Pores get a bad rap, but these microscopic openings in your skin are actually vital for producing oils that moisturize and maintain a healthy complexion. When pores get clogged and form blackheads, however, all you want to do is get rid of them. Preventing blackheads entails much more than lathering up a cleanser and splashing some warm water on your face. Ahead, celebrity esthetician Kate Somerville, founder of Kate Somerville Skincare and Skin Health Experts Clinic, breaks down how to remove blackheads properly—and keep them away for good.
First, how do blackheads form?
Before you attempt to break out the magnifying mirror and remove every blackhead in sight, it’s important you understand where they come from. Somerville explains, “Blackheads form when extra sebum accumulates in the pore, and mixes with debris or dead skin cells, which then oxidizes and hardens.”
What happens if you don’t remove blackheads?
Blackheads are a type of acne, and if left untreated, they can stretch out the skin around the pore. Somerville adds, “Blackheads can also be stubborn after extractions. Since the pore may not close up right away, it could lead to sebum filling the pore again and leading to another blackhead forming.”
How do you remove blackheads?
The best way to remove blackheads is to prep the skin with light exfoliation in the shower. Somerville recommends her own ExfoliKate, which removes the top layer of dead skin. It contains resurfacing ingredients like papaya, pineapple, and pumpkin enzymes, as well as lactic acid. “Additionally, steam from the shower helps warm the skin, which softens and opens up pores for easier extraction,” Somerville adds.
“After you shower and dry your skin, wrap your fingers with tissue paper and gently squeeze the blackhead out of the pore,” Somerville instructs. “If you’re heavy-handed, you can squeeze the blackhead out with Qtips.” Be sure to then treat the area with a witch-hazel soaked cotton pad to soothe the skin, she says.
Are extraction tools safe to use at home?
“I also don’t recommend extraction devices, as they can be too abrasive and take off the top layer of skin,” Somerville says of using tools instead of just your fingers. Step away from those pore strips, too. “The best way to fully extract the blackheads using your fingers. Pore strips and peel-off masks can often only take off the top layer of the blackheads and not fully remove it,” she explains.
She also adds that the worst way to remove blackheads is pinching at it without any preparation. As she mentioned before, properly cleansing, exfoliating and steaming will open up the pores, making extraction more gentle.
How do you prevent blackheads from forming?
There’s no big secret—just consistency. “The best way to prevent blackheads is a good, consistent routine of cleansing and exfoliation,” says Somerville, who suggests a cleanser with sulfur for treating acne and drawing out impurities. She also notes that family genes can play a significant role in acne in general, including blackheads. “My mom struggled with blackheads, and I have struggled with blackheads growing up as well,” she admits. You can’t fight genetics, but with these tips, you’ll at least have a leg up.
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