retinol-like compound without the irritation) as well as Salicylic acid. All of these are found in our Serum 11- just saying...
And then you want to properly moisturize. When your skin is out of balance, this is where things start to get real wonky. You might think you have oily skin but really you have really dry skin; if your skin is imbalanced it might think it needs to overproduce sebum in order to soften it. If you begin to add the right kind of moisture and oils (non-comedogenic or pore clogging) back into your skin it will balance and normalize. If you are experiencing breakouts which may be due to hormonal changes, seek a dermatologist or aesthetician or better yet a functional medicine doctor who can help regulate some of the internal issues you may be having.