Removing Blackheads Yourself – The Right Way
Okay, so we’re told time after time that we aren’t supposed to pop our pimples. “Keep your hands off,” they say. But damn, these pesky little f*ckers sometimes feel impossible to ignore! Especially blackheads, I just want to squeeze those little bad boys into oblivion. Is that so bad? No. We totally get it. We at Mirra want to let you know that removing blackheads is okay as long as you do it the right way.
What are blackheads?
Blackheads are a type of acne that forms in hair follicles deep in the lining of your pores. Pimples form when your hair follicle gets clogged by excess sebum and dead skin cells. If the skin over your clogged bump stays closed, your zit becomes a whitehead. But if the skin is open, the oil and dead skin mix oxidizes in the air, turning into a darker color. This is a blackhead (1).
There are many many misconceptions when it comes to blackheads. Here are the biggest ones:
Blackheads are trapped dirt, and you can wash them out to get rid of them.
- Just like whiteheads, you can’t wash blackheads out. Blackheads are caused by clogged pores, not dirt.
You are mistaking your sebaceous filaments as blackheads.
- Did I spend most of my youth thinking those greyish brown spots on my nose were blackheads? Why yes I did. Sebaceous filaments are your oil glands. Everyone has them.
You can sweat your blackheads out.
- Unless your sweat is magic, you need something stronger for your blackheads to go away. Also, if you don’t wash your face after you sweat, this could even lead to more acne.
Blackheads only occur if you have oily skin.
- This is totally false. While excess sebum does contribute to blackheads, those with dry skin are not granted immunity from blackheads.
How to decrease the chance of getting a blackhead?
The key is to prevent sebum and dead skin buildup. For oil control, try using oil-free, non-comedogenic products. And don’t forget to moisturize properly. If you overwash your face, you risk drying out the skin. This will encourage even more oil production.
To address lingering dead skin cells, be sure to exfoliate. I’m personally more of a fan of chemical exfoliants than physical ones for less skin irritation. Look for products with salicylic acid and BHAs for the best blackhead prevention. Again, don’t fall into the trap of harsh, over-exfoliation. Read your skin mood and always be gentle on your skin.
If you’re looking for a blackhead-busting exfoliant, try Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (4). Skincare gurus love this product! However, if your skin does respond well to physical exfoliation, I would give a gentle facial cleansing brush a try. These cleaning brushes can definitely work your cleanser into the pores.
A Guide to Safely Removing Blackheads
Now that we got all the definitions and general advice out of the way, here’s the juicy stuff. Yes, removing blackheads safely and with minimal irritation is perfectly possible. People say patience is a virtue, but okay did that person have tons of blackheads with an event coming up?
But before you ask: no, squeezing the life out of them with your fingers is not a method. Using this kind of brute force can actually worsen the skin condition by introducing bacteria and spread your existing pimple gunk further into your skin.
When it comes to blackhead extraction, the first step should always be to do it after a warm shower. This way, your skin is softened, your pores are open, and your blackheads are ready to pop out. To keep everything clean and safe, make sure to cleanse your skin before and after extraction (2).
1. Introducing the comedone extractor
Who else here watches Dr. Pimple Popper? When removing blackheads, she uses a rod with a metal loop attached. This is a comedone extractor. You need to lightly apply pressure to the blackhead area and only attempt if the blackhead is ripe aka easily coming out. Comedone extractors differ from your hands because they cause less damage to your pore walls. However, you still risk damaging your skin and scarring if you press too hard.
After you’re done, disinfect your tool! These aren’t like the makeup brushes that you wash once a week. Keep everything sanitary by getting rid of bacteria after every use.
Try BESTOPE’s Blackhead Remover Pimple Comedone Extractor Tool. It has great reviews at a low price.
2. The Good Ol’ Pore Strip
Pore strips aren’t just for teenagers in movies. Pore strips work by removing the blackheads at the top of your skin. They don’t necessarily work towards prevention but are great when you just want your blackheads gone. It’s important to not leave your pore strip on too long. While we like to think that leaving the pore strip on longer will help with the adhesion process, in reality, we are causing unnecessary damage to our skin when the time comes to rip it off.
Try Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips. These have great reviews, and my friends always rave about their blackhead-removing abilities.
Retinoids aren’t just for anti-aging purposes. Fun fact: before all the anti-aging hype, retinoids have actually been a constant in treating acne. Topical retinoids increase cell turnover, which is fantastic for acne. They also treat clogged pores. The only caveat is that retinoids may increase skin sensitivity and lead to peeling. When starting out, use low percentages and don’t use them every night. To avoid irritation, you need to build up your tolerance.
There are many retinoids on the market both prescription and over-the-counter. If you aren’t interested in prescription retinoids, try The Inkey List’s Retinol Serum. This product is great for newbies in the retinoid/retinol world, and it is Skincare by Hyram approved.
While quarantine has allowed me to embrace every skin mood and blemish, sometimes I seriously can’t wait for my blackheads to disappear on their own, especially since new ones want to appear. But hey, kudos to those who have that kind of patience. Anyway, catch me channeling Dr. Pimple Popper’s energy when I’m removing blackheads.
Written by Jessica Lu