By Dr. Agnes P. Olszewski
BONUS: Egg White & Lemon Mask
Contrary to popular belief, whiteheads and blackheads are a form of acne. Making things very simple, acne may be divided into two categories: pimples & cysts and whiteheads & blackheads. Blackheads and whiteheads, known as comedones, aren’t of course as blatant symptoms of acne as pimples or cysts but certainly need to be addressed. They also can be more numerous on the face and shoulders.
Acne is not only the most prevailing skin problem, but it also affects people of all ages, both genders and all ethnicities. Over 85% of teens and young adults, and 35% to 40% of adults suffer from this condition. Actually, during the last ten years, the average age of an acne sufferer increased from 20.5 to 26.5 years old.
Acne results from inflammation caused by too much skin oil (sebum) clogging the skin pores. More specifically, the sebaceous glands and dead skin cells known as corneocytes build up in the pores, and because the sebaceous material contains a lot of P. acnes bacteria, the surrounding skin now gets infected creating a red bump known as a typical pimple. The medical term for this red bump is an inflammatory papule.
Blackheads, also known as open comedones, are hair follicles that have a wider than normal opening. They are filled with plugs of sebum and dead skin cells and have undergone a chemical reaction resulting in the oxidation of melanin. This gives the substance in the follicle the typical black color.
Whiteheads, known as closed comedones, are follicles that are filled with the sebum but have only a microscopic opening to the skin surface. Since the air cannot reach the follicle, the material is not oxidized, and remains white.
How to Care for Blackheads and Whiteheads
The keys to caring for acne are persistence and patience. There is no overnight cure for acne, including blackheads and whiteheads. Using a treatment that will prevent acne from forming is the only real way to get rid of these types of skin problems. This process can only happen from the inside out, with possible help from some topical cleaning agents that can help control bacteria and remove excess dead skin cells that in consequence, if used regularly, may help improve follicle health. Beware of cleaning products that claim that they treat acne; they may ONLY help to diminish the symptoms. Some of these cleaning products can be used in conjunction with, but not instead of, a treatment that actually removes the causes of acne.
Treating and preventing acne is the only real way of treating acne long term since it is focused on helping the body to regulate secretion of the sebaceous glands to produce less sebum. To further improve the results, such a treatment should be accompanied by good skincare practices that limit the inflammation resulting from mixing sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria.
Acne is not caused by eating certain foods or by “dirty” skin, so even though proper skin hygiene and living a healthy lifestyle may be helpful, they don’t treat acne. To the contrary, excessive scrubbing does not help, and can even make the skin more irritated and inflamed by creating abrasions that further invite bacteria or just simply provoke the skin to protect itself by producing more skin oil.
Skincare Regimen for Blackheads and Whiteheads
The best cleaning routine for comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) includes twice-a-day cleansing with a mild, non comedogenic cleanser, regular use of chamomile astringent, occasional use of witch hazel to dab on the effected areas and application of skin masks to aid in the removal of excess sebum and dead skin cells that contribute to the buildup of oil in the follicles.
Frequently used methods of blackhead removal include squeezing with fingers and the use of a metal extractor or suction. While these methods may be successful at removing the blockages, they also may cause scarring and permanent damage of capillary blood vessels (small blood vessels that “ feed” the skin with blood, nutrients and oxygen), and skin tissue damage that, over time, can deplete the skin of natural oils and speed up the skin aging process. Additionally, many facial cleansers and scrubs (especially those that include fatty or oily substances or utilize beads, crystals, parts of grated nuts or other cleansing and/or exfoliating agents) may actually cause more damage by depositing clogging agents onto the skin as well as making the skin more susceptible to bacterial infection through unwanted abrasion.
Egg White & Lemon Mask
Lemon juice is a powerful ingredient in eliminating oil and bacteria, clearing away blackheads, tightening pores and even lightening sun and hyperpigmentation spots. Egg whites brighten and tighten the skin making it feel lifted, so your pores will be smaller after this mask. Egg whites also aid in clearing up old breakouts. This mask should be applied after you’ve cleaned your face, and should not be used if you’ve already applied a mask the same day.
1 egg white (separate the yolk and the white completely)
1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice (organic if possible)
Use a small bowl, and thick cosmetic brush made of natural hair (no plastic brushes please!). For better application, choose a flat and broad bristle. Wash the brush before use. Clean after using with hot water only (no soap).
Using an eggbeater or fork, mix the egg white and lemon juice well into a smooth consistency in the bowl.
Apply on a clean face with a brush, covering your entire face; avoid contact with eyes and eyelids. If the mask gets into your eye, rinse well with warm water immediately.
You may apply two layers of the mix if you have enough of it.
Relax for 20-25 minutes.
You will know that the mask is ready to remove when you feel it is stiff and dry on your face. Peel the mask from your face with your fingers.
Finish with a chamomile astringent.