I don’t know about you, but I spend a silly amount of time staring at pimple popping videos on TikTok. Most of them depict blackheads – often some rather hefty ones – being freed from pores, and take a frighteningly (or should I say satisfyingly) zoomed-in approach to filming. And our collective obsession with blackheads shows no sign of waning, which makes sense given that they’re a common skin malady. Statistics on Google Trends show that searches for “blackhead treatment” are up 50 per cent in the last 30 days, while on TikTok, the term “blackhead removal” has a huge 11.8 billion views.
“Blackheads are a type of acne,” explains dermatologist Dr Alexis Granite. “They are filled with a plug of sebum (or oil) and dead skin cells and are dark due to the oxidation of melanin within the plug.” Those with oily skin and larger pores are more likely to suffer from blackheads, says Dr Catriona Maybury, consultant dermatologist at Dermatica, but they can happen to anyone.
How to treat blackheads effectively
While, yes, it’s tempting to replicate the techniques seen on TikTok, experts agree that extractions are best performed by a professional. “Overly aggressive attempts to remove blackheads can cause irritation, inflammation and, in some cases, scarring,” says Dr Granite, who recommends using products at home that help accelerate skin turnover while gently exfoliating and unclogging pores.
Ingredients to try include retinol, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and alpha hydroxy acids. “A good skincare routine is essential,” adds Dr Maryam Zamani. “Cleanse the face well, gently exfoliate two to three times a week to remove dead skin and debris, and look for non-comedogenic skincare and make-up products.”
Treatments to try
A good skincare routine is essential, but there are a number of in-clinic treatments that can help to quickly reduce blackheads’ appearance, too. Dr Granite name-checks the Hydrafacial as a great option. A suction-based treatment that performs extractions, exfoliates, cleanses and more using a single device, it’s a quick ticket to clearer, healthier skin.
“In clinic, I would use a professional strength salicylic acid peel, then a combination of hydradermabrasion and manual extraction to remove sebum plugs from the pores,” explains facialist Debbie Thomas. After that, she focuses on reducing the amount of oil the skin produces. “The ADVATx laser has a fantastic setting that shocks the oil gland, temporarily reducing oil production,” she says. “Another great treatment for pre-event pore purging is the carbon laser peel, which involves applying a black, carbon-based peel to the skin, which dries and adheres to the sticky sebum. You then use a laser to vaporise it and leave the pore clear.” Having had this treatment myself, I can attest that it sounds worse than it is – and your skin will look and feel amazing afterwards.
While large pores can make blackheads look more prominent, the only way to reduce them is to plump up the collagen underneath to make them appear less pronounced. For this, Thomas also recommends Fotona Laser’s light resurfacing peel because it instantly triggers all-important collagen production.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.