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Many acne sufferers struggle with blackheads. Blackheads are oxidized dead skin cells that have plugged up your pores.  As a teenager, I used to think that blackheads resulted from dirty skin. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Blackheads and whiteheads occur because your skin cells are not turning over as efficiently as they should. Rather than having old skin cells slough off into the environment, they get stuck in your pores.

It’s important to understand what causes blackheads, because that will also help you to understand how you can treat them. Since blackheads are essentially a plugged pore, treating blackheads involves unplugging the pores, so to speak.

One of the most effective ingredients for increasing skin cell turnover and for unplugging pores is salicylic acid. You can find this acid in a number of over the counter acne washes. However, the best way to treat blackheads is to leave the salicylic acid on your face. One company that makes a great leave-on salicylic acid products is Hydropeptide. Their 5x Power Peel Daily Resurfacing Pads (order with code ‘Doctor-Ip and save!) contain a blend of acids, including salicylic l acid, that you wipe onto your skin after washing. You then apply your moisturizer right on top of that. This helps fight breakouts all day long. For the more mature woman, who is also worried about anti-aging, their Redefining Serum (order with code ‘Doctor-Ip and save!) contains a blend of anti-aging antioxidants as well as the blackhead fighting power of salicylic acid.

Another powerful blackhead preventing/treating product is topical retinoids. Like salicylic acid, retinoids prevent clogged pores by promoting skin turnover. However, this medication is much stronger than salicylic acid and must be used sparingly. A pea-sized amount to the face nightly is the maximum amount of product that should be used.  Previously, you were only able to get a retinoid with a prescription from a dermatologist. Now, the gentlest retinoid we have available can be purchased over the counter. It is called Differin 0.1%

Lastly, for more stubborn whiteheads and blackheads you may want to consider chemical peels. Chemical peels contain higher concentrations of acids than what you can find in over the counter acne products. The acids found in the peels will literally dissolve the plugs that are causing your blacksheads and white heads. No plugs, no whiteheads.  There are a number of peels available, so it’s best to see a dermatologist to find out what peel would be best for your acne.

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