Since we were teenagers we have all hated having them and wanted to get rid of them. What am I referring to? Yep – blackheads!
The first place blackheads normally appear are on the nose, and from there they seem to spread and multiply out onto our forehead, chin and cheeks. They are most prevalent in our T-zone because this is where we have the greatest oil gland activity. So how do we keep our nose – and anywhere else for that matter – clean and clear of blackheads? It’s easy, but first let’s clarify what a blackhead is.
A blackhead is caused by a clog of congestion inside a follicle. The congestion is a mixture of oil (sebum), dead skin cells, tiny hairs, some debris and sometimes bacteria that all combine to make a plug. The surface of the plug, being open and in contact with the light and air, oxidizes and turns black. That’s why when you remove a blackhead, the top is black but the rest underneath is a creamy color. The follicle often contains an over-active oil gland (sebaceous follicle) stimulated by hormonal activity. Blackheads are non-inflamed lesions, but if neglected, they can develop into a spot.
Recommended Treatment of Blackheads
The key to treating blackheads is to control excess oil production and keep the skin as clean as possible, free from debris. The first step is focusing on your cleansing routine. I’d recommend cleansing twice in the morning and twice in the evening, first with a cleansing oil, second with your prescribed cleanser (preferably a gel wash or clay cleanser). Remove your cleanser thoroughly as leaving a residue can also congest the skin.
Cleansing oils are terrific because they deep clean your skin, preparing it for the most thorough wash possible (with your prescribed cleanser). And clay cleansers are wonderful because they remove excess sebum without drying skin out. A clay cleanser is also fantastic to use as a “mini-masque;” pop the cleanser on your T-Zone then wait two minutes (might as well put this on prior to brushing your teeth) and not only will the cleanser remove excess oil and shine, it will also draw out the impurities and blockages in the skin.
And another suggestion: make sure you cleanse behind the ears and into the hair line, as often this is where we miss and breakouts can appear.
It’s hard to suppress the temptation to squeeze your blackheads or to rip them out with those (useless) sticky strips! The skin on the nose is delicate so it’s easy to cause broken capillaries and skin damage. Since the follicles on the nose are small and don’t have much depth, it is very easy for them to continually congest, especially considering the active flow of oil they have pouring into them from the oil glands. Therefore, it’s more effective to use treatment products that clear and decongest the skin vs. squeezing them every other day.
Exfoliation is a key step in the treatment and maintenance of congestion and spots because it helps keep the skin clear of surface debris. If your skin is free from inflamed spots, you can use a scrub two to three times per week. Having said that, it is important to avoid scrubs if you have sensitive skin as they can cause irritation, or if you have inflamed breakouts as they can spread the infection. Instead, try using hydroxy acids (Salicylic Acid in particular) or digestive enzymes (Pineapple / Bromelain or Papaya / Papain) to focus on the areas of congestion.
Since the nose is easily congested, an ideal way to keep the follicles clear is to use a “microfoliant” that will gently polish the skin with Rice Bran Powder, Salicylic Acid, Phytic Acid and Papain, helping keep it clean and clear.
I’d recommend using a deep cleansing, sebum controlling or clay-based mask that draws out impurities, absorbs excess oil and helps decongest the skin. Masque at least once or twice a week, and apply to areas of congestion.
Clearing Gels, Mattifiers and Purifying Wipes
There are some fantastic products in the arsenal to treat blackheads. Look for night time clearing gels that you apply to the area of congestion, and overnight whilst you sleep your blackheads are treated with powerful clearing ingredients. For the daytime you can apply a clearing mattifier. These light weight lotions usually contain decongesting ingredients, coupled with oil controlling ingredients, finished off with oil absorbing microspheres, which sap up the excess oil from the surface of the skin, leaving a great, matte finish. If you find later in the day that you’re getting an oily shine, whip a travel sized skin purifying wipe out of your bag, fortified with all the ingredient goodies to clear and control the shine.
Lastly, use an oil free, oil absorbing moisturizing lotion that seals and protects your skin and stops it from looking shiny. They can also work on reducing the intensity of oil flow without drying the skin out.
Many make-up products actually contain what are called “comedogenic ingredients” that are known and proven to clog pores. Commonly, D&C coal tar dyes are the culprit, as is Isopropyl Myristate, which is often used to give make-up a velvety feel and smooth spread ability. To avoid this, simply ensure you only use both make-up and skin care products that state they are non-comedogenic; they are not hard to find and there are many mineral based make-up ranges. Using non-comedogenic products will help eradicate the skin problem “acne cosmetic,” which is caused by using skin care, hair care and make-up containing skin clogging ingredients.
Key Ingredients that Purify and Regulate Oil Production:
- Nordihyroguaiaretic Acid*
- Zinc Gluconate
- Zinc Sulfate
- Yeast and Cinnamon Bark Extracts
- Salicylic Acid
- Lactic Acid
- Rice Bran Powder
- Phytic Acid
*Nordihyroguaiaretic Acid (NDGA): regulates cell proliferation and sebaceous activity by decreasing overall lipid formation in the sebaceous glands. Studies have shown that NDGA inhibits the enzyme responsible for conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by 68%. This is important as DHT stimulates sebum production in the skin. By inhibiting the enzyme we can limit the formation of DHT and therefore control sebum formation. In the latter case, NDGA acts as a cell growth regulator that inhibits cell proliferation by 54%, a contributing factor associated with skin congestion.
*Sarcosine: Regulates sebum production and inhibits lipase activity in bacteria.
Niacinamide, Zinc Gluconate, Zinc Sulfate, Caffeine, Biotin and Enantia Chlorantha Bark Extract: The combination of these ingredients regulates sebaceous gland secretions by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase enzyme activity while scavenging free radicals.