Treating blackheads: tips and solutions

Not very aesthetic, blackheads, also called open comedones, mainly affect oily or combination skin. What are the causes of their appearance? How to make them disappear? Update with Dr. Martine Baspeyras, dermatologist and member of the French Society of Dermatology (SFD).

Let the one who has never touched a blackhead throw the first stone at us! Simple aesthetic inconvenience, blackheads can quickly turn into an obsession... especially during adolescence. The temptation is then great to extract them, at the risk of them catching fire and leaving a scar.

What is a blackhead?

Also called comedo or “skin worm”, a blackhead is a dilated pore in which a mixture of sebum and keratinocytes, the cells of the epidermis, accumulates . “  The black color is not linked to dirt but to the oxidation of sebum in contact with air  ,” explains Dr. Martine Baspeyras straight away.

There are two types of comedones:

  • open comedones called blackheads;
  • and closed comedones or microcysts. “  When the orifice of the hair canal is blocked, sebum accumulates and an indurated and localized bulge appears under the skin: this is the microcyst  ,” explains the specialist.

What skin types are affected by blackheads?

Generally, it is oily or combination skin that is affected by blackheads.

A minimum of sebaceous secretions is required. Very dry skin has few comedones because it does not produce enough oil. Dr. Martine Baspeyras, dermatologist

Where are blackheads located?

Blackheads are mainly located on the T zone of the face, that is to say the sides of the nose, the chin and the forehead. “  We also see a lot of it on the periphery of the face, when patients have used comedogenic products, as well as on the back, particularly in adolescents ,” explains Dr. Baspeyras.  But this is a little more annoying because the skin is very thick and they are much deeper. Do not touch them otherwise they will catch fire.  »

What are the causes of blackheads?

Comedones are mainly linked to hyperseborrhea, that is to say excessive production of sebum . “  When it is produced in excess, sebum will cause oily skin and imperfections: blackheads, enlarged pores or even microcysts ,” explains the specialist.  This is particularly the case at prepuberty or puberty when sexual hormones start. I often see mothers who come to my office in panic because their seven or eight year old son has a lot of blackheads on his nose. Now, it’s very classic!  »

Besides hormones, other factors can cause this disruption of the sebaceous glands:

  • poor diet  : in particular the consumption of sugary foods, products with a glycemic index that is too high (pastries, pastries, white bread, industrial sandwich bread, etc.) or saturated fats (aperitif biscuits, chips, etc.)
  • poorly suited cosmetic products  ;
  • periods  ;
  • or even stress and fatigue .

“  Finally, from time to time I see elderly people with a slew of blackheads because they have misused Ialuset – a healing treatment based on hyaluronic acid prescribed for leg ulcers – and applied it to their face, says the specialist.  However, the product is comedogenic! The excipient is not suitable for facial skin.  »

How to get rid of deeply encrusted blackheads? What are the possible treatments at the dermatologist?

Blackheads are not inevitable, solutions exist to get rid of them. First of all, resist the temptation to extract them yourself. “  The real problem is when people play with them and they become inflamed or even infected ,” insists Dr. Baspeyras.  We then end up with acne spots, red and painful, which can leave scars.  »

Several dermatological treatments help reduce hyperseborrhea and improve the appearance of facial skin. “We will first try to reduce sebaceous hypersecretion with creams based on fruit acids, salicylic acid or even tretinoid ,” explains the specialist.  You have to go slowly because you can very well have blackheads without suffering from real hyperseborrhea.

In young patients whose skin is still very supple, the use of this type of cream combined with peels may be sufficient. On the other hand, when things are a little more established and the pores are very dilated, we will rather resort to the fractional laser which will gradually heat the skin and tighten the pores.  » And added: “The treatments are long and repetitive. You must be patient and wait several weeks before seeing results.  »

Clay mask versus scrub: how to get rid of blackheads on the nose and face? What are the natural solutions?

Lemon juice, baking soda or even tomato: on the internet and social networks, many miracle treatments claim to make blackheads disappear. Warning: they are often not very effective or even harmful to the skin! Lemon , for example, is photosensitizing and should absolutely be avoided when exposed to the sun.

“  As a first step, I recommend that my patients do a clay mask once a week ,” says Dr. Baspeyras.  This helps absorb excess sebum and obtain a clearer skin texture. Peel-off masks are also effective in unclogging skin pores.  » On the other hand, the dermatologist is wary of mechanical scrubs. “  Exfoliation should be done delicately with the pads of the fingers. However, patients often tend to push too hard, which can be aggressive  and counterproductive  ,” she says.

How to prevent the formation of blackheads?

Adopting healthy-dietary measures helps reduce excess sebum and limit the formation of blackheads:

  • eat a balanced diet by favoring foods that are neither too fatty nor too sweet. Avoid, for example, sweets, biscuits or cakes, reduce your consumption of milk and cheese as well as saturated fats (crisps, etc.);
  • use non-comedogenic products  and avoid too thick foundations which will clog pores;
  • protect your skin from the sun by using sunscreen to avoid the rebound effect of UV rays. “  The sun is a false friend ,” confirms the dermatologist . If initially, it will tend to make the pimples disappear by having a drying effect on the sebaceous glands, it will also thicken the skin and then, beware of the rebound effect!  »
  • remove your makeup with a foaming gel – if your skin tolerates it – rather than a micellar lotion  ;
  • apply a green clay-based mask once a week to reduce imperfections and prevent their appearance.