Wash Your Face Thoroughly
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but most people *actually* don’t wash their face as well as they think. For example, prior to all the COVID-19 hygiene PSAs, how many of us were really washing our hands for 20 seconds while humming Happy Birthday? The same concept applies to facial cleansing. It takes a while for oils to properly break down and for your cleanser to work its magic.
What goes on, must come off—and if it doesn't come off, it’s likely getting trapped in your pores. That includes heavy moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup, and general dirt or grime from your environment. Heyday Skincare Educator Jenni Montoya generally recommends a double cleanse for that reason, starting with an oil-based cleanser first. If that’s not your jam, skincare tools like the Foreo Luna FoFo can help create a cleansing routine through an app.
Not Surprisingly, Exfoliation Can Help
By exfoliating regularly, you're removing that buildup of dead skin before it has the opportunity to accumulate and clog up the pore. “Exfoliation is a great preventative measure, and it's also a great way to open up any pores that are already clogged,” explains Montoya. “This allows the impaction to work itself out versus you trying to remove it.”
There are two options for exfoliation: chemical and physical. For someone with larger pores, or combo or oily skin, Montoya suggests using a physical scrub that complements chemical exfoliation, especially if you’re plagued by blackheads. “Physical scrubs actually open pores up in a way that chemical exfoliants can’t do by themselves,” she explains.
The larger your pores are, the higher the tendency to get blackheads. But even people with very small pores can get them.
Turn to Salicylic Acid
Let’s get back to blackhead basics. Unlike whiteheads (which we refer to as closed comedones), blackheads are open. Thankfully, certain ingredients like salicylic acid are really imperative for people who are struggling with blackheads. Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble BHA, meaning it penetrates deep into the pores, breaking up dead skin cells and clearing congestion.
Because it can penetrate so deep, it's an effective whitehead and blackhead buster.“Salicylic acid, unlike any other acids, works like Liquid Drano,” explains Montoya. “It actually goes inside the follicle and clears it out. Other acids can’t penetrate the pore in the same way.”
Aim for Water-Based Products
We don't typically think about hydration as a way to prevent blackheads, but it’s a game-changer. “When the pores in the skin get dehydrated, they often tighten up and actually hold on to the material inside,” shares Montoya. “Blackheads that seem impossible to extract are actually because of a lack of water,” she adds.
Looking for the right moisturizer? Our Skin Quiz is a great starting point to teach you about your skin type and condition, how to care for your skin, and how to confidently pick products that work for you. Hint: hyaluronic acid is a winner for most skin types.
See Ya Pore Strips
As teens, there was nothing more satisfying than putting on a pore strip and being partially mesmerized (or grossed out) by what was revealed. But here’s the catch: pore strips don’t work on blackheads. What you were seeing was actually called sebaceous filament.
“[Pore strips] are even worse than tape,” cautions Montoya. “What you're doing is pulling off that very, very important barrier on the skin.” Remember, blackheads are black, because they’ve been oxidized by oxygen. Sebaceous filaments, however, are naturally-occurring, clear, tube-like structures that line the walls of your pores. “When you use a pore strip, you're temporarily removing those sebaceous filaments,” explains Montoya. “And the way they’re being removed is actually more damaging to the skin than if you just left them there.”
Top Picks To Clear Blackheads
This Renewing Mask
Slough off dead skin cells with this textured mask which combines physical and enzymatic exfoliants.
This Microderm Replacement
Since professional treatments are limited, consider this at-home scrub that uses ruby crystals to buff away dry skin and excess oil.
This pH-Balancing Cleanser
Kick off your double cleansing process with this non-stripping, multitasking oil featuring papaya extract, alongside sunflower and pumpkin seed oils.
This Plant-Acid Cocktail
This potent formula clears follicles of debris to stop blackheads in their tracks.
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