Blackheads. We’ve all experienced them at one point in our lives and for some of us it’s an everyday battle. Don’t fret—with the right skincare ingredients, you can and will clear them away.
First, let’s get to know the enemy (yes, anything that comes between us and clear skin is the enemy). A blackhead forms when dead skin cells and oil cling together to create a plug that clogs up a pore and the surface remains open. The key to getting rid of and preventing blackheads is to break up the plugs.Luckily we have an ingredient that does just that!
The first ingredient anyone with blackheads needs to incorporate into their beauty routine is salicylic acid.
Also known as beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid dives deep into the pores to break up any mischief that the cells and oil can cause. Salicylic acid is oil soluble, which means that it can easily blend in with other oils like the skin’s sebum, making for easy access into the pores. Once inside, salicylic acid continues mingling with the oil and begins to separate the oil and dead skin cells, essentially unclogging the pore. Most acne products will claim on the label that they contain between 0.5 to 2 percent salicylic acid. This is what is allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make acne claims.
DO NOT rely on willow bark (or willow herb) to break up blackheads.
“How can I get rid of blackheads?”
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You may see products with willow bark or willow herb extracts that claim to be natural sources of salicylic acid. Be careful: While it’s true that they have similar chemistry to aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid, a variation of salicylic acid) and help reduce pimples, they most likely won’t make a dent in reducing blackheads. Willow bark/herb is similar to acetyl salicylic acid, a very potent anti-inflammatory (that’s why people take aspirin to reduce pain caused by inflammation in the joints). A mild case of pimples caused by inflammation may respond to a willow bark/herb treatment. The problem is that willow bark/herb is water soluble (it really likes to be in water) so it will not get deep into the pores like salicylic acid. If it can’t get to the plug then it will not be able to break it apart to unclog the pore.
Benzoyl peroxide and alpha hydroxy acids will help too. Ingredients that promote quick cell turnover, like benzoyl peroxide and alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, just to name a few), can also help prevent blackheads. They remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin before they have a chance to get stuck in the pores.
If you are unsure about which products to try then look for the “non-comedogenic” claim. I won’t sit here and tell you what products not to use since it really depends on each person’s skin type and how the products are formulated. Your best bet is to only buy products with a “non-comedogenic” claim. That usually means that the product has been tested and proven to not increase the number of “comedones” (fancy word for blackheads and whiteheads).