Blackheads are a type of comedones. These are formed when the pores in the skin are blocked by dead skin cells and the oily secretion of the sebaceous glands called sebum. This forms a plug and when the exposed surface of the plug reacts with air and becomes dark forming a blackhead. This dark colour as thought by many is not trapped dirt. Blackheads appear most frequently on the face, back, neck, chest, arms, and shoulders. Dr Mohan Thomas, senior cosmetic surgeon, Cosmetic Surgery Institute shares important inputs.

Treating Blackheads-
1. Clean with Salicylic acid- Salicylic acid is the preferred ingredient for blackheads and whiteheads because it breaks down the excess oil and dead skin cells. But many people are sensitive to salicylic acid and you may not be able to use it more than once every few days.

2. Chemical exfoliants- Retinoic acid and other AHA’s as night creams work wonders with a blackhead. With 25 per cent AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids, like lactic and glycolic) and 2 per cent BHA (beta-hydroxy acids, like salicylic), this night serum works to resurface your skin by exfoliating away any built-up dead skin cells that can contribute to clogged pores.

3. Use of skin brush- A skin brush can provide similar exfoliating benefits as AHAs by removing excess dead skin cells. The key, though, is to use it only once a week so you don’t cause irritation.

4. Masks during facials- Clay and charcoal masks work very well on the blackheads due to their adsorbent properties. The mineral-rich ingredient of the clay mask addresses the three main causes of blackhead—oil production, dead skin cells, clogged pores —through the process of adsorption. When mixed with water and applied to the skin, it acts like a magnet, drawing impurities (blackheads) out of pores.

5. Manual extraction- This method in vogue for many decades is now frowned upon but still, many beauty centres do undertake steaming and extraction of comedones either with a comedone extractor or comedone tapes. This can cause more intense bacterial infection and an increase in the comedones.

6. Use moisturizer- Whether your skin is dry or oily, always use a moisturizer so that the skin remains healthy and the sebaceous glands are not overactive.

7. Do not use comedogenic makeup.