Blackheads are formed when hormones cause too much sebum (oil) to be produced, dead skin cells get in the way, the pore is impaired or misshapen, and the path for the oil to exit through the pore is blocked, creating a clog.
As this clog nears the surface of the skin, the mixture of oil and cellular debris oxidizes and turns black. Balckheads are not caused by dirt or bacteria (so repeatedly washing your face won't help)
Image via Wikipedia
How to get rid of Blackheads (what works & what does not work):
1. Exfoliating Scrubs: There are lots of apricot and walnut and all such exotic fruit scrubs that claim to eliminate blackheads. Unfortunately the truth is that you cannot scrub away blackheads, at least not completely.
Using a topical scrub removes the top portion of the blackhead, but does nothing to address the underlying cause, so they're back again before too long.
However since exfoliation removes dead cells that can potentially block more pores, it is a good preventive measure.
2. Salicylic Acid (beta-hydroxy acid): Instead of a scrub, try using a well-formulated BHA (salicylic acid) product. Salicylic acid exfoliates inside the pore lining, dissolving oil and dead skin cells that lead to constant blackheads. Clean & Clear products, H20 -Acne Clarifying Spot Solution as well as some Clearsil products contain salicylic acid. However any product to be effective must contain contain a concentration of atleast 2% salicylic acid. Try getting a prescription cream for better results.
3. Topical Retiniods: topical vitamin A (tretinoin) has also shown clinical effectiveness at extracting blackheads. Tretinoin causes rapid exfoliation of dead skin cells, dissolves oil blocks and "eats up" the dead skin cells blocking the pore, which gives rise to blackheads. The only drawback with this method is the irritation associated with the product, plus it takes upto 2 months before you see any effect.
4. Baking Soda: Combine 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 1/2 tablespoon of water to
Image by --Tico-- via Flickrmake a paste. Rub this solution on your skin for a few minutes, and rinse with warm water for effective blackhead prevention. Baking Soda is abrasive in nature and will exfoliate. You will have to do this once a week to prevent blackheads.
5. Blackhead strips: Blackhead strips remove only the surface of the balckhead. It may feel very satisfying to see all that black gunk stuck to the strip, unfortauntely the root of the problem is still stuck deep inside the pore. Plus the glue used in these strips can get into the pores and cause more break-outs. You can very well use a band-aid to achieve the same results at a cheaper cost.
Also a word of caution: The way these strips adhere, they can absolutely injure or tear skin and cause spider veins to surface. They are especially unsafe if you’ve been having facial peels; using Retin-A, Renova, AHAs, or BHA; or are taking Accutane; or if you have naturally thin skin or any skin disorder such as rosacea, psoriasis, or seborrhea.
6. Oil Cleansing Method (OCM): based on the theory that like dissolves like, OCM is a effective technique to dissolve the hardened oil in blackheads and remove them painlessly. Just take a spoonful of castor oil, add 1/4 spoon of jojoba or almond or coconut or any other base oil you fancy and warm the mixture. Add a drop of lemon essential oil (optional - aids pore cleaning) and rub on nose using gentle pressure for 15 - 20 minutes. Wash off oil using warm water.
You can do this everyday if you like, though I prefer doing this only once a week.
7. Blackhead extractor: The most painful, yet the most effective method to get rid of all white & blackheads. This tool can be bought at any departmental store. Though I would sugggest that unless you are trained, to refrain from using this at home. In inexperinced hands you will end up hurting yourself or scarring yourself for life. It is better to go to the parlor for a clean-up where they will use this to clean your blackheads.
However if you cannot afford a facial for whatever reason use only the Double spoon blackhead extractor. This tool looks like a rod with small spoon like end. One of them will have a hole in the centre. This is the safest tool for beginners. Do not use extractors that have needles (lancets) on either end unless experinced and trained.
1. wash face with gentle face-wash or soap.
2. Exfoliate face with scrub.
3. Boil the extractor in hot water for 15-20 minutes to disinfect.
4. Steam face for 15 minutes (softens blocks and opens up pores)
5. Press the hole of the extractor over the offending blackhead and press gently and scrape. The dirty contents should come out through the hole without damaging the surrounding skin.
6. Use the other side of the scoop (the other spoon without the hole) to remove oily skin debris at the side of the nostrils, the dip of the chin and in the ears.
7. Apply ice or cold water to face to close pores.
8. Apply some soothing gel (aloe vera/Biotique Chlorophyll gel) to the nose
9. Wash extractor and boil in water for 20 minutes before storing.