I’ve been wanting to share this guide for a few months now, since I always get a lot of questions about blackheads, along with commentary about how annoying they are and how ugly they can be and why they just won’t go away foreverrrr. So here we go…solution time.
Do You Have Blackheads or Sebaceous Filaments?
Do you feel like you are constantly popping out tiny blackheads and watching them return over and over to your nose or chin or other areas? Then you may not have blackheads. I have to say that many people I talk to don’t really have a blackhead problem – they have what’s called sebaceous filaments. Here’s a quick way to know the difference:
- Blackheads are open comedones (a.k.a. pimples or acne). They are slightly raised and appear black. An extracted blackhead looks like a solid, usually yellow, wax-like plug with a black tip. It can also become infected.
- Sebaceous filaments are a bit like blackhead impostors. They are pin-like and come in a choice of colors: gray (not the dark black of a blackhead), tan, or skin/flesh-colored. The skin is not raised up around them. They can appear anywhere, but the nose, chin, and forehead are the most common. An extracted SF looks like a plain white or yellowish spike or string. They don’t get infected or inflamed and are natural to every single human.
I put them side by side so you can see the difference (see below). See how the SFs are super tiny and dark, but not black, and how they have no raised or puffy skin around them? Now notice how the blackheads are truly black, and have a bit of puffed skin surrounding them.
Blackheads are part of the acne family. Sebaceous filaments are not. However, they are both treated very similarly. Keep reading on how to get rid of sebaceous filaments and blackheads the easiest and quickest way possible.
DIY — Get Rid of Blackheads and Sebaceous Filaments
This is a really basic do it yourself recipe for getting rid of existing blackheads. Don’t use it if you’re allergic to aspirin or salicylates.
You will need:
- 3–5 uncoated aspirin
- a spoonful of full fat plain yogurt
- a spoonful of raw Manuka 16+ honey (regular raw honey is also okay but is not as good for acne)
- a small bowl (I use this bowl and mask brush from May Lindstrom if I’m feeling fancy…which is almost always)
What is the purpose of these three ingredients? The aspirin contains salicylic acid, which helps to normalize pores in several ways – it makes skin cells shed quicker, opens clogged pores, and neutralizes acne bacteria. Yogurt contains lactic acid, which is an alpha-hydroxy acid, a gentle exfoliant that helps refine the skin’s texture and help reduce signs of aging. Honey is antibacterial and a humectant, which helps bring hydration to the skin and balance oil production.
Now what you need to do is:
- Take your aspirin and crush them with a spoon or other generally safe crushing device.
- Put your crushed aspirin tablets (feel free to make a cocaine joke to any bystanders) in the small bowl with your spoonful of yogurt and stir so the aspirin dissolves.
- Now add your spoonful of honey to the bowl, adding just enough to make a thicker cream texture since you don’t want it dripping off of your face and onto your phone/iPad/dog.
- Wash your face and pat dry.
- Apply the mask with a mask brush or fingers to your just-washed skin and hang out for 10 minutes.
Special options: if you have rosacea or super sensitive skin, use 3 aspirin or less. If you have dry skin, use more honey than yogurt. If you have oily skin, use more yogurt than honey. If you don’t have honey or yogurt, try using aloe vera gel.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads and Sebaceous Filaments — For Real.
Blackheads might seem like some strange and irritating cousin to “normal” acne, but blackheads are still pimples — it’s just that they are open and the contents oxidize and turn black. Delicious, right? Sebaceous filaments are just harmless sebaceous (oil) glands and are not acne. Blackheads can pretty much be eliminated, whereas sebaceous filaments can be eliminated for a short time until they fill up again (usually within 1–4 weeks) and can only be reduced. Here are my step-by-step solutions to getting rid of blackheads and SFs:
1. Eat to balance your sebum (oil) production. Blackheads are partially the result of a dry, dead outer layer of skin getting caught up with the oilier under layer. Balancing this out with proper diet ought to be your #1 priority because it’s the quickest and longest lasting way to clear skin. There are articles I’ve written for you that detail this topic, as well as my book which also includes a meal plan to help you along. Here’s the quick version: focus on eating vegetables and non-sweet fruits (e.g. leafy greens like spinach, romaine, etc.; zucchini, cucumber, celery, bell peppers, tomato, etc.), low-glycemic fruits (e.g. berries of all kinds, lemons, limes), and awesome healthy fats (e.g. avocado, coconut, fatty fish, grass-fed beef and lamb). Just as important is not eating fried food (the oils become rancid and are often from omega 6 sources like canola or soy oil – contributing to inflammation, hormonal imbalances and oilier skin), most grains, and refined sugar which is high on the glycemic index and spikes the hormone insulin which in turn contributes to excess oil production. You may also want to lower or eliminate your consumption of dairy, since it contains androgens, which are male-type hormones that can contribute to increased product of sebum (oily skin) and breakouts/blackheads.
2. Wash correctly. Overwashing dries out your top layer of skin and forces your skin to produce more oil to make up for you washing it away all the time. You’ll end up with more blackheads and sebaceous filaments, as well as skin irritation. Double cleanse twice per day – morning and night. What is double cleansing? It’s using an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup and sebum (which is what fills a pore), then rinsing and following with a gel, foam, or cream cleanser to remove any other residues and dirt. It works incredibly well and it’s not drying or stripping when you use the right products.
- La Bella Figura Enzyme Cleanser or Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics Vitamin B Oil for the first part of your cleanse.
- Skin Apotheke Organic Advanced Repair Cleanser or One Love Organics Easy Does It for the second step of your cleanse.
3. Exfoliate properly. While physical exfoliants and scrubs are excellent for most people, I find that non-physical exfoliants and peels are superior for those with lots of blackheads because it evenly removes the top layer of dead skin that would normally clog the pore and generate a blackhead. Fruit acids/enzymes, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid are excellent for preventing blackheads and SFs.
- KYPRIS Moonlight Catalyst
- SIRCUIT Skin Double Trouble 5% Lactic
- SIRCUIT Youth Accelerator Pumpkin Enzyme Peel
4. Water, water, water. It’s simple, but it works wonders. Drink lots of quality filtered water or spring water. Natural, preservative-free teas that you brew yourself are also great – but no soda or sweet tea. Freshly squeezed lemon in warm water in the morning is amazing for your skin as well. Some people find that just by drinking more water they notice less blackheads and oiliness since it keeps you hydrated (along with your new diet of fresh veggies and fruits, right?).
5. Protect your skin from the sun. When you go out in the sun, wear a hat and sunblock. Sun damage contributes to a breakdown in collagen and elastin, which not only leads to wrinkles but also enlarged pores. Wearing a natural zinc-based sunblock is effective and anti-acne, but if you’re like me and dislike wearing heavy sunblock all the time, slap a hat on.
6. Get ‘em out. You may find that gentle enzyme or acid-based exfoliation several times per week (see tip #3) will be enough to keep your pores small, free of blackheads, and reduce sebaceous filaments. However, you may want to get a professional facial from a licensed aesthetician to get everything extracted and give you a fresh start. Alternatively, you can give yourself a facial once or twice per week.
7. Take the right supplements. Supplements can be important and useful for balancing hormones and as an extra support to our bodies. I usually recommend a low-dose zinc supplement (15–30 mg) and a B-complex vitamin at minimum, especially if you are stressed (e.g. sleep deprived, working a lot, school exams, anxiety, etc.). Multivitamins that require you to take 4–6 capsules per day are also a good idea (and can be taken instead of the separate zinc and B-complex) since they spread out the intake of nutrients for better absorption. For balancing hormones, especially for those with blackheads and cystic acne, DIM Detox and EstroBlock Pro are practically miracle workers.
8. Move! In order for your body to stay healthy and young, as well as keep your bones strong and give your skin a beautiful glow, you need to move your body. If you sit all day in class or at work, make a point to exercise somehow on a daily basis. You have lots of options! Try bike riding or walking around the neighborhood, do a workout DVD, follow a quick BodyRock.tv workout, take a yoga class, go swimming, whatever…just move. You don’t need to be on some specific exercise program and go nuts. Your body will thank you for it and skin is going to look awesome because of it!
Maintaining blackhead-free skin takes a consistently good diet, exercise routine, and skin care. Did I miss any tips that worked for you? Let me know by leaving a comment!