In the last month, I feel like I’ve been seeing blackhead-busting products everywhere. It’s like, we got into the new year and everyone wanted not only to clean out their life but also their pores.
And while everybody’s familiar by now with pore strips, there are newer blackhead removal methods popping up on social media, like a magical mask that pulls all the gunk out of pores in horrifyingly close zoom and a literal blackhead removal vacuum (!!!).
Some of these blackhead tricks make sense, while others seem like they’ll leave you with a whole lot of inflammation and painfully irritated skin. To get down to the bottom of blackheads, and how to remove ’em, I had a chat with a few dermatologists to see what really works and get some general info on this clogged pore plague.
What Are Blackheads, Really?
Before you can begin to start treating blackheads, it’s a good idea to actually know what you’re up against. You can’t really fix a problem when you don’t know what’s causing it, right?
Dr. Rita Linkner, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist at Skinfluence, explains that blackheads are really a specific type of acne, triggered by sebum (otherwise known as face oil) production. She says if a clogged pore “remains open to the air, the oils in the pores oxidize to a black color, which is why we called them ‘open’ comedones or blackheads.”
So before you get all grossed out by blackheads, just keep in mind that they aren’t composed of dirt stuck in your pores. It’s really just the natural oil from your skin, turned a darker color.
Those May Not Be Blackheads, After All
Just an FYI, not all large pores have blackheads. Also, all that gunk coming out on pore strips? Not always blackheads either. Grab your magnifying mirror and take a (much) closer look.
You may just have microscopic hairs that mimic blackheads, says Dr. Linkner. She continues: “A visit to your dermatologist, to tell the difference between the two diagnoses, can make the difference in getting rid of these spots.”
Besides microscopic nose hairs, you could have sebaceous filaments. These guys, instead of turning black, are pretty much clear. Dr. Craig Kraffert, board-certified dermatologist and president of Amarte, explains that sebaceous filaments don’t oxidize like blackheads do, meaning they don’t have the telltale color change.
Dr. Kraffert went on to say that sebaceous filaments are like blackheads, in that they both have condensed oil and skin scales, but they aren’t totally congealed like blackheads. He says, “Sebaceous filament material may congeal into a true blackhead, and most blackheads have had former lives as sebaceous filaments. With proper cleansing and care, however, sebaceous filaments can be softened, dissolved, and/or lifted up and out of the oil gland ducts.”
So don’t sweat the oily (or hairy) stuff.