Blackheads, whiteheads… people shudder at the thought of them yet half of the people out there prolly have them. If you are one of the few lucky ones who do not, congratulations and good job on keeping your skin free of blackheads and whiteheads! As for those who are less fortunate, don’t fret! Read on for a couple of solutions on how to treat/prevent them.
What Are They
Before we start, let’s first get a better understanding of what blackheads and whiteheads are. Basically, they are comedones – sebaceous follicles which are clogged with sebum/oil, dead skin cells, and possibly small hairs and bacteria. The only difference between a whitehead and a blackhead is that a blackhead is an “open” comedo with a visible dark head caused by oxidation while a whitehead is a “closed” comedo with a whitish or skin coloured protruding plug caused by cellular debris at the follicle opening.
Here are a few things you can do to treat/prevent blackheads and whiteheads:
1. BHA (Beta hydroxy acid)
Unlike AHAs, BHAs are lipid soluble meaning they can dissolve dead skin cells not only on the surface but also in the pore. This makes blackheads easier to extract and helps to prevent new ones. BHAs work best at concentrations of 1% to 2% at an optimal pH of 3, diminishing in effectiveness as the pH increases beyond 4.
2. Benzoyl peroxide
BP has an anti-bacterial effect and may also decrease the chemical reaction that changes the lining of the hair follicle. This may help reduce the plugging that causes comedones. Benzoyl peroxide may be used for a mild case of comedones or to help prevent formation of others.
3. Tretinoin (Retin-A, Avita, Renova)
Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A and works by increasing cell turnover and reducing the “stickiness” of the sloughed cells. It causes expulsion of the plugged material and converts closed comedones into open comedones. The material in these newly converted open comedones can be easily extruded. Tretinoin can be irritating though so please use with care.
This can by done on open comedones either at a beauty salon or at home. This process is performed using a device called a comedone extractor which is a small, metal, circular instrument that is centered on the comedone and pushes down the surrounding skin, causing the plug to extrude. To help make extraction easier, steam your face with a facial steamer or a pot of hot water for 10-15 minutes to loosen embedded blackheads.
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