Say goodbye to these nasties (and hello to better skin) once and for all.

Photo: iStock

Blackheads are the absolute WORST. Unless you’re watching them get extracted on Dr. Pimple Popper, my secret shame pastime. There’s a lot of confusion around how to treat them, whether you can do at-home extractions, and what they exactly ARE. But one thing is for sure, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks they’re fab and wants to keep them around.

So, can someone be completely blackhead free? Probably not. But there is a right (and wrong!) way to purge your skin of the annoying little things, so read on if you wanna know (obviously, you definitely do).

First, make sure you’re actually dealing with a blackhead

There are these little things called ‘sebaceous filaments‘, and a lot of people (myself included) get them confused with blackheads. “A sebaceous filament will most commonly be visible on the nose, cheeks and chin and will look like a pin or hair that can be grey, black, tan or flesh coloured,” says Yvonne Culhane, Dermal and Laser Specialist at FacePlus Medispa. “More often than not, they’ll appear in groups on the aforementioned areas”. Given their description, it’s easy to see how you could get confused. Blackheads, on the other hand are blocked pores. “They’re oxidised sebum which appears like a black dot on the pore,” explains Amy Cameron, Dermal and Laser Specialist at FacePlus Medispa.

Don’t bother trying to purge your sebaceous filaments

“Sebaceous filaments can definitely be extracted. But unfortunately the patient will see them return in a matter of weeks,” explains Yvonne. “They’re a natural part of the skin, and much like people with oiler skin than others, some people will over produce sebaceous filaments.” HOW. ANNOYING. On the plus side, it’s unlikely anyone else is noticing your friendly sebaceous filaments besides you. So, there’s that?

Blackheads, on the other hand, can totally GTFO

Just don’t try at-home extractions to do it, say Yvonne and Amy. FYI, in case you’re not across extractions (what, you’ve NEVER watched Dr. Pimple Popper? You’re missing out!), an extraction is when you squeeze the skin to “pop” the blackhead out of the pore, leaving it clean. There are even extraction tools on the market, little metal sticks with a loop on the end, designed to help with the process. Generally, Amy and Yvonne aren’t into extractions. “It’s best not to extract, and instead work towards reducing them”, says Amy. Why? Well, extractions can cause damage to the skin. I once had a blackhead extracted PROFESSIONALLY, and ended up with a burst blood vessel that I now have to get lasered off. FUN. That’s one of the potential results of extraction, coz you’re literally squeezing your skin so hard, you can cause permanent damage.

This is how you go about it, instead

Want to get rid of pesky blackheads? It’s a process – but worth it. “Thoroughly cleanse the area, and then do a gentle exfoliation with light steam. You can do this in the shower, three times a week,” says Yvonne. “Treat yourself to a terra clay mask once a week – these help clear impurities and close the sebaceous gland.” Also important? Toning. “Toning is very important as it balances the sebaceous gland flow in the skin,” explains Amy. So use a toner every morning and night after cleansing, and before moisturising. Witch hazel is a great one for this, if used only on the areas prone to blackheads.

Constantly dealing with blackheads? “We recommend patients who have recurring blackheads to think about their moisturising regime,” says Amy. Why? Because often blackheads occur because the oil balance in your skin is off. Other things that can help? Avoid fake tanning the area prone to blackheads – it can bring on pore congestion. Also, antioxidant serums and skin oils can help prevent the oil in your pores from oxidising, meaning it won’t turn black.

“There are also professional treatments that can help prevent or minimise blackheads,” explains Yvonne. “LED light therapy is a great option, or adding galvanic infusion to your regular facial.”

This article initially appeared on

September 15, 20162:31pm

beauty | body+soul

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