I’ve yet to go for a facial and not get asked about my skincare routine. I avoid harsh cleansers that leave my skin dry and inflamed, but even with holistic toners and moisturizers, blackheads seem to be inevitable. While it can be satisfying to remove blackheads and pop zits, doing so can actually make your skin more prone to breakouts as dirt is transferred from clogged pores to open ones. What can you do to keep your skin dirt-free?
What are blackheads?
Before we begin, it can be helpful to understand the difference between a blackhead and a whitehead. Clogged hair follicles are called comedones (singularly, a comedo.) If the comedo remains open, a blackhead can occur; if closed, you end up with a whitehead, or zit.
Why do blackheads happen?
Blackheads can occur due to improperly cleaned skin, pollution, and oil-based cosmetics, though there are times in our lives when we’re simply more likely to have blackheads due to fluctuating hormones.
What can you do about blackheads?
Before you order the latest acne-clearing product, do your research in order to avoid potentially harmful ingredients like parabens, article fragrances, and phthalates—all of which are toxic and can actually contribute to acne.
Instead, there are several steps you can take to reduce blackheads using more holistic methods.
How To Reduce Blackheads Naturally
Several popular cosmetic brands use natural sounding ingredients for exfoliation, but commercial “apricot” scrubs are typically made up of microplastics. Unfortunately, when these are washed down the drain after use in the sink or shower, most bypass water treatment facilities due to their small size. Inevitably, they end up in the ocean, harming sea life.
Aim to exfoliate using more natural methods instead. Ingredients like lemon juice, sea salt, brown sugar, honey, and even jojoba or high quality extra virgin olive oils can be used to clean the skin. Avoid exfoliating more than two or three times a week, and make sure to rinse well and follow with a good moisturizer. I like rosehip oil to help reduce blemishes.
2. Clay Masks
There’s little I love more than taking a hot bath, soaking in epsom salts, and taking that time to don a clay face mask. Making your own is easier than you might imagine and you need little more than the pantry staple apple cider vinegar and clay. I like using bentonite clay since it’s particularly great at detoxing the skin. Be warned, however, that your face might be red for up to an hour following the mask.
Rhassoul clay is another commonly recommended clay to reduce clogged pores. The clay, from Morocco, has an incredibly silky feel and can even be used as a daily cleanser.
What you put on your skin is important, but when you’re cleansing is vital, too. Take care to remove all makeup before going to bed at night and cleansing with a gentle, but high quality, cleanser (like this homemade one made with raw honey). It can be helpful to rinse with cold water after to encourage pores to close up. All of this said, over-cleansing can be just as detrimental. Stripping your face of its natural oils too often can produce even oilier skin as your body attempts to compensate. Instead, aim to cleanse no more than twice a day—before bed and after a sweaty workout.
How often do you change your sheets? How about your pillowcase? Sleeping on dirty pillowcases can wreak havoc on our faces thanks to the dirt and oils that get trapped. While it might seem excessive, aim to wash your pillowcase every two to three days to avoid clogged pores come morning (and, of course, always go to sleep with a clean, washed face).
5. Tea Tree
I don’t use this trick for treating blackheads, but it works wonders for whiteheads. My local co-op sells a blemish stick made of oregano oil and tea tree—both fantastic antiseptics. Whenever I see an irritation, I roll on the ointment. The next day, the blemish is almost always reduced or gone. Homemade tea tree oil can have similar effects. Try mixing a few drops of essential tea tree oil with a carrier oil, like jojoba, then use as a moisturizer before bed.