Most of us have been troubled by pesky blackheads at some time in our life. But, never fear, with the right skin care, time and commitment they can be removed, reduced and prevented from returning, naturally!
Blackheads affect all skin types but are most common in combination and oily skin types, prevalent in the t-zone – the nose, chin and forehead. Blackheads are caused by the buildup of dead skin cells, bacteria and sebum in hair follicles and pores.
The causes can be hereditary, hormonal and environmental. Those affected by hormones include teenagers, pregnant and menopausal women; women may also be more prone to excess oil production and therefore breakouts and blackheads at certain times in their monthly cycle.
Although there is little that can be done about hereditary or hormonal causes, environmental causes are easier to pinpoint and include changes in humidity, causing you to produce more sebum; city pollution and poor hygiene, whereby pores get blocked; bad diet; stress; and the cosmetics you use on your skin – both makeup and skin care, which can result in a toxic overload.
The main ways to help prevent blackheads is through a healthy diet and the right skincare. A good diet should be rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids and protein, low in saturated fat and sugar. See our article Beautiful Skin From Within for further dietary advice. Where possible, eat organic foods which are purer and chemical-free. Drink plenty of purified or spring water to help flush the skin of toxins. Keeping skin clean and healthy is your top priority.
When possible, steam the skin before cleansing. This may be by having a hot shower or bath to soften your face and open up the pores before deep cleansing, or by using a steaming bowl. Steaming the skin will open up the pores making them easier to clean and helping to prevent infection.
Boil and pour water into a large bowl. You will need approximately six to eight cups of boiled water. Once the water is boiling, remove it from any heat and place onto a protected table, stir then let sit for a few minutes before steaming your skin. Be very careful that the water isn’t too hot. The temperature should be warm enough that you perspire but not so hot it’s hard to breathe or feels uncomfortable. You steam your skin by leaning over the bowl and using a towel to cover your head, which keeps the steam in and protects your hair. Steam your skin for a few minutes until it is wet with perspiration and the bowl is no longer steaming. After you've steamed your skin, proceed with cleansing and exfoliating using purifying products to clear the blackheads.
You may wish to add a couple of drops of essential oil, such as tea tree, lemongrass, chamomile or evening primrose for their relaxing and soothing properties; these oils are also recommended for problem skin types.
Morning and evening, use a purifying or clarifying cleanser with water, designed for congested skin. Purifying ingredients include green tea, citrus fruit extracts, such as lemon and orange, and honey.
After cleansing use a toner containing antibacterial and calming ingredients such as citrus extracts, rose water, aloe or witch hazel. This will remove any excess residue and help to close the pores.
Exfoliate after cleansing and before toning at least twice a week. Oily and combination skin types should use a clay based exfoliator to draw out impurities. For drier, congested skins Nvey Eco’s Hydrating Exfoliator contains bamboo extracts to remove dead skin cells and aloe to calm the skin.
Use baking soda (mixed with a little pure water) and clean flannel for an effective at home, DIY exfoliator.
Facial oils will not sit in skin and are ideal for congested and oily skin types. Use organic rosehip oil, rich in vitamin A, to help regulate oil flow and diminish the appearance of open pores. See our article on organic rosehip oil for further information.
Once a week use a purifying face mask after cleansing to help draw out impurities and regulate oil flow.
A great DIY face mask for congested skin combines a tablespoon of organic honey, strawberries (about 5) and a dash of fresh lemon juice. Mix the mask using a food processor. After cleansing, apply to skin. Leave for 10 to 20 minutes then rinse thoroughly.
Honey contains phytochemicals which have anti-inflammatory and moisturising properties that will speed up healing and prevent infection. Strawberries naturally contain salicylic acid which breaks down oil and clogged pores. Lemon has anti-bacterial properties and will cleanse the skin.
To avoid clogging pores with makeup, use pure, organic and mineral formulas which contain fewer, natural ingredients and sunscreens and no synthetic fillers that can irritate the skin and cause breakouts. Depending on your skin type and preference, use a liquid foundation for dry and normal skin types and a mineral powder for oily and combination skin types. Check out our makeup guide and shop products.
Lavera's 2-in-1 Anti-Blemish Treatment is a multitasking product to treat and conceal blemishes. First apply the organic peppermint and tea tree roll-on to purify and help heal the blemishes. It will also prevent them from spreading or scarring. Next, conceal the blemishes – the natural formula won't irritate skin but keep it protected.
By Nina Weston