How can you get rid of blackheads, how do they form and what's the safest way to remove them?

BLACKHEADS are one of the most common forms of acne, and while they can be unsightly, they're usually nothing to worry about.

It can be tempting to squeeze them, but this can cause unnecessary skin damage. Here’s everything you need to know about blackheads…

How to get rid of blackheads?

  1. For a quick fix, pore strips are often quite effective. You simple place them over your nose, wait a few minutes, and peel off – it may seem a little unpleasant as you can see the gunk that’s been pulled out of your pores, but it does help clear them out.
  2. Don’t pick them with your fingers, as there are also blackhead removing tweezers and tools which apply pressure around a blackhead to push it out of the pore. Keep the tools clean and sanitised so that you’re not spreading germs further, though.
  3. Use products with salicylic acid gel, which can be found in many over-the-counter products and dissolve blackheads away. It can be in a cleanser, or a leave on product such as a mask, which will be more effective.

There are also some important steps you can take to stop getting blackheads in the first place.

Avoid scrubbing the skin too much can irritate it, so use gentle products and avoid over-exfoliating.

Use a mild soap and lukewarm water, and only wash the skin twice a day (if you exercise regularly, make sure you wash straight afterwards to avoid sweat clogging your pores).

If you wear make-up, choose water-based foundations and always remove it thoroughly before going to bed.

Avoid touching your face too much, and keep your hair clean and away from your face as much as possible.

Also, make sure you wash your pillowcases regularly, as the build-up of dead skin cells and grease from your hair can rub into your pores as you sleep.

What are blackheads?

Blackheads are caused when pores – usually on the face – become blocked with oil or dead skin cells.

They are not caused by poor hygiene, but instead from excess oil production by the sebaceous glands or greasy products.

When these pores are clogged, the dead skin cells in the open pore react with oxygen in the air and turn black, forming a blackhead.

Why do we get blackheads?

Everyone has pores on their skin, so it means anyone can be at risk of getting blackheads.

But some factors can increase the likelihood of developing blackheads.

Hormones can cause the body to over produce oils, so blackheads are most common in teenagers, and during a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Other factors such as wearing make-up or certain clothing that can block the pores, as well as humidity and heavy sweating can also lead to blackheads.

Shaving and other activities that open the hair follicles can also make you more vulnerable to blackheads.

Some health conditions, such as stress, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and even the Pill are known to increase the chances of getting blackheads.

How are blackheads different to whiteheads?

Blackheads develop when the pores become clogged and live in an open pore, which exposes the material inside to oxygen.

They differ from whiteheads, which are white or yellow in colour, and close the opening of a pore.

Left untreated, whiteheads often tend to turn become inflamed and red and turn into pimples.

Dr Anjali Mahto from London's Cadogan Clinic, told Cosmopolitan: “When it comes to blackheads, the pore remains open, whereas when you get a white head the pore has become blocked over – and then you get a little pustule.”

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