What is more unsightly than blackheads! How do they appear? How to avoid them? Should you pierce them yourself? Dr. Catherine Braeken, Mixa’s consulting dermatologist, answers all these questions.
What is a blackhead?
The black points – also called “open comedones” – form mainly on the face at the level of the nose, but also on the rest of the T-zone, namely the forehead and the chin. They are due to an obstruction of the pilar canal by keratinocytes (a mixture of sebum and dead cells). These keratinocytes must desquamate every day, but at the time of hormonal changes or in case of poor skin hygiene, this desquamation does not take place properly. The dead cells will then oxidize in contact with the air and block the canal, allowing blackheads to appear. If they are not treated, they will develop into whiteheads and then pimples.
Causes of blackheads
Dr. Braeken reminds us that the causes of blackheads can be multiple:
- The puberty and the hormonal changes. The production or intake of hormones activates the sebaceous glands responsible for the production of sebum. Throughout life, these hormonal factors (taking the pill, menopause, etc.) will make the skin more reactive and encourage the appearance of blackheads.
- The use of cosmetics known as comedogenic. These are often fatty substances or occlusive makeup products such as certain types of sun powders. Dr. Braeken therefore advises to look at the labels and to choose non-comedogenic products.
- A bad hygiene of the skin and a too rich diet in fats or sugars.
- The oily or mixed skin are more affected by blackheads. The pores are much more dilated and produce more sebum than dry skin.
Practice regular skin care (make-up removal, exfoliation, mask, moisturizing) and adopt a good general hygiene.
Avoid exposure to the sun. When you are exposed to the sun, the surface layer of your skin thickens and sebum accumulates. The formation of blackheads is accelerated when the skin texture returns to normal.
Avoid alcohol-based solutions, which are aggressive to the skin, and use very gentle products instead.
Should blackheads be pierced?
Dr. Catherine Braeken advises against removing blackheads alone: “You can do it but you have to be good at it. People do not wash their hands, do not clean and disinfect their skin before and after. They empty them halfway or squeeze them badly, which creates an inflammatory phenomenon.”.
The right gestures to remove blackheads
- Make an appointment with an esthetician or dermatologist to learn how to pierce blackheads without damaging your skin.
- A few days before removing your blackheads, apply a cream containing a little salicylic acid to soften the blackhead. You can also take a steam bath just beforehand to open the pores of the skin.
- Wash your hands and disinfect the area to be treated with an antiseptic solution.
- Aim and squeeze the blackhead between two tissues or cotton swabs. If you choose to use a blackhead remover, remember to disinfect it.
- Don’t scrape the skin, otherwise it will flake off.
Treatment of blackheads
There are several treatments to remove blackheads or prevent their appearance. You can treat your skin at home, on a daily basis with cosmetic treatments or you can consult a dermatologist.
The basis of a clear skin texture begins with a morning and evening cleansing with products adapted to your skin type.
If you have oily or combination skin, you can use zinc-based products, known for their anti-inflammatory properties. A salicylic acid-based cream is also very effective in softening the cells that clog the skin’s pores.
People with severe acne problems can use a product composed of Vitamin A Acid, known as keratolytic (loosens the keratin layer). Be careful, as this product is highly irritating, it must be used under prescription by a dermatologist and under medical supervision.
Fruit acid-based products are also recommended for getting rid of blackheads. They help to loosen dead skin cells and increase desquamation. Be sure to adjust the concentration of fruit acids according to your skin type as they can be irritating above a certain percentage.
What about anti-blackhead patches?
Anti-blackhead patches soften the plugs and attract the dead cells-sebum duo to the outside of the skin. All the “waste” sticks to the inside of the patch and the skin becomes clearer. For Dr. Braeken, they are not very effective and are not suitable for dry and fragile skin. Because of its sticky system, the patch risks tearing off a small film from the skin, so it is not the best solution for making blackheads disappear.
Dr. Braeken specifies that there is no dermatological procedure as such for blackheads. However, there are dermatological treatments to treat acne-prone skin and therefore remove blackheads at the same time.
It is performed by a dermatologist after a diagnosis and analysis of your skin. The specialist begins by performing a peel with light glycolic acid to open the pores of the skin. Then, he will proceed to a deep cleansing of the skin and, using a bevelled needle or a small scalpel, he will make micro-incisions. Finally, he will remove blackheads with a blackhead remover and apply a trichloroacetic acid solution to close the pores and promote healing.
Fractional Co2 laser
It is used to erase acne scars. During the session, a jet of cold air is continuously diffused to limit the unpleasant sensations and an anesthesia can be considered. The laser tightens the pores as much as possible and the blackheads disappear. As the sessions progress, an improvement in skin texture and a reduction in dilated pores are noted.
The D-Glow laser
A coupled action of micro-biological current (MBC) with ultrasound treats all skin-related problems, especially those of problem skin. It cleanses the face in depth, prevents acne, treats and tightens pores to limit the formation of blackheads. The skin is healthier thanks to a rebalancing of the seborrheic skins.
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