Blackheads don’t make a lot of friends. They’re ugly, annoying, good-for-nothing, and they always outstay their welcome. Fortunately, you don’t have to be their friend either. Let’s take a look at what causes these pesky blemishes to form, and what you can do to get rid of them. At the end of this article, we’ll cover an even peskier problem – blackheads in your ear.
What are blackheads?
A blackhead is like a partially-formed pimple. When a pimple is created, it begins with a blocked pore in the skin. These pores are usually clogged by pieces of dead skin and/or accumulated sebum (naturally-occurring skin oil). Bacteria gets trapped in this pore, feeds off of some of the skin oil, and rapidly expands, creating an irritated, red, puss-filled whitehead.
Blackheads happen when a pore gets clogged, but fails to become infected and subsequently turn into a whitehead. Blackheads are much easier to treat than whiteheads, since you’re only dealing with a clogged pore, rather than a fully-developed skin infection that must be treated before the clog can be removed.
The bad news about blackheads is that, unlike traditional zits, they have a more difficult time going away on their own. Once a traditional zit has passed the inflammation stage, the pore naturally becomes unclogged as the swelling subsides. Getting rid of blackheads is a bit different. Sometimes they go away on their own, but oftentimes they are only cleared up when you’ve gotten so tired of looking at them that you manually extract them.
Popping blackheads can be done with traditional “picking”. If you place the blackhead between two fingernails and squeeze, oftentimes the clog will pop right out, leaving behind a fresh, clean, empty pore. However, this isn’t the best method to follow. Fingernails are far from the best tool for the job, and contain countless bacteria of their own (even if you just washed your hands). The irritation from squeezing the pore with your nails can actually cause the situation to escalate from a simple blackhead to a full-blown pimple.
There are specialized tools on the market called “blackhead extractors”, meant to make popping blackheads a less irritating process. They are somewhat effective, but still irritate the skin needlessly, and can cause the same type of breakout that your fingernails can. For this reason, I recommend skipping them, and heading straight to the Acne Hints approved method – even if it seems a bit strange at first.
The Treatment for Blackheads
Although the previously mentioned methods are too harsh to be used on your skin, the concept is correct – you have to push or pull the clog out of the pore to clear the blackhead. Our method is one of the best remedies for blackheads. It’s similar to the methods mentioned, except it requires no force, no squeezing, no mechanical irritation, and no frustration – although you may have to raid your kindergartener’s school supplies.
Step 1 – Glue it Up
Apply a squirt of Elmer’s-style white glue to the tip of your finger (do not substitute other glues, especially stronger ones). Smear the glue over the affected area, ensuring the entire pore and surrounding area is covered. Make sure your face is clean before you begin (it won’t work as well if your skin is oily). If you wash your face before doing this, skip the moisturizer until you’re done, and let it dry for 5 minutes before applying the glue. This method works great for treating areas of skin with lots of blackheads, like the tip of your nose. Wait at least 10 minutes for the glue to dry before continuing.
Step 2 – Tape it Off
Once the glue is completely dry (check to make sure), it’s time to get serious. Apply a strip of tape over the glue. Scotch-style tape works best, but you may also use most other types if you have to substitute. Press the tape firmly into the dried glue, and pull off, taking the glue with the tape. Looking at the bottom of the glue, you should be able to see plenty of little blackheads stuck to the glue.
Step 3 – Clean-Up
Unless you want to walk around smelling like someone who eats glue in their free time, it’s probably a good idea to wash your face at this point. This will also help remove any glue residue that might irritate your skin later in the day. Don’t forget the moisturizer when you’re done.
Preventing New Blackheads
So, you’ve successfully removed your blackheads. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. However, those blackheads didn’t appear out of nowhere, and if you had them before – chances are they will come back. Preventing them is as simple as ensuring none of your pores get clogged again. In practice, it can be difficult to 100% eliminate blackheads, but you can usually get pretty close with the right routine.
Prevention tip #1: Keep it Clean.
Washing, drying, and moisturizing your skin a minimum of twice per day (three times if you have super-oily skin) will not only help prevent blackheads, but it will also prevent their more aggressive cousin – whiteheads. Wash your skin gently with a facial cleanser, pat dry with a clean towel, and follow up with a moisturizer marketed towards acne sufferers. If your blackheads persist, or appear on the tip of your nose, you may benefit from periodically using a facial scrub instead of a wash.
Prevention tip #2: In-Between Tapings
If your blackheads keep coming back despite having clean skin, it may help you to use tape on your skin every other day (don’t do this every day, as it is unnecessary and too irritating). Simply press it on and peel off to clear your pores at any time.
Prevention tip #3: Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid encourages the shedding of dead skin cells. As these cells are removed at a faster rate, the window of opportunity for a pore to become clogged shrinks. Use this product after washing your face, but before moisturizing. Your local drugstore will have plenty of products in the skincare section containing salicylic acid. Check the label for further instructions.
Blackheads in/on the Ear
Although blackheads usually appear under the eyes, at the tip of the nose, or somewhere else on the face, they also pop up in an even stranger place – your ears. Ear blackheads aren’t any different to remove in theory, but their location makes them difficult to get at, and using glue on this area isn’t a good idea (glue running into your ear can only be a bad thing). Fortunately, we can modify the above steps to help remove them from your ear region.
First, take a washcloth and douse it in hot water. Hold the cloth to your ear and let the blackheads soak in the heat for 10 minutes (rewetting the cloth as needed to keep it hot). The heat will help loosen the blackheads from the pore. Then, thoroughly pat the area dry (tape won’t stick to wet skin). Place a piece of tape over the blackhead area, press down firmly for several seconds, and pull the tape off quickly. Repeat as needed until the blackheads are gone. Take care not to overly irritate your skin. Scotch tape is a good place to start, however, if it seems you need something more powerful, you can step up to duct tape – just be very careful. Blackheads in the ear are better than no skin left on your ears!
With these tips, you’ll be on your way to blackhead-free skin before you know it!