How weird are blackheads, you guys? They’re incredibly gross, but since they’re usually not as obvious as pimples, we tend to just leave them sitting around on our nose, cheeks and everywhere else. We cover them up with makeup and tell ourselves that they don’t reeeally bother us that much. Guilty as charged.

The problem with this approach is that blackheads won’t go away by themselves — they will only grow and are usually the first stage of acne. Here are three things to know about How You Get Blackheads and How to Get Rid of Them:

HOW DO I GET THEM?

“Blackheads are small dark spots on the skin caused by small blockages in the opening of our skin follicles and pores,” Dakar explains.

“Our body produces sebum (oil) in order to lubricate, and it usually drains out of the pores. However, when it accumulates, the pores and hair follicles get stuck underneath the top layer of skin, enlarging the pore and causing blackheads.”

So contrary to popular opinion, it’s not “dirt” that’s clogging up your skin, it’s an accumulation of the oils and impurities sitting on the skin’s surface, as well as sweat, makeup, and soap. “Sebum contains melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Melanin turns dark when exposed to air, which is why blackheads have their color,” she says.

Once this buildup occurs, acne can start to form. “Because the pore is clogged up, it creates an optimal environment for breakouts because the excess sebum (what causes pimples) and moisture get trapped under the top layer of your skin,” Dakar says.

Hyperpigmentation – Are You Seeing Spots?

HOW DO I GET RID OF THEM?

Proper blackhead extraction should be left to the professionals. If you’ve ever had a blackhead extraction during a facial before, you know it’s painful even when they do it.  “You have to be really careful with self-extraction because you can damage the skin and cause infections and marks,” says Dakar.

Regular exfoliation can help to unclog the pores and remove the blockages, though. Or for a quick fix solution, a pore cleansing strip can be an option to remove the surface appearance.

“Steam helps to open up pores and soften the plug,” Dakar explains. “Hold your head over a bowl of hot water, have a hot shower, or place a warm washcloth over the area for a few minutes to soften the pores up.”

After any (at home or professional facial) pore treatments, Dakar suggests using a serum to treat the area. “This contains salicylic acid that penetrates deep into the pore, fighting bacteria dwelling in the bottom of the follicle.” “This process should be done on a weekly basis because the skin continues to produce oils and sweat, causing the follicles to refill.”

HOW DO I AVOID BLACKHEADS?

Unfortunately, we all have pores, and we all produce oil and sweat, so preventing blackheads is very difficult. Dakar recommends maintaining a healthy skincare routine that includes exfoliation, washing your face with sulfur-free products (to avoid general skin irritation) and minimizing the use of oil-based products on your skin, which can be clogging. That regimen should at least keep you from developing an excessive number of blackheads.

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