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How to Get Rid of Blackheads: 3 Best Dermatologist Tips

February 4, 2023

How do I get rid of blackheads?

Blackheads are pesky, permanent and a sign of… pollution. True or false? In this episode, board certfied dermatologist Dr.TWL debunks the myths surrounding blackheads — so if you are concerned, do tune in. 

Hi guys welcome back to another episode of the acne podcast— the podcast based on my book the acne care bible that has all you need to know about acne — causes, treatment, what works and what doesn’t explained in a FAQ format that’s easy to read and understand! Today we will be talking about blackheads.

What exactly are blackheads?

Did you know that those black dots you see on your nose aren’t due to dirt, they are a form of acne. Blackheads are due to the presence of dead skin, oil and dirt mixed together and exposed to oxygen in the air, the process of oxidation causes it to turn “black”. This is similar to what happens to an apple after you peel it and it is left outside.

The same process of oxidation is responsible for the appearance of blackheads. The key difference between a blackhead and whitehead is that for blackheads, there is an obvious tract which leads to the surface of the skin. So if you apply pressure, you may find some yellowish whitish material being extruded.

Should I squeeze my blackheads?

And I’m sure no blackhead-approved podcast is going to to skip this golden rule: do not squeeze your blackheads! Just when you were about to ask…  Is squeezing my blackheads a good idea? Yup, I can read your mind. No actually I can’t — it’s because many others think the way you do — myself included, before I became a dermatologist of course. Not squeezing blackheads is actually kind of challenging, I know.

The thing is some individuals do experience improvement in their skin when they extract blackheads. Usage of vacuum-assisted methods such as home devices as well as pore packs for instance— assist in the mechanical removal of the dirt and grime. But even as you do that, the one thing you must note is that these blackheads really do not go away. After you remove them with various physical methods, they almost always recur.

What are common blackhead treatments?

This brings us to the curse of blackheads— the myth in this case, is unfortunately true. Blackheads are perpetual. Unfortunately, dermatologists really haven’t figured this out. But there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel — in the form of the following treatments:

First, prescription retinoids, which by the way, if you listen to my other podcast Asian Beauty Secrets, you’ll know I’m not a fan of — but retinoids are the mainstay of traditional blackhead treatment when it comes to what’s prescribed in the dermatologist’s office. They don’t exactly get rid of blackheads but dermatologists suspect that through the effects of enhanced skin cell renewal, increased collagen production — there is some sort of resurfacing effect that can reduce the appearance of blackheads. 

The other method I prefer is with chemical peels like AHA, BHAs which are usually in high enough concentrations only when used as an office peel. An interesting development in this area would be enzyme based peels —papain from papaya, bromelain from pineapples these are the preferred types of peels for my patients firstly because they are over- the counter, gentler on skin and have additional anti-inflammatory effects such as reducing redness flaking. These properties make enzyme peels an ideal option for those with sensitive skin.

Pimple cream for blackheads on sensitive skin?

By the way, If you suffer from blackheads and find yourself having sensitive and oily skin — do check what your pimple cream contains. I would advise stopping any products or cleansers that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic or glycolic acids because these are quite outdated ingredients for treatment of acne. In the past, astringents were used to dry out oily skin— which was believed to be the main cause of acne. Now of course we understand that acne is actually a predominantly inflammatory disease, driven by one’s personal genetics and of course in the right microenvironment- increased skin oiliness, disturbed microbiome — eventually lead to active outbreaks of acne.

@drteowanlin #acnetreatment #pimplecream #foryou #dermatologist #acnescar blemish spot. @drtwlderma #fyp ♬ original sound – Dr. Teo Wan Lin – Dermatologist Dr.TWL

Can we get rid of blackheads definitively? Definitive probably isnt the word.

The main thing though, is to get access to treatment as soon as you start observing them. Getting started on a chemical peel regimen  as early as possible is helpful.

How to get rid of blackheads #1 ENZYME PEELS 

Home based enzyme peels are safer, healthier and better for all skin types. Also you don’t need to wait for your dermatologist’s  appointment slot to be free for you to get started on your home peel regimen. As with all things in skincare, consistency is key!

Papain Nanopeel to get rid of blackheads

How to get rid of blackheads #2 MICRODERMABRASION 

Universal Beauty Bar

Microdermabrasion is also an effective tool to get rid of blackheads. In my practice, I use a vacuum-assisted microdermabrasion technique that gently extracts the blackheads (improving the cosmetic appearance) while simultaneously infusing anti-oxidants and alpha-hydroxy acids to resurface the skin. Generally, once one develops blackheads, it is very hard for them to be completely reversed. However, these methods are certainly more effective and sustainable than squeezing out your blackheads one by one. 

silkpeel microdermabrasion to get rid of blackheads

How to get rid of blackheads #3 SQUEEZE THEM (NO!)

In any case what we must realise is that any process that involves mechanical trauma or picking with your fingers or using any instruments does carry the risk of introducing bacteria. This is why methods 2 and 3 chemical or enzyme peels and microdermabrasion are favored over manual methods of extraction — which, besides being painful, ought to be regarded as archaic oops I meant barbaric.

But realistically, here’s a word of caution, in most instances, what you will find is that after squeezing to get rid of blackheads, you will go on to develop red bumps instead. Which leads us to the next part that we are going to discuss. What are these red bumps and that, will be the topic for our next episode. Do remember to stay tuned!

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