[By Fiona Li]
Hello ladies! Hands up those who own a magnifying mirror. I bet ALL those with your hands down are secretly wishing for one…especially one that comes with a backlight. Nice. Just like how they never seem to understand our need for a pair of shoes for every occasion; I’ve given up explaining to my other half the need of a magnifying mirror in our newly renovated bathroom. “Ummm… I need that to put on my contact lenses and pluck my eyebrow.” I told him nonchalantly with a wave of my freshly manicured hand. In reality, we all love to scrutinize our faces up close because there’s this unexplained obsession women have with their pores. Oh how horrible looking are those pesky blackheads staring right back at us!
Frankly, I think blackheads, on the scale of seen to invisible probably fall somewhere in the realm of that imaginary friend a five year old child tries to point out to you. Still, they are annoying. You can see them, they are there and you know it. Your face isn’t completely clean and you don’t feel pretty unless you have them removed, with the hope to banish them forever. So what exactly are these dark spots of muck found on our nose, chin, cheeks and forehead?
Blackheads, also known as open comedones, are blocked follicles that are filled with plugs of sebum and sloughed-off cells which have undergone a chemical reaction resulting in the oxidation of melanin. This gives the material in the follicle the typical black color which is not due to an accumulation of dirt particles in widened pores as commonly believed. Being classified as a form of acne, those with oily skin tend to have them worse. So how do we get rid of them?
Clear #1: Clean & Exfoliate
The single most important step for getting rid of blackheads is to make sure that your face is properly cleansed to avoid the built- up of sebum. Cleansers containing salicylic, alpha hydroxy or lactic acid work best by dissolving dirt and oil to unclog pores. Make exfoliation a weekly ritual too. A fuss-free, homemade remedy is to combine baking soda and water or lemon juice and sugar. Simply combine your “scrubby” ingredient with your liquid/wet ingredient until you have a thin paste. Starting with a clean face, rinse it once with water, and then begin to apply your exfoliator in light, circular motions. This can be a little messy so if you are looking for a good off the shelf scrub, I recommend Sloane Inc. Pumpkin Enzyme Scrub suitable for oily skin or Sloane Inc. Pineapple Enzyme Scrub tailored for normal to sensitive skin types. Both products are available from sloaneshop.com.
Clear #2: Extraction
Personally I do not advocate extraction of blackheads with bare hands or fingers. It might come as a surprise to many but by forcing the blackheads out manually, you risk aggravating or inflaming the skin and this might lead to scarring.
“Besides Microdermabrasion, we recommend regular Ultrasonic Deep Cleansing which utilises ultrasonic wave motion to remove blackheads, whiteheads and other surface impurities,” says Kennix, a trained beauty therapist with The Sloane Clinic @ Marina Bay Sands. “After this virtually painless procedure, we will apply a specially formulated gel with potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to sooth and detoxify your skin.”
Clear #3: Pore Reduction
Most treatments for blackheads and open pores take several weeks to months before a noticeable change is seen. As a topical medication, Tretinoin or Retin A remains a mainstay for the treatment of blackhead. Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A and works by increasing cellular turnover and reducing the “stickiness” of the sloughed cells. It therefore helps expel the plugged material and return the pore to normal. However, in its pharmaceutical strength, Tretinoin can be a tad irritating to the skin; often causing redness and peeling. A more forgiving concoction that works just as well is the Super Helper exclusive to The Sloane Clinic. Apart from Tretinoin, it contains soothing ingredients such as aloe vera gel and aqueous extract of Calendula, Thyme and Sage leaves.
Chemical peels such as glycolic acid and Jessner Peel are another trial and tested treatment to minimize pore size and the formation of blackheads. Although effective, peels might result in redness and flaky skin for a couple of days.
“If you are not prepared for the downtime of chemical peeling, the Q-switch NDYag laser is a great alternative to treat open pores and blackheads,” says Dr.Toby Hui from The Sloane Clinic. “Laser peel popularized by the Koreans consists of applying a carbon mask which infiltrates the pores evenly. With the subsequent application of laser energy, the carbon mask is activated to shrink pores by encouraging collagen growth and maximal skin renewal.”