two models using charcoal bar on skin models using charcoal bar on face

What are blackheads and what causes them?

This ultimate guide to blackheads will help you achieve a clearer looking complexion in no time! Whether you’re wondering what causes blackheads, or are looking to clear them, this guide answers all.

What are blackheads and what causes them?

While they may look a tad ominous, blackheads are really just pools of excess sebum, an oily substance naturally produced by your skin, that builds up inside your pore, mixing with any bacteria and dead skin cells that may be lurking there. This more-or-less benign build-up then starts turning black when left exposed to the air. This is why you will often find blackheads on the nose or in other areas of your T-zone, where your skin is typically oilier. Yet, everyone gets blackheads at some point in their life, and not just those cursed with oily skin.

Blackheads usually appear around the time of puberty when teenagers start to notice that their skin is becoming more oily or greasy. Unfortunately, although we often think of blackheads as a teenage problem for this very reason, many of us continue to face these issues well into our twenties, thirties or even later.

close up of skin

How to remove blackheads

Read on to explore our top tips in reducing the appearance of blackheads on your nose or face.

1. Cleansers for blackheads

Of course, you know that you should cleanse your skin regularly. And that means morning and night, every day. But the way that you do it and the cleanser that you use can be an all-important factor in your mission to get rid of stubborn blackheads. Ideally, you should look for a product which works to eliminate excess sebum and reduce blackheads overall. Try our Garnier Pure Active Anti-Blackhead Deep Pore Wash, specially formulated to help unclog pores and clear blackheads.

2. Try an exfoliator or an exfoliating face wash

You can't get rid of stubborn blackheads if your daily routine is piling up the debris and grease that blocked your pores in the first place. Exfoliation gets rid of the dead skin cells that inevitably build up on your face. It is an essential tool in getting rid of blackheads because it brings them to the surface to make it easier to break up the blockage, which makes them susceptible to shrinkage and being simply washed away. Remember, don't over-do it - an exfoliating face wash two to three times a week is plenty. Try our Pure Active Intensive Blackhead Exfoliating Anti-Spot Cleansing Face Scrub, designed with salicylic acid, it helps fight against spots for a clearer looking complexion.

3. Unclog pores with nose strips or a face mask

Remember not to pick or squeeze your blackheads! Bacteria from your hands can be transferred to the area which can only make things worse! If you are looking for some extra, more intensive help to remove blackheads try our PureActive Charcoal Blackhead Peel Mask or our Anti-Blackhead Pore Strips  if the nose is a particularly troublesome area. Infused with Charcoal, the strips target blackheads and draw out pore-clogging impurities to reveal a clean, fresh complexion without pinching and squeezing.

How to avoid blackheads

If you’ve already removed blackheads, or are simply wondering how to avoid them appearing in future, we’ve offered 10 ways to help avoid blackheads:

1. Keep clean but don't over do it

Washing morning and evening with a cleanser that rids your skin of excess oil is enough. Over-do it, and your skin is in danger of being stripped of its sebum (its natural lubricant). As a result, your skin can become dehydrated and prone to dry patches or flakiness. The important thing is the regularity. Try not to be tempted to dash out in the morning before you have done your cleansing routine and definitely resist crashing into bed at night without using some cleansing wipes or some kind of cleanser. Regular washing with products to help combat excess sebum, twice a day, is just right.

micellar water and eco reusable makeup removal pad

2. Take off your makeup!

If you wear makeup, it is especially important to remove all traces of it at night. Makeup left on overnight inevitably clogs pores, so there is nowhere for your natural sebum (which is at peak production at night) to go. For normal makeup, a gentle cleanser is all you need, but if you use waterproof makeup, your cleanser can be a specialist oil-based makeup remover. Shop our range of cleansers here.

3. Keep your makeup clean!

Sometimes, a good makeup remover isn’t enough. Even if you keep your skin scrupulously clean and well looked-after, it's quite possible for makeup applicators to become dirty. Foundation sponges, for example, sometimes become caked in old makeup and, even more significantly, with oil and debris from your skin. This can build up a little more each time it comes into contact with your skin. So, wash any pads or sponges that come into contact with your skin regularly. The same goes for face cloths and flannels.

makeup sponge
charcoal blackhead stick

4. Exfoliate

The skin on your face does much more than keeping the outside out and the inside in! Your skin is more of an interactive protective zone, rather than an impenetrable barricade. As the lower layers of skin constantly grow and replenish themselves to produce new skin cells on the surface, the old ones die and get discarded. Here is where another pore-clogging danger arises because simple washing may not remove all the dead skin cells on your face. Make sure to use an exfoliating gel or exfoliating scrub two or three times a week to make sure all the impurities are swept away. Try our Charcoal Blackhead Exfoliating Stick, formulated with charcoal and natural exfoliating particles it can help unclog blackheads in just one swipe!

5. Protect your skin

Day-to-day, UV rays from the sun are the most obvious damaging agent, but other atmospheric pollutants in cities, the ravages of the wind and changes of temperature can all take their toll on your skin. These factors often lead to a build-up of debris that clogs your pores. While your moisturiser may help to offer some protection from external skin aggressors, an SPF will help to protect your skin against harmful UV rays. Why not browse our Ambre Solaire sunscreen range to find an SPF product perfect for your skin type?

super UV suncare products
glass of water

6. Hydrate on the inside, as well as on the outside

Your skin can start to suffer from the effects of dehydration well before you feel thirsty! It really is crucial to keep well hydrated so that your skin's self-moisturising system doesn't become sluggish. A good turnover of cells is what we need to avoid blocked pores and prevent the appearance of blackheads. This can only happen when your skin is healthy, clean and hydrated. Make drinking plenty of water a daily habit and an essential part of your skincare routine!

7. Get some sleep!

Lack of sleep and stress can lower your threshold for breaking out. Try to go to sleep at the same time most nights, don’t scrimp on sleep and find ways to let off steam. This may be through doing a hobby, taking a yoga class or relaxing with friends. If you’ve had a late night and are tempted to go to bed without removing your makeup, keep your Reusable Eco Pads and a bottle of micellar water next to your bed.

model waking up to sun rise
two models using charcoal bar on skin

8. Don't worry about it!

Stress can come from a lot of different sources, so don't let yourself be one of them. Surprisingly, stress does have an impact on your immune system and your hormonal levels. Both of these will affect how well your skin deals with fighting off bacteria and pollutants. Always try to make time in your life for relaxation. Don't worry so much about how to get rid of blackheads on your nose if your emotional wellbeing will suffer; it’s actually counter-productive to what you're trying to achieve!

The more you incorporate these 10 daily habits into your life, the more they will become second nature. If you slip up once in a while, forgive yourself and move on. Your (mostly) good daily habits will stand you in good stead for the future.

Is Charcoal Good For Blackheads?

Every so often, a new wonder ingredient comes along. And although most fade away after the fad has passed, some remain because they actually work. Charcoal is not new of course, but recently it has found a new use because of its almost miraculous ability to absorb bacteria, chemicals, dirt and other micro-particles, by drawing them to the surface of the skin.

How can I use Activated Charcoal for my skin?

First and foremost, getting the right daily skin care routine is essential. It’s best to start this in your teens because it sets up good skin care habits for the rest of your life. Skin should be cleansed thoroughly both morning and evening to ensure that grease, dirt and makeup have been properly removed.

Next, use an exfoliating scrub or blackhead face mask containing charcoal or clay, such as Garnier’s Pure Active Intensive 3 in 1 Charcoal Anti-Blackhead Wash, Scrub & Mask, once or twice per week on areas that are not red or inflamed.

For more products specifically designed to tackle the appearance of blackheads and blemishes, discover our Pure Active range, offering a selection of moisturisers, face washes, scrubs and masks for clearer looking skin.