If you've ever stood for a full 15 minutes, your face an inch from the mirror, furiously squeezing out oil plugs from your congested pores, and felt some masochistic satisfaction despite ending up with red, inflamed skin, you're just one of the millions of us who struggle to remove or at least reduce the appearance of black heads.
Oil plugs (what black heads really are) are simply a mixture of oils and dead skin cells from your face. Since regular washing does not reach adequately INTO your pores (no matter what the advertisements tell you), the oil and dead cell mixture accumulates over time and compacts into hardened oil plugs. As the oil continues to accumulate, you will often start to see visible bumps on the surface of your skin. These aren't infected and don't hurt, but they annoy me to no end, since squeezing can often make things worse, when I end up inflaming the skin, or transferring bacteria from fingers.
So recently, I've stumbled upon a different way of doing it, sans redness, swelling, reactive zits, or pain. You only need two products that should be quite commonly available and no tools whatsoever, so it will not break the bank. It also does not take a whole lot of time to complete, lasts as well as a professional facial, and is simple enough to do once or twice a week.
- I'd be lying if I said it gets rid of clogged pores 100%, but it works more thoroughly and gently than picking at them one by one.
- This is not an acne treatment. It gets rid of oil plugs, not acne bacteria. It will not cure acne, even though I recommend it as part of your regular routine to start unplugging more pores before they get infected.
- The products I use are generally available and not harmful to the skin, but please avoid if you have extremely sensitive skin or are unable to tolerate salicylic acid products.
|Garnier Pure SOS Blemish Clear Pen, and Etude House Black Head Off Oil EX|
- A salicylic acid spot treatment (I'm using a regular blemish gel from Garnier)
- A cleansing oil (the sort that is used for removing makeup, and emulsifies in water. It's extremely common in Asia, but in the West, I'm not sure about availability outside of brands such as MAC and Shu Uemura.)
- Pan of hot water and a towel, or a face steamer*
WHAT YOU DO:
- Apply the salicylic acid treatment all over the areas where you are prone to get oily and congested. For me that is around my nose, the inner cheek area beside the nose, and the chin area.
- For the next 30minutes, you can gently steam your face to get it moist and warm. (The better way is actually to work out for half an hour while you let the salicylic acid do its work!)
- Dry off your face very gently with a sheet of tissue, and then apply the cleansing oil to your skin.
- For the next 10 minutes, press your fingertips firmly into your skin and rub in brisk circles, like you are buffing your face. The oil helps to cushion and lubricate your skin to reduce any friction or irritation, but don't drag your skin unduly anyway.
- If you've done step 1 and 2 well, you should start to feel the first little "grains" under your fingers in about a minute or two, as the oil plugs start to loosen and come out.
- Keep going for another few minutes, and then switch the direction of the circles you are drawing until more plugs come out.
- Rinse with cool (not cold) water and then finish with a normal foaming cleanser to remove the last bits of oil from your skin if you're oily-to-normal. If you have dry skin, you can skip the foam.
HOW IT WORKS:
- Salicylic acid is an acid that can actually penetrate into your pores to clean out the inside surface. It can help to loosen oil plugs. (Hence, it's actually a better preventive tool than a treatment after zits form, but I digress.) The problem with salicylic acid is that most of us don't realise that while it can loosen plugs and exfoliate the surface of your skin to reduce the look of blackheads, it can't actually get them out of your skin without a little extra help.
- Working up a light sweat after you apply the salicylic acid product seems to accelerate its work a fair bit because your pores are open, and the sweat and sebum coming out helps it to stay active in there. I'd say sweat is better than steam in this case, because salicylic acid is lipid-soluble, and the oils in your sweat will help it to "spread" and sink into your pores better.
- Remember one thing: Oil dissolves oil. After you've loosened up the plugs a little, you need to really work an oil-based cleanser into your skin to do the final job of dislodging some of them. The small circular motions actually massage and help to roll the loosened plugs out of your pores in the gentlest possible way without dragging your skin. Experiment a little to see what motions work best for you, as our pores are all structured slightly differently.