Welcome to Beauty In A Tik, where each week we put TikTok's viral beauty hacks and innovative trends to the test.
No dermatologist? No problem, especially thanks to TikTok's skin experts and beauty enthusiasts. Whatever your concern, the app is filled to bursting with smart skincare hacks, tips and tricks. Recently we discovered the only effective way to minimise dark circles and learned how to use a tinkle razor for smooth skin. This week, it's all about nixing blemishes – specifically blackheads.
Wearing face masks for a prolonged period of time as well as hot, humid weather exacerbates clogged pores so it's no wonder more of us are searching for clear skin solutions. While TikTok certainly isn't short of them, one video in particular is going viral which demonstrates how to minimise clogged pores, especially on the nose where they can be tricky to treat. It's all down to Amy Chang aka Bondenavant, who suggests combining two very hardworking blackhead ingredients for the best results.
What are blackheads?
Knowing exactly what causes blackheads is the key to treating them. Consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto says they are small follicles with dilated openings to the skin. Oil and dead skin cells collect in the follicles and eventually cause a blackhead. Dr Mahto adds that the black colour results from the debris within the follicle reacting with oxygen in the air, and while blackheads are more common in those with oily skin, everyone can experience them.
Why has TikTok's blackhead removal hack gone viral?
Considering the damage that can be caused by at-home pore extraction (such as scarring and even infection), it's a big no-no. Squeezing could also push bacteria into your skin, causing inflammation and further breakouts, and if you're a popaholic you'll know that picking can cause red patches and superficial scars (or skin staining) that take a while to fade.
Extraction is best left to the experts but skincare is easily accessible and perhaps a better option for dealing with breakouts. In the viral video, Amy suggests making spot-busting ingredients your friend. Amy lists a number of them, including glycolic acid and lactic acid, but favours two for "magic" results: benzoyl peroxide (an antibacterial ingredient used in acne skincare) and salicylic acid (an acid which exfoliates deep inside pores and follicles to break up the thick mixture of dead skin and oil). Together, Amy says they help to unplug blackheads.
In the video (which has an enormous 252.6k likes and counting), Amy says: "The way I got rid of the clogged pores on my nose was by pairing together an acid that will gently exfoliate the surface with salicylic acid, which is a great acid for exfoliating inside of the pore. I like to use benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid (not together) to exfoliate the surface of my skin and then I pair it with a moisturiser or a serum that has salicylic acid in it — and it's like magic."
Does TikTok's blackhead removal hack work?
While my hormonal acne has subsided over the years, blackheads are a skin gripe I deal with on a daily basis. I'll hold my hands up and admit that I'm a popaholic; there's nothing more satisfying than using your nails to get out all the gunk. But like Amy mentioned, more often than not it causes damage, and I've had to double up on concealer after a popping spree left me with blatant (and painful) red dots.
I'm a skincare obsessive but I've never thought to concentrate benzoyl peroxide on my nose specifically. "Benzoyl peroxide can be used to treat more pus-filled acne spots," says Aimee Piper, skin expert and senior aesthetician at Vie Aesthetics. "On the other hand, salicylic acid is used to exfoliate and cleanse your skin and is great for removing blackheads as it eats away at sebum beneath the skin, to unclog and decongest the pores." While they aren't typically used for de-clogging, Aimee says the two ingredients can work in unison.
Intrigued by the trend, I picked up ACNECIDE Face Wash Spot Treatment Benzoyl Peroxide, £9.99 (a brand which you can buy at Boots and is often recommended by dermatologists) and the new Selfless by Hyram Salicylic Acid & Sea Kelp Pore Clearing and Oil Control Serum, £22. The cleanser (which must be rinsed off so isn't as strong as a leave-on benzoyl peroxide product) can be used once or twice a day and left on for one to two minutes as a targeted treatment before removing with warm water. Because benzoyl peroxide can be irritating on sensitive skin (causing flakiness and dry patches), I used it just once in the morning, three times a week, and followed with a drop or two of the salicylic acid serum. As my skin is prone to reactions, I concentrated both products to my nose only.
After a few days, I noticed my skin start to peel while applying makeup, but there wasn't any sensitivity or redness at all. "Using both products at the same time may cause increased irritation," adds Aimee, "so it would be advised to use them at different times of the day," for example, one in the morning and another in the evening.
Experts say it can take up to 12 weeks to notice a difference when using a new skincare routine and after just under a month, the change was subtle but definitely there. I noticed myself spending less time in front of my magnifying mirror. While the pores on my nose are still relatively large (I blame genetics), there isn't much there to squeeze or extract. To minimise pores and blackheads further, I apply a little concealer (not foundation, which can be oilier in texture) to my nose. I love Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Concealer, £19, which blankets blemishes without the heavy, cakey look or feel.
Are there any side effects of TikTok's blackhead removal hack?
There's no denying benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid make a great team for tackling blackheads but it pays to start slowly, like I did. Acids can also make skin very sensitive to sunlight, so wearing a high factor, broad spectrum sunscreen during the day is a must to protect your skin. As well as this, Aimee suggests not using benzoyl peroxide with retinol, as both can be irritating. "It is important when using these two ingredients to follow expert advice on when and how much to use," says Aimee, so always read the instructions on the label. "Using too much can have adverse effects and create further concerns. Always consult a dermatologist or skin specialist if you are unsure."
In my case, the benzoyl peroxide product I chose was a rinse-off treatment (a lot gentler than a leave-on) and the salicylic acid serum relatively low at 0.5% concentration.
How do you get rid of blackheads for good?
There's a handful of other blackhead-nixing methods to try if this doesn't sound like one for you. Physical exfoliators are popular if you're wary of acids but it pays to be gentle so that the gritty particles don't harm sensitive skin. Try Sand & Sky Flash Perfection Exfoliating Treatment, £33.90, or Frank Body Original Face Scrub, £15.95, a couple of times a week maximum.
Aimee says the key to getting rid of and preventing blackheads or clogged pores is to have an effective cleansing routine (morning and evening) as well as exfoliating. "This will ensure your skin is clean of any bacteria or dirt beneath the skin. Follow with a toner, which will help to rebalance your skin."
Not all experts recommend pore strips but if you're going to give them a go, try Starface Lift Off Pore Strips, £4.99, which are a lot easier to peel off than others I've used. What I'd suggest avoiding? Pore vacuum tools. Risks include permanent scarring, painful bruising, broken capillaries and hyperpigmentation.
Lastly, if you'd rather head to a professional, there's a number of treatments that can help get rid of blackheads and clogged pores, says Aimee, including facials such as the famous HydraFacial: a medical-grade technique that deep-cleans the skin.
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