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How to Get Rid of Blackheads

A top derm told us the best way to extract blackheads to prevent scarring.

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In our Q&A series, beauty experts address your most bewildering issues. Have a beauty-related quandary of your own? Submit your question in the comments below or via Twitter.

Q: What causes blackheads and how do I get rid of them?

A: Unlike a whitehead that has skin on top of the pore, a blackhead is a wide opening on the skin with a blackened mass of debris that covers the opening. But don’t be fooled by the name — some are also yellow. This type of acne forms when dead skin is stuck in a pore with excess oil and bacteria.

What Causes Blackheads
“They are caused by an increase in hormone levels which stimulates the sebaceous gland, causing oil to form in the glands, and excess skin cells to get stuck in the pores,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman, a dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. She sites other causes such as poor exfoliation, the use of occlusive products (they contain ingredients that slow down the evaporation of water from the skin and block pores), and makeup that clogs pores.

MORE: How to Get Rid of Whiteheads

How to Get Rid of Blackheads
When purchasing acne-fighting products, Dr. Jaliman recommends looking for the ingredients glycolic acid, salicylic acid and retinol, which help skin shed dead cells that can clog pores, and benzoyl peroxide, which kills acne causing bacteria on the skin. These products can help prevent blackheads before they start, which is your best strategy.

If you already have blackheads, don’t pick at them yourself. “It is best to have blackheads professionally removed,” Dr. Jaliman says. “That way you minimize the chances of scarring.” She recommends scheduling a microdermabrasion session. The simple treatment involves a dermatologist or esthetician using tiny exfoliating crystals through a vacuum-like machine. It smooths the skin as well as help with texture problems and dark spots. Because it’s such a deep exfoliation, it will help to prevent or remove any blackheads.

Read more: Demi Lovato’s Facialist Swears by This Home Remedy to Prevent Acne

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