At the sight of blackheads on your nose, the first course of action is
to grab a trusty pore strip and let it work its magic. However, sometimes
some stubborn blemishes get left behind and although you know better,
you try to pick them out with your finger only to make the situation worse.
"If you pick a blackhead, the area around the hair follicle and oil
gland may get inflamed," says Dr. Melanie Palm, MD, MBA, medical
director of Art of Skin MD in Solana Beach Calif. Caused by a mix of skin
cells and bacteria, inflammation can result in redness, tenderness, and
cystic lesions. "Inflammation in the area can lead to pain, unsightly
acne cysts, and in worst case scenario, scarring. You basically don't
want to stoke the fire of a well behaving blackhead and make it inflamed
and far worse," explains Dr. Palm.
If you couldn't resist taking your finger to your blackheads, your
best bet is to cleanse the irritated area with a cream or wash that contains
salicylic acid such as SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel. "As a beta
hydroxy acid, salicylic acid penetrates down into the hair follicle and
oil gland where blackheads start," says Dr. Palm. "This helps
to remove the sebum and debris that comprises a blackhead, and aids in
healing post-inflammatory discoloration and inflammation resulting from
picking a blackhead." And of course, keeping your hands away from
Another option that will be available soon at your drugstore is Differin
Gel, the first prescription-strength adapalene gel to be available over-the-counter
later this year. "This is a prescription-strength retinoid in the
same class as Retin-A. This group of vitamin A derivatives helps normalize
how skin within the hair follicle sheds and treats all forms of acne -
blackheads, whiteheads, inflammatory acne, cysts, and post-inflammatory
pigmentation. Applying this cream to areas prone to blackheads helps eliminate
them over time," says Dr. Palm.
In addition to treating swollen blackheads (which can take anywhere from
a few days to weeks to completely heal) with a cream or wash, Dr. Palm
recommends avoiding using oil-based products and ones that aren't
labeled "non-comedogenic" to prevent new blemishes from forming.
And although picked blackheads don't usually leave behind scars like
cystic acne and whiteheads, it doesn't mean that can't happen.
"Blackheads by definition and non-inflammatory and should not cause
scarring. However, long-standing blackheads can enlarge, creating dilated
pores over time," she explains. "It's important to treat
inflammation early. Salicylic acid peels and using a retinol or retinoid
cream are the most helpful means of improving impending scars and preventing
Article originally featured on InStyle.com