Should you squeeze blackheads? How to get rid of blackheads

If you have ever had a look at your skin under a bright light, you know how unappealing blackheads are. Most commonly found on the nose, forehead, and chin, these pesky little bumps seem to constantly fill up. We have all heard we shouldn’t extract blackheads ourselves with no tools, but it’s a guilty pleasure for many of us. So what are blackheads, and how do you get rid of them safely? chatted to Emma Coleman, Dermatology and Aesthetic Registered General Nurse.

What are blackheads?

We know them as the little black dots that won’t disappear, but it is important to understand the science behind blackheads in order to get rid of them.

Emma said: “Also known as open comedones, these are small bumps or papules that are filled with keratin.

Keratin is another word for skin debris, and it combines with oils to block follicles.

Emma explained: “They tend to be black owing to surface pigment or melanin.

“The contents can be expressed through squeezing.”

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What are whiteheads?

So what are whiteheads, then? And how are they different to blackheads?

Emma said: “Whiteheads are closed comedones. Closed comedones are skin coloured with no inflammation.”

Whiteheads appear when dead skin cells, sebum, and dirt clog your pores.

Until blackheads can be extracted, whiteheads are trapped in the pore.

Emma explained: “Whiteheads have to be punctured to exude the contents by extraction.”

What causes blackheads?

Emma said: “Blackheads arise when cells lining the sebaceous duct overly proliferate, leading to raised sebum production.

“Comedones form as a result of debris build-up blocking the sebaceous duct and hair follicles, as well as presence of inflammation in the body.

“Certain foods and smoking may also increase the likelihood of comedone formation.

“They are usually found on the T-Zone – chin, nose and mid-forehead, where sebum is excreted at a higher rate.”

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How do you get rid of blackheads?

As much as you love it, you shouldn’t squeeze blackheads with your hands.

Emma advised: “Try to avoid overly squeezing, as this introduces bacteria.

“Whiteheads and some stubborn blackheads require extraction using a comedone tool.

“The safest and best way to extract is to see a facialist once monthly, who will gently dilate follicles and glands using steam, before rocking the sterilised tool to open and express the comedones.”

Since you can’t visit a facialist at the moment, you are better off using a comedone tool and extracting them yourself when you really need to.

Emma explained: “The best option is choosing the correct skincare and makeup.

“Cleanse with a glycolic wash or cleanser twice daily, and swap to using mineral makeup as this contains less irritants.

“Use a retinoid product at night to gently exfoliate affected areas.”

You may also need to change your lifestyle choices if you want to get rid of blackheads and whiteheads.

Emma said: “It is best to stop smoking and to have a diet that is low in sugar, fat and dairy products, too.”

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