Blackheads or comedones as they are technically known, are a really common problem that can affect all skin types. However they're particularly problematic for those with oily skin.
A blackhead is formed by a plug of sebum or oil becoming trapped in a pore. The plug becomes hard and oxidises turning black, hence the name. They're most commonly found on oily areas of the face especially the chin, forehead and sides of the nostrils. Very oily skin may also have blackheads on the cheeks and tip of the nose. In addition they can occur on the chest, back and anywhere where there is a build up of oily sebum.
If left the blackhead will continue to build up until it stretches the pore permanently. This is why areas that have blackheads often have open pores that clog easily and thus produce more blackheads. If dirt enters the pore or they become infected the blackhead may turn into a whitehead. To keep the skin clear and smooth it's essential to keep blackheads at bay.
So what can you do?
If a blackhead is large and there is no infection present you can 'extract' it yourself. To do this you firstly need to soften the skin by having a hot shower or by steaming your face over a bowl of hot water. Even a hot flannel (not so hot you scald yourself!) placed over the area will soften the blockages making them easier to lift out. You can also try a solution designed to soften stubborn blackheads such as Zirh Clean - Facial Wash 250ml. You can then either use a tissue and clean fingers to gently squeeze out the blockage or use an extractor.
Take two tissues and wrap one around each index finger so that they form pads at the fingertips. After softening the skin, place a padded fingertip each side of the blackhead and gently push until it pops out. If it doesn't come out easily leave it as too much squeezing will damage the skin making it look worse than before.
These are instruments used by professional beauty therapists to gently lever out blockages and blackheads. An extractor is basically a stainless steel tool with a scoop-shaped end with a central hole. After first softening the skin you press the hole over the offending blackhead and press gently. The plug should come out through the hole without damaging the surrounding skin. The side of the scoop can also be used to remove oily skin debris at the side of the nostrils, the dip of the chin and in the ears. You need to take great care when using an extractor as pressing too hard can damage the skin and cause scarring so take it easy. You also need to make sure the extractor is sterilized before each use.
Immediately after removing a blackhead apply an antiseptic soothing cream to kill any bacteria that may enter the open pore. To keep blackheads at bay make sure you a suitable facial wash every day. Twice a week use a facial scrub to help shift pore-clogging debris and dead cells. If the skin is very greasy try using a clay mask once a week to absorb excess oil and impurities.
If all else fails and you are still having problems why not try a professional deep cleansing face treatment at your local grooming clinic.