Q: What’s the best way to get rid of blackheads? I have this blackhead-popping thing that looks like a syringe and would like to know if these are safe to use.
A: Blackheads, or comedones in medical terms, are “clogged pores.” Dead skin cells and dried secretions from the skin’s oil (sebum) glands can produce plugs in the hair follicles (commonly known as pores).
The clogged pores can then lead to acne lesions, as the skin’s oil gland secretions can’t reach the surface of the skin. The secretions collect and subsequently become trapped beneath the plug.
One of the most effective ways to get rid of blackheads is through the use of topical prescription creams containing retinoids (eg, generic retinoid creams such as tretinoin, or brand name retinoids like Retin-A®, Differin®, or Tazorac®). These creams are available by prescription from a physician or dermatologist, and they act by changing the way the skin cells lining the hair follicles develop.
Use of blackhead-removal tools can help to remove existing blackheads, but they won’t prevent the development of new ones, whereas the retinoid-containing creams do. If you do decide to use a tool, note that care must be taken to avoid damage to the skin associated with vigorous blackhead removal. If too much pressure is applied or the skin is broken from picking or squeezing lesions, irreversible scarring can result.