Q. What is the best way to remove blackheads?
A. Blackheads (or black-headed comedones) are basically a plug in hair follicles (pores). The plug forms when the sebaceous glands produce too much sebum (oil), which clumps together with dead skin cells. They are mostly associated with hormonal changes during puberty (as many of us remember all too well) but can also occur with any hormonal changes, including periods, pregnancy, menopause and birth control pills.
Additionally, anything that blocks or covers the pores – from cosmetics to clothing – can be involved in the formation of blackheads. Heavy sweating or high humidity environments can also be a factor, as can diseases or pharmaceutical drugs that encourage rapid skin cell turnover.
‘When you remove blackheads, first always make sure that your skin is completely clean,’ advises skin expert Joanne Evans, founder of the Skin Matters Clinic, who has just launched the Skin Matters app/99p on the App Store.
‘After cleansing thoroughly with clean hands and a suitable product, lay a flannel squeezed out in warm water on your face while you have a soak in the bath,’ advises Joanne. ‘When you come out of the bath, exfoliate your skin with a gentle scrub. Then, using a tissue, squeeze out the blackheads.’ It is important to be gentle, she adds. ‘Don’t rupture the skin or force out the blackhead, take your time.’ Apply a soothing mask [try Avène Soothing Moisture Mask, £11.50 for 50ml] and leave for 15-20 minutes, then tone and moisturise.
Just a thought: we always used to steam our faces over a bowl of hot water, head covered with a towel, before squeezing out blackheads – which works a treat. NB Please follow Joanne’s advice about using a paper tissue and being gentle: Sarah still has holes in her skin from decades back when her mother removed blackheads with a needle….
In terms of preventing blackheads and clarifying skin, consultant dermatologist Dr. Nick Lowe of the Cranley Clinic, London (drnicklowe.com) has recently launched a targeted range called acclenz Blemish Solutions, which includes a Deep Down Clearing Mask/£30 for 50 ml, and Purify & Renew Foaming Cleanser/£25 for 150 ml. We also really rate Dr Lowe’s book, Perfectly Clear – The Perfect Guide to Clear Skin, written with his dermatologist daughter Dr Philippa Lowe, £14.99, also from drnicklowe.com.