I have received so many great skin care questions, more than I could answer in one post so I have decided to conquer one subject at a time.

Today is the ever quite stubborn blackheads.
Blackheads are caused by excess oil that has clogged a pore usually causing dead skin cells to block them making them very hard to remove.

How do you get rid of existing blackheads?

There are many topical solutions to help clear up blackheads.

(Dr. prescribed) Tretinoin (Retin-A, Avita, Renova) is the mainstay of treatment for whiteheads and blackheads. Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A and works by increasing cell turnover and reducing the “stickiness” of the sloughed cells. It helps expel the plugged material returning the pore to normal.

Benzoyl peroxide has an antibacterial effect and may also decrease the chemical reaction that changes the lining of the hair follicle. This may help reduce the plugging that causes blackheads. You can find Benzoyl Peroxide in Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment and proactive products.

Salicylic acid is especially helpful in treating acne because of its ability to penetrate the follicle. It encourages the shedding of dead skin cells from within the follicle, helping keep the pores clear of cellular debris. In this way, it reduces the number of pore blockages and breakouts on the skin. You can find Salicylic acid in Dermalogica Medicated Clearing Gel, Noxzema Anti-Acne Gel and Murad acne spot treatment(my favorite).

Essential Oils are a great and natural way to treat clogged pores. Among the best suited for blackheads is Tea Tree Oil, Lavender, Clary Sage and Eucalyptus. Just apply a drop or two after cleansing and let it absorb before applying your moisturizer.

Exacting blackheads: Removing debris from inside of the blackhead helps the skin heal by relieving the pressure which causes the damage. To make blackheads easier to extract mix together baking soda and distilled water until it makes a paste. Apply to the congested areas and apply steam for 5-10 minutes. (follow our facial steam tutorial) The steam combined with the baking soda opens the pores allowing to remove the clogged pores.
To extract gently apply even pressure to both sides of the blackhead by pushing down then up around the blemish. If nothing comes to the surface it can help to lift the skin off the blackhead. Using a sterile needle lightly prick the skin covering the blackhead and try extracting again. You can also use a lancet which is a great tool to extract blemishes. Only attempt this once or twice. If it does not “pop” you may bruise the skin, make the blackhead worse and could cause scaring.
How do you keep from getting new blackheads?

Cleanse regularly. The most important thing would be to make sure to clean your face both morning and night. Since blackheads are initially caused by oil and debris clogging pores it is also necessary to cleanse after working out our any strenuous activity that would cause you to sweat. Finding the right cleanser is just as important. Do not use bar soap! Bar soaps are alkaline causing that tight squeaky feeling which can be mistaken as clean but in actuality leaves a film on the skin which will make blackheads worse.

Tone after cleansing. Toner is an everyday skin care necessity. Even after cleansing you may still have oil, makeup and other pollutants on your skin that toner will remove. Toner also balances your skins ph and makes for better penetration of any serums or moisturizers. Most brand of toners all achieve the same results. Anything labeled as a skin freshener or toner are good to use, but stay clear of astringents. Astringents have a much higher alcohol percentage and can dry out the skin. Have sensitive skin? Apply witchhazel or our skin brightening toner tutorial. To use: Apply to cotton ball and swipe over skin. Repeat until there is no longer any residue on cotton. (this may take 2-3 cotton balls)

Exfoliate. The reason most blackheads are so hard to get rid of is because of a thick build up of dead skin cells. Doing at home exfoliating treatments and still seem to have thick congested skin? Doing microdermabrasion or chemical peel sessions at a spa would help to slough off those dead layers of skin. In next weeks post on advanced spa treatments I will go into further detail on these and other treatments.

How can I achieve smaller pores?

The first step to smaller pore is to keep them clean of dirt and debris. Your pores expand when clogged so once your pores are kept clear they will return to their normal size. If you naturally have large pores having clear skin alone wont reduce the pore size. There are pore minimizing products that you can use. Some of the best I have found are: Clinique Pore Minimizer Instant Perfector, Estee Lauder Idealist Pore Minimizing Skin Refinisher and Murad Hybrids Skin Perfecting Primer.
Other options would be medical strength chemical peels which will be covered next week.
Have anymore questions? Let us know, and make sure to check back every week as we cover different topics.

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