Yes it’s that unwelcome duo: blackheads and whiteheads.
As if acne wasn’t enough, our skin sometimes decides to break out in these annoying little white and black spots. And it can be a seriously intense struggle to decide how to handle them. The urge to press and pop them is so strong….but you resist! Then the urge comes back….it couldn’t hurt that much to pop them, right? Or could it? Slathering them in heavy makeup is maybe a better idea? Or scrubbing the hell out of them with face wash and exfoliator could be just the trick you need! Is leaving them untouched and alone really the best thing to do? You’ve got to do something!
Before we get into some of the best natural ways to deal with blackheads and whiteheads (as well as some of the don’ts), let’s get to know and understand these little guys a little better.
What Blackheads and Whiteheads Really Are
Both blackheads and whiteheads are a mild and non-inflammatory form of acne. Unless they become infected, in which case they then technically become the too well known full blown acne. They arise from a nasty combination of too much oil, or sebum, and dead skin cells blocking the pores.
Blackheads are also known as “open comedones”, meaning they’re open to the air and aren’t covered by a layer of skin, which is the case with whiteheads. Because of this open air environment, a pigment contained within our sebum, known as melanin, oxidizes, which turns the spot black. Melanin is best known for the dark colouring of hair, eyes and tanned skin.
Their black colour has given blackheads a reputation for being a result of dirt and poor hygiene. Now we know that’s not the case!
As mentioned, whiteheads are closed off from air exposure by a layer of skin, so they’re known as “closed comedones”. There’s no oxidation happening, so they remain white or yellowish in colour.
Excessive sebum production can be due to many factors. The most common is hormone fluctuations and increased insulin levels.
A buildup of too many dead skin cells has also been linked to high levels of insulin, as well as an overactive immune system, which could stem from things like chronic illness, infections, stress or certain medications.
Other reasons for blocked and clogged pores include a diet high in sugar, dairy, fried food, hydrogenated oils and processed food, heavy makeup use, beauty products with pore clogging ingredients, persistent sweating, high humidity and….so unfair!…simple genetics.
What NOT To Do With Blackheads and Whiteheads
Before I get into all the awesome ways to fight back against those darn blackheads and whiteheads, it’s worthwhile to mention what not to do. It is possible to make the situation worse, and no one wants that. Keep these things in mind the next time they rear their unwelcome heads:
- Don’t squeeze, squish, smoosh, squash, crush, mash, squelch (yep that’s a word), pick, pop or dig at them. There’s a good chance it will spread bacteria, make them worse, intensify inflammation and produce scarring. If you go to a skincare professional, they might do something like this, but leave it to them and don’t try it at home.
- Avoid wearing makeup completely if you can, or at least don’t layer it on thick. I know it’s tempting to hide those spots, but they’ll clear up faster without all that coverage.
- If you must wear makeup, use non-comedogenic products, which are specially formulated to not clog pores. Or make your own natural DIY stuff.
- Definitely don’t leave any kind of makeup on overnight – let those pores breathe!
- Avoid harshly exfoliating and/or washing. Sometimes we think the harder we scrub at it, the quicker it will disappear. Not the case. Abrasive actions like these will irritate the skin, strip off its protective layer of natural oils and dry it out. The glands will then overproduce sebum in order to compensate, resulting in more clogged pores.
- Another thing to be avoided, to keep that protective layer of natural oil on our skin intact, is any skincare products that have drying chemicals or agents such as alcohol. Most ingredients ending with “ol” fall into this category. Also avoid sodium lauryl sulphate and pore clogging ingredients like mineral oil.
And now I’m finally going to tell you the best natural remedies for clearing up blackheads and whiteheads! You can download your very own checklist for easy reference, but be sure to check out my next blog post too because I’ll be going into more detail about how to use these remedies.
Natural Remedies For Blackheads and Whiteheads
Tip #1: Steam It Out
I have always loved steaming my face – it just feels so indulgent and spa-like!
But it’s got some major clear skin benefits too. It opens up pores a bit and loosens all that buildup of oil and dead skin cells stuck within the deeper layers of our skin.
Steaming also helps to hydrate the skin (more on that below) and improves circulation). This helps toxins and other waste to be carried away and nutrients to be carried towards the skins surface.
It’s fun to add some herbs to the steam too! Read my next post for some acne fighting herbal ideas to try in your own steams.
Tip #2: Exfoliate
Probably the most important thing to do for your skin topically is regular exfoliation.
Scrubbing away those excessive dead skin cells not only helps unclog our bogged down pores, but also allows nutrients from other (natural!) beauty products to absorb into our skin more easily. This will keep those blackheads and whiteheads in check and can help to alleviate future breakouts.
Gentle is the idea here – as mentioned on the “what not to do” list above, harsh and abrasive skincare can make things much worse.
Tip #3: Clay Face Masks
Clay face masks are another great tool for super deep pore clearing action.
They have serious oil absorbing properties, helping to draw it out of our pores, while feeding them healthy skin minerals at the same time. Minerals like silica, calcium, magnesium1, copper, iron2 and potassium. Ohhhh your skin is going to be happy!
Two of my favourites are bentonite, which is from naturally occurring volcanic ash, and French green clay.
Tip #4: Toner
While our pores don’t technically “shrink”, toner will help to temporarily tighten them up.
Not only does this feel clean and fresh, but when the right ingredients are used, toners can remove excess oil and dead skin cells, as well as keep pore clogging debris out. They can be astringent, antiseptic and antibacterial – all super important for getting rid of those spots.
Tip #5: Spot Treatments
The wonderful thing about natural spot treatments is that they can be used directly on the blackheads and whiteheads, or often can also be used all over your face as a gentle exfoliant.
Most of these super powered ingredients are pretty strong, so application should be avoided on open wounds. Since whiteheads are closed, there is less chance of irritation. It’s best to allow blackheads to mend themselves and become more closed up before using intense spot treatments on them.
Tip #6: Increase Skin Hydration
Blackheads and whiteheads aren’t a problem only for oily skinned peeps. Our skin actually needs a protective layer of oil on its surface to help keep out pore clogging toxins and other nasties. When it’s too dry, it’ll also overcompensate by producing excessive amounts of sebum. And when we’re dehydrated, oil can harden and really get stuck in those hair follicles. Oh noze, that means clogged pores!
As I mentioned above, steaming is a great way to add moisture to skin cells. I’ll talk more about how to steam and other ways to hydrate those cells in my next post!
Tip #7: Cleanse Internally
I know you’ve heard it a million times, but it’s soooo important: eat healthy food. Limit your intake of things like processed sugar, dairy, fried food, hydrogenated oils and processed food. They’re just going to increase insulin and sebum production. And after reading this, you know that’s not what you want for clear skin.
Now That You Know WHAT To Do, Learn HOW To Do It
Focusing on these natural remedies will so help you clear up those blackheads and whiteheads! And practising the methods and using the ingredients above will also help you clear them up faster, with a lower chance of creating yet more breakouts. Remember to download the checklist for easy reference!
And to take these natural blackhead and whitehead busting ideas to the next level, read my next post for more details about how to use them. Pssst: it includes easy peasy DIY beauty recipes!
If you’re interested in learning even more about creating your own natural DIY beauty products, check out my eBook Food For Your Face: DIY Beauty Product Recipes, for beauty recipes, tips and tricks.
Disclaimer: The information contained within this document is for educational and informational purposes only. It is meant to empower, inspire and motivate readers to make healthy choices and is intended for general well-being, education and information. This website is not intended to be used or interpreted as medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical services. I, the author of Date With Your Plate, am not a medical professional and none of the statements on this website are intended to diagnose, treat, cure, heal or prevent any disease. A qualified health care or medical professional should always be consulted before beginning any health related diet, exercise, supplementation or other regimen plan or program.