A handy manual for banishing blackheads


Nicole Elphick

Yep, all clear for Amanda Seyfried.

Yep, all clear for Amanda Seyfried. Photo: Getty

How is it that black spots can be so cute on dalmations, but so revolting on the sides of your nose? ‘Tis a mystery, indeed. As you probably know blackheads aren’t dirt, and they also aren’t an indicator of poor facial hygiene (in fact over washing can contribute to the problem by encouraging oil production and irritating the skin).

“Blackheads, or ‘open comedones’ form when plugs of keratin (old skin cells) and sebum block the skin pores (openings of the sebaceous glands and follicles),” explains Dr Michelle Hunt, dermatologist at Inner Sydney Dermatology.

“Blackheads are often the first sign of acne, and occur due to abnormalities in the proliferation and differentiation of the cells lining the pores. This can be influenced by abnormal oil production, hormonal factors, inflammation and infection. Certain chemicals in cosmetics can also contribute to blackheads, such as lanolin, petrolatum, certain vegetable oils, butyl stearate, lauryl alcohol, and oleic acid.”

If you want to beat blackheads Dr Hunt recommends avoiding hot humid climates, eating a healthy low glycaemic index diet, avoiding smoking and sticking to non-comedogenic facial products. For treatment try washing the face twice daily with a gentle cleanser and water.


“Salicylic acid or glycolic acid cleansers can also help ‘unclog’ the pores. Topical treatments include benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, glycolic acid and topical retinoids derived from Vitamin A [prescription items such as tretinoin, isotretinoin and adapalene],” says Dr Hunt.

And if you need some extra help it might be worth investing in a sonic cleansing system as there is evidence they can improve exfoliation and reduce oiliness. Professional extraction in facials can also be useful, however you need to go to a reputable professional as there is the risk of tissue damage if not done correctly.

So if blackheads are the bane of your existence here are a few things that might help get them under control...


Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Spot Treatment

($28, www.kiehls.com.au)

This dermatologist tested multipurpose treatment targets blackheads, whiteheads and acne blemishes. Salicylic acid is its active ingredient and it also contains glycolic acid, witch hazel extract and aloe vera extract.


Kate Somerville Detox Daily Cleanser

($36, www.meccacosmetica.com.au)

This cleanser is designed for acne prone skin to wash away make-up and any excess oil. It contains phytic acid, as well as salicylic and glycolic acid to gently remove dead skin cells.


Skin Physics Derma Sonic Power Cleansing Brush

($119, www.skinphysics.com.au)

Using a cleansing brush can remove make-up, dirt and oil more effectively than manual cleansing alone. The gently exfoliating motion can also minimise the appearance of pores.