Ever looked closely at your pores to discover blackheads on your nose or chin? Whether you have the occasional blackhead or are frequently trying to remove blackheads that are stubborn and persistent, learn more about how blackheads form in the first place and how you can help care for and prevent them to reveal clearer, healthier-looking skin.
What are blackheads?
Blackheads are a type of sub-surface pre-acne that, when left unchecked, can become blemishes, pimples and acne.i These clogged pores (also known as comedones) are dark in color and often appear in oily areas of the face like the T-Zone (forehead, nose and chin).
What causes blackheads to form?
Skin naturally produces sebum (or oil) which is essential to keep skin hydrated. When skin produces excess sebum, dead skin and impurities can become trapped inside of pores and cause them to become clogged. When these clogged pores are open, the impurities within the pore are exposed to the air and oxidize, turning a darker brown, black or grey color and forming a blackhead.
How can you help prevent blackheads?
While using skincare products for acne-prone skin will help keep skin clear and healthy-looking, other factors in your lifestyle can also impact your skin. Blackheads and other forms of acne are often caused or aggravated by:
- Excess Oil Production
- Lack of Sleep
- Hormonal Changes
What is the difference between blackheads and whiteheads?
Whiteheads are also clogged pores, or comedones, but unlike blackheads which are open, whiteheads are closed. Since whiteheads are enclosed under the skin, they do not oxidize and turn darker in color like blackheads do.
Do blackheads go away on their own?
Blackheads tend to be a stubborn form of acne but they will eventually go away over time. Some blackheads may take months, or even years, to clear. Exfoliating skin regularly can help care for blackheads and even help prevent new ones from forming.
Should you remove blackheads?
Unlike whiteheads, blackheads can be extracted since they are open and will not break the skin. While they will eventually go away, if you do want to remove blackheads, have them expertly extracted as trying to remove them on your own can cause impurities to spread and may even cause damage which can leave a post-acne mark or dark spot.ii
Do blackheads cause acne?
Blackheads are actually a mild form of acne. Typically, blackheads remain as they are until they are extracted or go away on their own but it is possible for them to turn into pimples.iii If you have a blackhead that is starting to form a blemish, apply a spot treatment with Salicylic Acid or Sulfur.
Why are blackheads more common on your nose, chin and forehead?
If you have blackheads, you have likely noticed that they are most common in the T-Zone, which tends to produce more oil than other areas of the face. With this excess oil production, the pores on the nose, chin and forehead are more likely to become clogged with dirt, debris and oil and cause blackheads to form.
How can you care for skin prone to blackheads?
Whether you just have a few blackheads on your nose or want to treat blackheads on other areas of your face, you may want to start a skincare routine for acne-prone skin. Cleansing twice a day is an essential step for acne-prone skin (and all skin types) to clear away dirt, oil and debris. Whether you are prone to blackheads are not, never go to sleep with your makeup on which can cause clogged pores.
What are the best skincare ingredients for blackheads?
If you have blackheads or acne-prone skin, look for skincare products with Salicylic Acid or Sulfur. Within Kiehl’s formulas, Salicylic Acid is known to help refine skin’s texture while visibly reducing blemishes. Sulfur is another ingredient used in products for acne-prone skin. Within our skincare formulas, Sulfur helps visibly reduce blemishes without over-drying skin.
What is the best type of face wash for blackheads?
To care for and treat blackheads, look for facial cleanser with Salicylic Acid. Cleanse your face twice a day and after a workout or excessive sweating to help keep your skin clear. Follow with an alcohol-free facial toner to help keep skin balanced and free of dirt or residue.
Should you use a facial scrub for blackheads?
Exfoliation is key for helping clear away dead skin and using a facial scrub can definitely be an effective step in a skincare routine to treat blackheads. However, too much scrubbing can actually cause skin to become irritated. When this happens, skin may be triggered to produce excess oil which can lead to more clogged pores. When using a face wash or scrub, gently massage skin in upward circular motions to cleanse away oil and impurities and take care not to overly scrub your skin.
What type of moisturizer should you use for acne-prone skin?
Even though you may be tempted to skip a moisturizer on acne-prone or oily skin, a daily hydrator is essential to help balance skin’s moisture levels. Instead of skipping this step entirely, look for a moisturizer that is non-comedogenic, meaning that it won’t clog pores. Try an acne treatment lotion with Salicylic Acid to help visibly diminish blemishes and help prevent new ones from forming.
i"Acne: Overview." Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. 2016.
iiHabif, Thomas P. Clinical Dermatology E-Book: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed., Elsevier Inc., 2016.
iii"Different kinds of pimples." American Academy of Dermatology. 2018.