Blackheads can be difficult to get rid of and even with a good cleansing routine, these stubborn blemishes often remain. Even though they are stubborn, it is not difficult to get rid of blackheads or to reduce their occurrence. Salicylic acid is a very effective ingredient in treating oily skin prone to blackheads and open pores.
Blackheads can develop at any stage of one’s life but generally start from our teens during which time our hormones are usually out of balance. We start producing more androgens or hormones that stimulate oil production. These oils along with dead skin cells get clogged up in the pores where they get exposed to oxygen from the air which turns them black and solid. The areas affected the most appear to be the oily areas on the face, mostly the nose, chin and cheeks.
What causes blackheads
These are some of the most common causes of blackheads formation and include:
- Hormones – An imbalance or a surge in the female sex hormones can result in the excess production of oil from the sebaceous glands. The excess oil fills up within the pore with dead skin cells resulting in a build-up.
- Skincare products – Excessive use or layering of foundations, makeup, sunscreens and moisturisers may quicken the process of developing blackheads by clogging pores.
- Excessive sweating – Increased sweating, especially when paired with external products, may add to the obstruction of pores.
- Medications – Certain medications raise testosterone and/or oestrogen levels which causes an increase in oil production.
- Harsh skincare products – Many skincare products recommended to achieve clear skin can be either too drying or irritating resulting in excess oil production.
How to treat blackheads
Preventing blackheads is obviously the best approach in the first instance and an appropriate skincare routine might be of great value. It does not have to be time consuming. Simply use a warm face flannel to open up the pores and then follow this with a good gentle cleanser. There are many gentle cleansers on the market which also help minimise the appearance of open pores.
For blackheads that have already developed, there are a few approaches that help in eradicating blackheads, some more effective than others. The obvious method is to squeeze the blackheads but this can cause trauma to the region especially if the blackheads are hard. Facial steaming opens up the pores allowing blackheads to be gently squeezed out.
Exfoliation is a process which you use to get rid of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. You should only carry this out twice a week as overuse can lead to irritation and inflammation leading to excess oil production.
How to use salicylic acid serum to clear blackheads
Salicylic acid is a very effective ingredient for treating oily skin types prone to open pores and blackheads. It is a beta hydroxyl acid (BHA) and is available in serums to be used as a chemical exfoliant or peel with excellent pore cleaning ability.
Salicylic acid, because of its large molecular size, stays on the surface of skin longer giving it fantastic pore cleaning abilities. Salicylic acid is stronger at a lower concentration than alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) such as lactic acid and glycolic acid. A 10 percent concentration of lactic acid and glycolic acid is considered mild whereas a 10 percent concentration of salicylic acid would be quite irritating for new users.
In terms of a good salicylic acid serum, look for around two percent. You should be able to use both in the morning and evening to help prevent acne flare-ups over a period of time. For blackheads, use salicylic acid for a few weeks to give them time to clear on their own. Once the blackheads have cleared continue using salicylic acid to prevent the pores from clogging.
If you are not seeing results with the salicylic acid alone, then use a combined serum containing alpha hydroxyl acid (AHA) and salicylic acid since sometimes the lower concentration may not be sufficient. Using a combination of AHA and BHA solution helps remove the dead skin cells on the surface of skin which may be impeding the effectiveness of salicylic acid.
Please note that any exfoliant, whether beta hydroxyl acid or alpha hydroxyl acid, exposes fresh skin to the sun and hence it would be prudent to use a sunscreen during the day.
Please note that some people may experience some light flaking or dry patches but this is completely normal – salicylic acid breaks down the bonds between dead skin cells accelerating their removal and is not peeling off healthy living cells.
Incorporating GoW Salicylic Acid 2% Serum, £9, into your daily skincare routine will help to prevent and treat blackheads, as well as ease acne and spots. By breaking down the plugs that block pores causing blackheads, it gives pores a chance to decrease in size over a period of time. If you have sensitive skin and find salicylic acid too irritating, add a couple of drops into your cleanser, massage into skin and rinse off.
For those who have used salicylic acid before and want something a little tougher on blackheads, look to QRx Labs Salicylic Acid 20% Gel Peel, £12. The concentration on acid is much higher and you only need to leave the peel on for five to 10 minutes, once a week. QRx Labs has also formulated a Chemical Peel Neutralizer, £15, to help reduce redness and irritation after you’ve used the peel.