We’ve all been there: buying the nose strips, coating our face in glue and charcoal, eggwhite and toilet paper, or using peel-off suction masks to try and rid our faces of blackheads. I’ll admit, there is something satisfying in seeing blackheads and whiteheads come away on those strips; seconds ago, they were stuck in your skin, and now your pores are free to breathe!
Except, not quite.
The truth is, when you attempt to ‘tear’ blackheads out of your skin, all you’re really getting is the tip of the iceberg. The real problem resides much deeper in your pores, which, despite what it may appear, are still clogged with oil and dead skin cells. So while all of the gunk that comes away from the pore strips might give the impression your skin is no longer congested, all you’re really removing is what is visible on the surface, and your blackheads are sure to come back.
For a long time, I was fooled by the satisfaction of peeling away masks and nose strips. I should have realized that they were really doing nothing for me, aside from rip off my peach fuzz, when my acne didn’t get any better. If anything, it irritated my already-distressed skin, aggravating every pimple on my face.
Just to jog my memory, and to see if it really was as bad as I had thought, I borrowed this product from a friend. I haven’t seen this in stores before, and believe it was one of those products that show up in Facebook advertisements. It’s pretty non-descript, like it’s assuming you’ll just trust it to do its thing and make you happy. But on the back…
Guys. Not to be a grammar tyrant, but I feel like it goes without saying not to buy products that read like this. After some investigation, I do believe this is a product of China, but any reputable skin care product wouldn’t make such glaring errors in translation. It’s almost like they aren’t even trying.
I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. I followed the instructions to the best of my ability (there weren’t many, and they were as terribly written as the back of the tube), waited for it to dry, and peeled it off my face.
- OW. Pain. My face was pretty red and tender for a while
- Took off a lot of peach fuzz; my skin felt smoother
- Not a single blackhead or whitehead came away on the mask
I wasn’t surprised, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, especially after the PAIN of tearing that black, tar-like substance off of my face. Yes, my skin did feel smoother, but believe when I say there are many, MANY better, long-lasting (and less painful) ways to achieve softer, smoother skin.
If you’re dead set on how to take care of those blackheads down to their core, then I recommend this alternative method that I find gets the job done far better than the mask.
3-Step Method to Ridding your Skin of Blackheads
1. 2% Salicylic Acid. I’ve never found salicylic acid to be particularly effecting in treating pimples and acne that has already blossomed, but its properties do deeply penetrate (and allow the following products to penetrate) your pores. Apply it on the target areas for approximately 15-20 mins, long enough for it to sit on your skin and work its way into your pores to optimize the benefits of subsequent steps. Currently, I use this Life brand gel that I had left over from a few years ago, but I do need to note that Life brand is not cruelty-free, and I am still in search of a comparable alternative (and I will update if I find one).
2. Clay Mask. After the salicylic acid has done its job, coat the problem area in a generous layer of a clay mask of your choice. Clay is great for drawing out oil and impurities and excess sebum, and can leave your skin feeling soft and clean. My favourite is Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Mud Mask. The tomato extract is a source of antioxidants, and charcoal is a natural detoxifier and impurity remover. Although it’s classified as a mud mask, it contains kaolin clay, which also draws out impurities, AND a little salicylic acid to penetrate right to your pores. I absolutely love and recommend this mask to anyone with oily or combination skin. It goes for $15.99 Canadian on their website, and I believe I purchased mine at Shoppers Drug Mart for approximately the same price. Leave this on for 15 to 20 minutes, until it’s dry, and then rinse with warm water.
If you find your skin feeling a little sensitive from step 1, or you’re currently treating your skin with daily peels or other harsh chemical treatments and feel as though the charcoal and extra salicylic acid will be too harsh, the other mask that I’d recommend for this step is Nip+Fab’s Kale Fix Clay Mask. It contains Kaolin clay and witch hazel draw out impurities, as well as kale extract to prevent skin from over-drying. It retails for £12.95 on Nip+Fab’s website, but I purchased it for under $20.00 Canadian at Shoppers Drug Mart.
3. Oil-based Cleanser. Use an oil-based cleanser to bring all of the impurities absorbed by the clay mask to the surface of your skin. Leave it on for about 15 minutes to give it time to draw out the impurities, then massage it into the target areas for about 2 minutes, and rinse it off! I turn to my trusty Ole Henrikson’s Uncover the Truth 3-in-1 Melting Cleanser, which retails for $39.00 Canadian at Sephora.
But, when all else fails…
The only downside of this method of treating blackheads is that it doesn’t always yield instantly perceptible results. If you continue this regime at least twice a week, then in a couple of weeks, you’ll notice your pores look tighter, and a lot less clogged. This also serves as a great preventative measure, to stop a build up of blackheads before it can start. But, if you still find you aren’t satisfied, or you’re really impatient about clearing away some particularly stubborn, noticeable blackheads, I recommend using an extractor. Picking at your skin can lead to inflammation and scarring, but these tools are specially designed to draw the dunk out of your pores. Take the tool and press around the blackhead, until that annoying combination of oil and dead skin cells is pushed out of the pore (warning: it’s kind of gross, but EXTREMELY satisfying). Sometimes you need to push really hard with the tool, meaning you might risk a small bruise or redness around the area for a couple of days, so I recommend opening up your pores with some hot steam prior to extraction to make the process easier. I purchased this a few years ago off of Amazon for about $12.00 Canadian, so keeping a tool like this in your arsenal won’t break the bank, and you can use it time and again (but don’t forget to clean the tools after each use!)
If you find this helpful, then let me know! Or, if you have your own go-to method of blackhead removal, I’d love to hear it!