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Five Things to Know About Blackheads: And Influencers Who Understand Acne
A tell-tale sign of pesky blocked pores, blackheads aren’t going anywhere fast.
Our Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Malvina Cunningham explains: “The first thing to establish is that acne and blackhead breakouts are not your fault. If you were on a desert island you’d probably still be prone to breakouts, yes certain things can exacerbate the situation – but the cosmetics industry has hijacked acne when it is in fact a medical condition that needs supervised medical treatment.”
Inevitability aside, the good news is that you can choose your skincare camp. Education around the condition and causes is key – plus knowing the treatments available to get rid of them.
And we’re doing this all with a big dose of realness. From dissecting the glass skin trend on social media to championing #skinfluencers who understand the power of calling out acne and blackheads as a part of their skincare journey with nothing to hide.
Five Things to Know About Blackheads
1. What do blackheads look like?
Blackheads are hair follicles that are plugged with dead skin material and excessive sebum. The hair follicle remains open, their contents oxidise with the air and they appear as dark dots on the skin. Blackheads are a key indicator of acne, although you can experience them in a number of skin conditions.
2. Whiteheads vs blackheads
The key difference between whiteheads and blackheads is that plugged follicles can be open or closed. Open follicles appear as blackheads. Closed pores (also known as comedones) are usually seen as whiteheads. Whiteheads look like tiny white bumps under the skin.
Both are caused because the skin’s sebaceous glands are working overtime. The hair follicles become irritated because there’s a build-up of dead skin cells that aren’t shedding quick enough. This can be exacerbated by the buildup of the propionibacterium acnes bacteria on the skin and hormonal changes – such as adolescence, menstrual cycles or the menopause that are difficult to control.
3. Blackheads on cheeks and jawline
Blackheads tend to appear on certain areas of the face more than others. They can also appear on the back, neck, chest, arms and shoulders. Common causes of acne along the jawline can include comedogenic (pore blocking) moisturisers, makeup (containing silicons) and hair products that can build up in that area and cause breakouts.
4. Why do I get blackheads around my lips?
Touching your face, and use of comedogenic products such as some lip balms, Vaseline and makeup that smudge off your lips to the surrounding area can cause blackheads in this area. Remember to gently cleanse around this area as part of your normal routine.
5. The best way to get rid of blackheads
You can treat blackheads by extracting their content. How? Topical treatments can do this – with active ingredients such as AHAs BHAs, glycolic acid and salicylic acid.
You can also use exfoliating agents such as azelaic acid and – our best friends – retinoids. In this instance, tretinoin is very good. That’s your topical skincare sorted. You can also use manual extraction – this is done in the clinic manually or with a sterile manual extractor.
Our Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Malvina Cunningham advises, “I don’t recommend blackhead strips. They’re too abrasive and can damage the skin. There are other ways to treat blackheads that are much more successful.”
What about squeezing?
The main point to make here is that blackheads will always reaccumulate. Removal isn’t a cure. You’ll have to repeat the treatments over time to maintain the same effect.
Our Dermatology Team advises against squeezing blackheads – and any kind of spot. Why? Because it risks infection, scarring and can make the lesion worse and cause more inflammation.
The glass skin trend
Tiktok, Instagram and anywhere you can apply a filter – the K-beauty trend known as ‘glass skin’ is everywhere. The glass skin aesthetic is defined exactly as you’d imagine – the goal here is skin that’s perfectly plumped, dewy, poreless and flawless to the point that it reflects the light like polished glass.
Blackheads, acne, wrinkles or uneven skin texture? Out. Except that’s not reality. All skin naturally has pores, texture variations and doesn’t radiate a mirror-like shine every time we leave the house.
The glass skin trend is a nice idea to play with but it shouldn’t inform our aspirations in reality. Healthy skin is unique skin. Remember your own worth when you scroll through other peoples’ beauty and skincare content.
Four skin positivity influencers who understand acne and blackheads
As a counter to the glass skin trend, we’re shouting out four skin positivity influencers who understand the power of celebrating real skin – and a beautifully empowering attitude.
Whitney Madueke @whitneymadueke
Skin Prep For Flawless Skin Like Makeup. Here’s how I prep my skin for my makeup looks.♬ original sound – whitneymadueke
An influencer and podcaster we love who shows off real skin and her journey with acne and acne scars.
Izzie Rodgers @izzierodgers
A skin and body positivity influencer. In her words, “Acne is NOT something to be embarrassed about, I choose happiness.”
Lou Northcote @lounorthcote
Model and skin positivity influencer. Started #freethepimple movement for others to share and celebrate their skincare stories.
Dr Anjali Mahto
An influencer and consultant dermatologist is full of wisdom when it comes to skin expectations and social media.
Dr Anjali explains on her account, “Whilst using skin filters can be fun, there is no doubt anecdotally (at least in-clinic) it drives an unrealistic ideal of perfection and creates a gulf between illusion of oneself and reality. Can we please just start seeing some more normal skin without filters on photos and reels?”
We couldn’t agree more.
Medical facts checked by Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Malvina Cunningham.
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