Blackheads may not be as painful as other forms of acne, but they can cause sufferers a huge deal of anxiety. They’re widely regarded as objects of gross fascination, and they’re the subject of numerous myths and fallacies, sometimes spread by people in the beauty industry. In this article, we’ll not only explain what blackheads actually are, but we’ll also give you the real deal about how to prevent and treat them.

WHAT ARE BLACKHEADS?

We all know what blackheads look like, but what are they exactly? Looks can be pretty deceiving. Contrary to popular belief, blackheads are not necessarily dirty. And while its true dirt and dead skin cells getting stuck in your pores can lead to blackheads, the main culprit in most cases is our natural body oils becoming oxidized when exposed to air.

Our body produces natural body oils (called sebum) in thousands of tiny sebaceous glands under our skin and pushes them to the surface out of tiny holes called hair follicles or pores. When all goes well, they provide the right amount of moisture our skin needs to stay healthy and supple. Occasionally, however, there can be an overproduction of oil in our skin due to irritation and other factors.

Sometimes this excess oil can combine with your dead skin cells and other debris to form a greasy plug in a skin pore. Over time this oil becomes darker and more viscous, as it’s subjected to exposure to the outside air. This results in a semisolid oil plug in the pore with an exposed “head” that becomes darker as it oxidizes. This “blackhead” is more visible if the pore is larger, as there’s a bigger surface area of the oil plug exposed to air.

If the oil plug is covered by a bit of skin, the oil plug won’t be exposed to air and won’t turn dark. Instead, it will turn into a pimple rather than a blackhead. In contrast, a normal skin pore will have this oil freely flowing and replenished, so it never has time to oxidize or build up into a plug.

Like pimples and zits, blackheads are considered to be a mild form of acne, or “comedo”, which means a blockage of the skin pores. This is why some soaps, cleansers, and cosmetics are marketed as “noncomedogenic” to indicate that they do not cause blockages in your pores. Interestingly enough the word “comedo” comes from our historical misunderstanding of blackheads and acne. It’s derived from the Latin “comedere”, meaning “to eat up”, and was also used to describe all kinds of parasitic worms. This is thought to be either from the wormy-looking appearance of oil from popped blackheads and acne or from a belief that gluttony led to the unfortunate skin condition.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF BLACKHEADS

Blackheads show up as dark, occasionally bumpy spots in our pores. A closer look with a magnifying glass or mirror will reveal a blocked skin pore that’s no longer able to freely pass oils onto our skin. They’re often found on the face and forehead (often called the “T-zone”) or on the upper back, chest, and shoulders; though, they can occur anywhere a hair follicle exists. In contrast to pimples and whiteheads, blackheads are usually painless and only become tender when the blockage is already quite severe. This is because blackheads will typically have a bit more room to expand, given the open pore. Pimples and whiteheads, on the other hand, are usually painful regardless of size, as the blockage has much less room to expand in a closed pore. Pimples and blackheads are often, but not always found together. As mentioned earlier, they aren’t necessarily caused by dirt, but unclean conditions can cause all types of acne to be exacerbated.

WHAT CAUSES BLACKHEADS?

All pores are technically hair follicles, with each pore producing oil through its own sebaceous gland. These glands are easily irritated into producing more oil than needed due to a variety of factors. The structure of these pores also makes it easy for them to get blocked by debris such as skin flakes. Like wisdom teeth and our appendix, the fact our pores get clogged so easily is sometimes conjectured to be an example of our imperfect evolution.

Here’s a list of common factors that can dramatically increase the incidence of blackheads:

1. Bacteria
A pore can get blocked due to an inflammation caused by bacteria on our skin feeding on the oil and excreting irritating toxins. The main culprit for this is Propionibacterium acnes, which comes in dozens of different strains. This, in turn, can cause blackheads and other types of acne to happen. Several other types of bacteria can likewise cause your pores and sebaceous glands to get irritated and clogged up. However, It’s quite possible to be quite hygienic still be prone to blackheads due to other factors.

2. Pollution
Air pollution can cause your skin to get irritated, causing your oil glands to pump out more sebum, making your skin to break out. Noise pollution can likewise raise the level of stress hormones (more on that below), causing your skin to produce more oil. Those of us who’ve lived both in cities and in the provinces can attest that the quality and cleanliness of our surroundings can, in fact, be a huge factor in how frequently we get blackheads and other skin-related issues.

3. Cheap Makeup
Yes, there are plenty of good quality makeup brands out there that could be had for a low price, But we’re not talking about those. We’re talking about what comes to mind when you put the words “cheap” and “makeup” next to each other. These bottom of the barrel brands often cut corners when it comes to testing and development and are likely to use harmful chemicals that can irritate and clog up your skin, resulting in blackheads, or worse.

4. Genetics
Contrary to popular belief, bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes, are not the only cause of blackheads. Genetics also plays a huge part by determining how large and elastic our pores normally are, how fast our skin sheds, and how often we produce oil. It can also determine the next major cause of blackheads.

5. Hormones
Our hormone levels, whether through stress or genetics, can also influence the production and viscosity of the oil, and hence the creation of blackheads. Most notable are male hormones and stress hormones. Menstruating and pregnant women may find their skin breaking out into blackheads and other forms of acne due to fluctuating hormone levels. Constant stress at home and the workplace can likewise ramp up the occurrence of acne-causing hormones.

6. Medication
Medication can either directly affect the production of oil on our skin or cause your body to produce hormones that do the same thing. Some common medications that are known to cause blackheads and other types of acne include anticonvulsants, lithium, corticosteroids, androgenic steroids, barbiturates, and DHEA. Medications that contain bromides or iodides–common in cough medicine as well as in sedatives–are also known to cause acne or conditions similar to it.

HOW DO I PREVENT BLACKHEADS?

(Image via Acwell)

You’re always better off finding ways to keep blackheads from occurring than you are attempting to remove them yourself. Unfortunately, due to genetics or required medication, some of us will have to be more vigilant about these measures than others. But while there are factors that are beyond our control, there are still many other factors that we can directly influence. Once you’ve identified the major causes of your own blackheads, you can try some or all of the methods below to keep them from coming back again.

1. Exercise consistently (and hygienically!)
Consistent exercise has a host of benefits for your skin. First, exercise reduces the levels of stress-induced androgen hormones (such as cortisol) in your body–the same hormones that are identified with blackheads and other forms of acne. Second, sweating from exercise gets your pores to work harder, flushing out or loosening dead skin cells, and other debris that have found their way into your pores before they can build up. Third, exercising (aerobic exercise in particular) stimulates your blood flow, which in turn oxygenates and refreshes your skin cells while simultaneously carrying away skin cell waste to your excretory system.

The catch, however, is that you have to keep yourself as clean as possible. Showering immediately after you exercise is a must since you want to wash off all that waste-carrying sweat off of you. This also means you should be mindful of the gym equipment you use, as dirty dumbbells and yoga mats might be harboring the kinds of bacteria you don’t want to be in contact with your now-opened pores. Clean exercise clothes are also necessary, as your strains of Propionibacterium acnes will be able to survive on your dirty clothes for some time, and believe us, pimples will ruin your day way more than blackheads will. Synthetic, moisture-wicking exercise clothes may be more useful in this regard than old-school absorbent cotton. Generally speaking, you don’t want to be sitting in your own sweat much longer than you need to. Not washing up after can, in fact, lead to more irritation and more blackheads.

2. Get enough sleep
For most of us, this might be the most challenging blackhead-prevention measure of all. Sleep can be a difficult-to-obtain luxury these days, especially for those always on-the-go. Nevertheless, getting enough sleep is a necessary step for reducing the levels of stress hormones that cause your skin to produce more oil and thus more blackheads.

The good news is, taking naps throughout the day also works to reduce the amount of stress hormones in your body. This is great news for those who’re able to nap in the office or need to work irregular hours.

However, we should note that the factor here that causes your skin to produce isn’t sleep necessarily, but the hormones that are produced when you lack sleep. This means that if you’re not getting quality sleep, you may still get hormone-induced blackheads and acne even if you get the recommended 7 to 9 hours. This means it’s critical that you’re able to sleep on a comfortable mattress in complete darkness and quiet if you want to get any blackhead prevention benefits.

3. Change pillowcases weekly
Speaking of sleep, the surfaces we sleep on should be as clean as possible. If you find that you’re constantly getting blackheads on one side of your face, your pillowcase might very well be the culprit. Like our dirty clothes, our bed sheets and pillowcases will harbor strains of Propionibacterium acnes after we’ve used them for some time. Our faces generally produce more oil and have more visible pores than other parts of our bodies, making them more at risk from blackheads and other types of acne. Since our faces are in contact with our pillows more often than other bed coverings, it makes sense to change them out regularly.

Dermatologists generally agree that pillowcases should be swapped out once a week, at a minimum, and more often if your face is particularly oily. Bed sheets can be swapped out less frequently if you wear pajamas. If you sleep in the nude or your underwear, you will likewise want to change your sheets as often as you can. Keeping your beddings fresh will allow you not just to have that indescribable fresh bed sheet feeling more often, but it will also help keep your skin from getting an outbreak of blackheads caused by the dreaded Propionibacterium acnes bacteria.

4. Thoroughly remove makeup at the end of the day
And we do mean thoroughly! Over the course of a day, good, non-comedogenic makeup will be less likely to cause blackheads and other types of acne than cheap makeup. But it all becomes moot if you don’t remove every little bit at the end of the day. Even the best types of makeup can block out your pores or otherwise cause your skin to be irritated and produce more oil if you leave them on longer than recommended.

While dermatologists may differ on their specific recommendations, it’s generally agreed that whichever daily cleanser or makeup remover you use should be enough to do the job by itself. No elbow grease or excessive rubbing should be needed with your remover. Having an oil-based remover on hand can also be handy for getting rid of stubborn oil-based lipsticks. You can also use some gentle steam before washing to make the job of removing stubborn makeup easier. The steam will open up your pores and make it easier for your makeup remover to do its job.

It’s also important to use the right tools. Cotton balls and wet-wipes tend to leave all sorts of nasty fibers behind, making them a possible vector for infection if you’re not especially careful. Cotton pads are much better for the job and don’t leave any fibers behind.

5. Use an astringent before you moisturize
We’re not always careful about the sequence in which we apply our products, but it’s absolutely critical to do things in the correct order to prevent blackheads and other forms of acne. It helps to know what an astringent actually does.

Astringents will make your pores smaller and will often kill acne-causing bacteria on contact. Most of the time, they also dissolve surface oil, making it easier to remove. This means astringents can help you control reoccurring acne by helping you remove the excess oil. Since they also reduce the size of your pores, this means if your body oils do oxidize and darken at the open pores’ surface, they’re far less visible than they would be otherwise.

As we mentioned earlier, however, your skin actually needs some oils on it to stay supple. While astringents can make your face more radiant, they can strip away the oils needed to keep your skin healthy. This is where your moisturizer comes in. Moisturizers perform the conditioning that your body oils normally do, keeping your skin elastic and youthful.

The recommended sequence is to shower first, which opens up your pores and makes it easier for your astringent to do its work. Next use a cotton pad to apply an astringent to clean out excess oils and gunk and to minimize pore size. Lastly, a moisturizer or toner should be applied to compensate for the loss of conditioning your natural oils would have provided. The problem happens when you moisturize before you apply astringent, as you virtually eliminate all the benefits of the moisturizer, leaving your skin dry over time. Of course, this only applies to the areas of your skin that do require an astringent. If you don’t actually need an astringent, consider yourself lucky! However, you still need to moisturize to keep your skin supple and youthful in any case.

6. Moisturizing
It doesn’t matter what your skin type, you still need to moisturize. If your skin becomes dry due to the weather or conditions at your home and workplace, it can send a signal to your skin to produce more oil to compensate. In many cases, it might even produce too much oil, leading to blackheads and other forms of acne. Make sure to moisturize more frequently if the weather becomes drier.

7. Blot oil throughout the day
This might become the most addicting part of your blackhead prevention routine. Use oil-blotting sheets to blot out excessive oil from your problem areas. In a pinch, you can even use absorbent paper napkins or kitchen towels. Some offbeat alternatives include disposable toilet seat covers, parchment paper, and even good-ole toilet paper. If you’re not using purpose-made blotting paper, however, the key is to blot, not wipe away the oil. Excessive rubbing might leave fibers which can irritate your skin or cause small abrasions that could get infected.

8. Gentle exfoliation
The keyword here is gentle. Dermatologists tend to agree that exfoliating twice a week is enough for most people. If you have particularly sensitive skin, you might want to exfoliate your face just once a week, or even slightly less frequently. When exfoliating blackhead-prone areas, you really just want to get rid of that already-loose layer of dead skin that tends to gunk up your pores. If you do this correctly, over time you’ll find that your pores become less visible since they will be clogged up with debris less often. This is especially true when you combine the other methods we’ve outlined. This, in turn, means that if they do come back, new blackheads are smaller and less visible than they otherwise might be.

You’ll also find that exfoliation works great with other types of skin care, allowing you to use smaller amounts of other products such as moisturizers, with much better results. If you’re patient and avoid over-exfoliating, you’ll be rewarded with much fewer visible blackheads and healthier, younger-looking skin.

Over-exfoliating on the other hand, can accelerate skin aging and cause the creation of fine lines. It can also cause your skin to lose elasticity, and leave your skin more susceptible to damage from UV radiation. We get that exfoliating can be fun and cathartic, but don’t overdo it.

9. Eat skin-renewing foods
Eating right can go a long way towards helping prevent blackheads and other kinds of acne, as well as help you recover from skin breakouts. Certain types of foods can help rebuild your skin and reduce sebum production, making it less likely you’ll get blackheads. We’ve outlined some key categories of blackhead-fighting foods in their own section below.

10. Drink enough water
We all need water for optimal brain function and to help our body metabolize the nutrients it takes in. Getting enough water into our system is also crucial to avoid skin dryness and flakiness that results in more dead skin cells clogging up your pores. Water is also a necessary component for flushing out cell waste and toxins.

As for what’s “enough” water, experts may differ on the specifics. Some say you should only drink when you’re thirsty, while others insist you should be drinking throughout the day, regardless of how thirsty you are. At least two liters of water a day seems to be just the right amount” for most people, with the most benefits coming from drinking a bit more water before meals.

11. Be consistent!
The thing about these preventative measures is that you have to be very consistent with them. Your skin will be constantly producing some oil, and depending on how you manage it, it might present a challenge when you’re attempting to keep your skin blackhead-free. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get away with not doing your blackhead prevention routine on some days. If you’re like most people though, you want to make sure to keep it as consistent as possible to prevent a recurrence.

HOW DO I TREAT BLACKHEADS?

A number of products and procedures are used to treat blackheads, often in combination with each other.

1. Microdermabrasion and chemical peels
While both these methods may seem different, they work against blackheads in the same way. These processes are essentially a method of exfoliation that goes beyond simply removing the loose top layer of dead skin cells, as you would do when you’re gently exfoliating your skin. The layer of dead skin cells closest to your living skin tissue is also removed. During a microdermabrasion, a combination of abrasive compounds and a specialized suction is used, which reveals fresh skin underneath. A chemical peel does the same thing except with the use of one of several chemical compounds that dissolve the outer layer of skin.

Microdermabrasion and chemical peels can remove some, but not all blackheads and other types of acne, so they’re typically used in conjunction with some other treatment. They can be a quick, painless way to deal with discoloration and scarring that often comes as a result of frequent blackhead removal.

In contrast to old-fashioned dermabrasion, both these processes are much gentler and don’t require any anesthesia, unless for some reason the dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon needs to perform a deeper exfoliation. There are also some microdermabrasion devices available that let you perform the procedure at home, though supervised use in a clinic is recommended. Chemical peels, on the other hand, are almost always best performed in a clinic under supervision, even though there are a few options for home use.

2. Retinoid products
Available in over-the-counter and prescription strength creams and topical solutions, retinoid products all contain Vitamin A1, a nutrient necessary for maintaining healthy skin. Retinoid products help regenerate your skin while simultaneously smoothing out pigmentation. Many creams and topical ointments containing retinol also slow down your sebaceous glands, reducing oil production.

Together with other treatments, retinoid products can remove stubborn blackheads and prevent them from coming back, while making the scars virtually invisible. One great side effect of these products is they can also reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

If you do decide to go with a product containing retinoid compounds to control your blackheads, be sure to pair it with sunscreen as retinoids have been found to cause some sensitivity to UV exposure.

3. Salicylic acid
A go-to treatment for fighting all kinds of acne, salicylic acid is a chemical compound similar to aspirin that can be applied directly on blackheads. It works by dissolving the fatty compounds in the sebum that make up the plug clogging up the affected pore. Salicylic acid also reduces redness and swelling that occurs in large blackheads as well as other types of acne. It also makes for a great chemical exfoliant and can be safely used together with a number of other methods.

If you’re sensitive to aspirin, however, you might want to try other methods for treating your blackheads. It can also quickly dry up the skin if used excessively, so care should be taken to use only one product containing salicylic acid at any given time.

4. Manual extraction
As fans of YouTube star Dr. Pimple Popper know, a manual extraction involves using properly sterilized tools to apply pressure and literally squeeze out blackheads from the pores. This is the preferred method for larger blackheads that could not be removed any other way. However, care should be taken to correctly sterilize the area and follow up with other treatments and prevention techniques that address the root cause of the blackheads. While they’re often done at home, manual extractions should ideally only be done by a qualified professional, as improper application of this technique can lead to scarring and more serious infections.

Manual extractions only remove blackheads, but they don’t do anything about the root causes. If no other treatments are done, it’s likely that the blackheads will reappear, possibly in the exact same spot, after some time.

5. Antibiotics
Topical or oral antibiotics can be used to treat blackheads or blackhead sites after extraction. However, antibiotics are far less popular with dermatologists compared to a generation ago as several resistant strains of bacteria have evolved due to chronic misuse. If you are prescribed antibiotics, be sure to follow your dermatologist’s instructions to the letter and to continue using them until the entire treatment course is finished, even if your symptoms have subsided.

6. Hormones/Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone can lower the levels of androgen hormones in your body, causing a reduced production of sebum. However, these types of treatments are only generally prescribed off-label, or given if a woman desires both clearer skin and birth control. It’s not generally given to male patients for blackhead treatment, and pills that only contain progesterone rather than a combination of both estrogen and progesterone can make blackheads and other types of acne worse.

7. Topical Benzoyl Peroxide & Sulfur
These two compounds are often used in combination with each other, or singly. They act on blackheads in a similar way, killing acne-causing bacteria in a remarkably safe and effective way. These compounds can be bought as creams, soaps, or topical solutions and have been a reliable standby for treating minor cases of acne. They can dry out the skin if used excessively, so the application of a moisturizer should follow each treatment.

8. Sonic Brushes
A relatively new tool, these brushes use high-frequency sound to break up and dislodge small blackheads non-invasively. They’re also quite a handy tool for removing makeup. You will want to pair up your sonic brush with other treatments that address the specific causes of your blackheads since these brushes don’t necessarily address those, though your pores will get a bit smaller with regular use. Be sure to shop around for the right combination of features and brush heads for your specific needs.

You’ll want to consult a dermatologist or other skin care professional to find out which blackhead treatments are best for you. If you’re considering microdermabrasion, chemical peels, extractions, or medication, you will definitely want to consult a cosmetic physician or dermatologist first.

BLACKHEADS FAQs

Why are blackheads black?
They’re black for much the same reason steel rusts and apples and bananas turn black when exposed to air–A.K.A., oxidation. When chemical compounds in a sebum plug are exposed to oxygen, it can lose electrons, which causes a change in the chemical structure of the sebum, changing the color from a white or pale yellow to dark brown or black. This is why only the top part of a squeezed-out blackhead is black, while the stuff that comes out after is white or yellow.

Are blackheads dangerous?
Only if they’re infected or inflamed. In most cases, blackheads are totally harmless, at least in a physical sense. An excessive number of visible blackheads can cause a loss of self-esteem, and perhaps reduce the overall quality of your social interactions. At best, they can be a minor annoyance. At worst, they can wreak havoc on your social and professional life, possibly costing you job interviews or sales pitches.

Are blackheads contagious?
The general consensus is that like most types of acne, blackheads are not contagious. This also goes for blackheads caused Propionibacterium acnes. Most humans already have P. acnes bacteria on our skin. In order for your skin to break out, other factors need to be in place, such as overactive sebaceous glands and pores clogged up from skin debris and other contaminants.

Are blackheads the same as pimples?
They’re essentially the same. Apart from the appearance, the only thing that makes a pimple, whitehead, or zit different from a blackhead is that in a blackhead, the pore is open and therefore, less oxidation happen more freely. The other forms of acne are in closed pores, which prevents the sebum plug from getting exposed to air and oxidized. Pimples also tend to hurt because there’s no room for the plug to expand, while a blackhead is generally painless unless it’s at an advanced stage.

Are blackheads hair?
They’re definitely not hair, though they do grow out of a hair follicle. Small blackheads may seem hair-like when you remove them with a nose pore strip, but that’s only because they’ve conformed to the shape of the shaft that normally accommodates hair. Occasionally though, you might remove some very fine hairs that resemble the small blackheads you removed, but these still definitely are not blackheads themselves.

Why can’t I squeeze my own blackheads but the dermatologist can?
For the same reason you probably shouldn’t be removing your own teeth, which is to say, you can, but you probably shouldn’t. Dermatologists learn the proper techniques and procedures needed to safely extract blackheads. If you attempt it yourself, there’s a significant risk that you will be using improper techniques, leading to scarring, injury, or infection.

They also have the right tools for the job. You might be able to easily buy an extractor, but a professional clinic typically uses an autoclave for properly sterilizing tools, which reduces the risk of infection to an absolute minimum. You will not get near that level of sterilization by simply cleaning your tools with rubbing alcohol or iodine solutions as plenty of harmful pathogens can still survive contact with those common antiseptics. You really don’t want some of these superbugs to be in contact with your skin, let alone near an open pore.

Why do I always get blackheads in my nose?

The sebaceous glands on your nose are typically larger and more active than any other spot on your body. The pores on your nose are also typically larger and therefore more visible. Together, this means there are more opportunities for blackheads to occur.

Will blackheads go away if I leave them alone?
Yes, but waiting around for this to happen can often cause your pores to stretch out of shape, often for good if no intervention is made. Leaving a blackhead alone is also no guarantee that it will go away. For a good number of people, blackheads will just worsen progressively over time.

Does pregnancy make blackheads worse?
Pregnancy can definitely throw off the balance of hormones in your body. Be sure to consult with a doctor about the best possible acne treatments, as taking medication without supervision can adversely impact the development of the baby.

WHAT MAKEUP SHOULD I USE TO AVOID BLACKHEADS?

(Image via Clinique)

Generally speaking, anything that doesn’t irritate your skin that you could easily remove at the end of the day should work. Unfortunately, many commercially-available makeup brands are more concerned with keeping costs down, and not with helping you achieve blackhead-free skin.

A good way to avoid this would be to look for reputable makeup brands labeled “non-comedogenic.” These will be far less likely than other types of makeup to stay in your pores and cause trouble. Many people also find that organic makeup is also far less likely to irritate their skin, and therefore less likely to cause inflammation that could lead to blackheads and other kinds of acne.

Makeup removal
We already mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. We know it’s no fun to be thorough removing your makeup after what was probably a long day at work, but it has to be done. Even organic and non-comedogenic makeup can cause blackheads if you fail to remove them properly at the end of the day. Of course, it’s best to use a makeup remover that isn’t harsh on your skin. It’s best if you one that doesn’t require a lot of effort or rubbing to use, as you might end up driving foreign particles even deeper into your pores, which is just a bad idea even if your products are organic and non-comedogenic. It’s also handy to have a remover that works well on special long-lasting makeup such as cosplay and bridal makeup as well as those difficult-to-remove oil-based lipsticks.

Having the right tools for the job is important as well. A lint-free pad will also be much better for the job of removing makeup than baby wipes or cotton balls, which not only require more effort to use but leave debris all over your skin. A good quality magnifying mirror will also help you not just when you’re applying makeup, but also when you’re removing it.

Can I conceal blackheads with makeup?
You absolutely can. There’s now a wealth of concealers and makeup palettes available that can make your blackheads less visible, even for the Pinay beauty. Several Korean makeup brands also have made a host of innovative products specifically intended for shrinking pores, hiding blackheads, and removing them altogether, sometimes all at once.

WHAT SHOULD I EAT TO KEEP BLACKHEADS AWAY?

(Image via CosRX)

The foods we eat can have quite an effect on the likelihood of blackheads developing on our skin. Foods that help regenerate our skin and cut down on our skin’s sebum production are key. Foods that make us more resistant to stress and help us get a good night’s sleep should be also considered if the source of breakouts is environmental.

1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is probably the single most crucial nutrient for preventing blackheads as well as for recovering from nasty skin breakouts. We all know about how vitamin C boosts the immune system. But did you know you need vitamin C to rebuild your skin? Without vitamin C, our body won’t be able to effectively synthesize the other nutrients we need to keep our skin healthy, so for that reason alone, it’s important to keep your levels topped up. But that’s not all – vitamin C also has antioxidant properties (more on that later) that keeps your skin from aging prematurely and gumming up your pores.

Thankfully, finding vitamin C-rich foods isn’t the problem that it once was. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus, tomatoes, spinach, potatoes with the skin on, and even the tamarind in your favorite sinigang are all foods chock-full of Vitamin C. A wide range of supplements are also readily available for those having trouble getting enough of this wonder vitamin in their diet.

2. Lean Proteins
We need protein to build and maintain our skin. However, not all of our favorite sources of protein are the same. Fatty beef and pork are loaded with saturated fats, which aren’t great if you’re avoiding blackheads. While not all fats necessarily cause your own production of sebum to go up, a link has been shown between eating saturated fats and skin inflammation. Replacing fatty meats with leaner proteins such as fish, chicken, or soy can go a long way in reducing sebum production in some people, which can lead to fewer blackheads.

3. Selenium
Like vitamin C, Selenium is a potent antioxidant, which reduces skin aging and clogged pores. When working with zinc and vitamin E, it can directly reduce inflammation due to acne, which is great news if you’re suffering from blackheads. Some foods rich in selenium include Brazil nuts, shiitake mushrooms, tuna, and ham. Oral and topical selenium supplements are also available.

4. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Often touted for their brain-enhancing powers, these fatty acids are also great for your skin. Omega-3 controls skin flaking, reducing the chances of developing blocked pores, allowing your body oils to flow naturally without gumming up and forming blackheads. Foods such as seaweed, kelp, flax seeds, beans, salmon, trout, sardines, and mackerel are all rich in Omega 3 fatty acids needed to keep your skin healthy and blackhead free.

5. Antioxidants
Antioxidant nutrients are necessary for slowing the aging process and reducing your risk for cancer. They’re also necessary for keeping your skin healthy and youthful, and for preventing a buildup of nasty gunk in your pores. A few studies have also shown that loading up on antioxidant-rich foods can relieve stress, which can reduce the amount of hormones in your body that stimulate oil production.

Several common nutrients are now widely understood to have antioxidant properties. We already mentioned selenium and vitamin C. Others in this category include vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, among many others. You can get most of your antioxidants from a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and fruits.

Bonus: Avoid sugar!
As if you needed more reasons to avoid sugar! The excessive intake of refined sugar can cause your insulin levels to spike. This messes with your hormone balance, causing an increase in androgen hormones that can cause your skin to break out. As if that were not enough, this hormonal imbalance can also cause irritability and restlessness which can trigger an increase in stress levels that causes your body to produce other hormones that can contribute further to your blackheads. If your sweet cravings need to be satisfied, reach for a sugar substitute or natural sweeteners with a lower glycemic index, such as agave, honey, or coconut sugar.

KEY TAKEAWAYS


Everyone is different
Thanks to the genetic lottery and other individual circumstances, we all need to take different approaches to how we treat our blackheads. It’s critical to not blindly follow just any blackhead treatment trend or to buy the products that everyone else is buying. We all have different bodies, different lifestyles, and different outlooks on life. These can all affect the choice of products and treatments that are suited to our unique situations.

You have to tackle each of the individual causes of blackheads
For those with a recurring issue with blackheads, it simply isn’t enough to use only one method to treat or remove them. Ideally, any serious approach to treating blackheads should start with an understanding of the underlying causes and understanding which ones might be contributing the most to your own outbreaks. Only then can you tailor a solution that not only works to safely remove your blackheads but keeps them away forever.

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