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How to reduce the appearance of blackheads

‘Blackheads’ – sound like a scary face monster, don’t they. Actually, we like to think of blackheads as rather interesting things, a totally natural result of cell processes and hormone activity. We’re a big fan of celebrating imperfections, but we also understand blackheads are not who you want stealing your thunder. The good news is, the appearance of these troublesome hangers-on can be reduced by choosing the right products and getting into some good face care habits. We’ll share some of our troublesome skin wisdom and help you feel like you’re becoming a skin-whisperer – with a complexion that feels refreshed, cleaner and clearer.

Man applying night lotion to his face

What is a blackhead?

We love a biology lesson. Sitting comfortably? Pilosebaceous units. Yes, we said pilosebaceous units. Or in plain English, skin pores that contain a hair follicle and a sebaceous (oil) gland, and there are about 800 of them per square centimetre on our faces. Blackheads are small, slightly raised, blackish bumps on our skin, which tend not to be painful unless they become infected. We get blackheads when our skin pores (pilosebaceous units) become blocked with excess oil, bacteria and dead skin cells – then a plug forms over the top. This plug can be white, grey or black. Even though we tend to think of blackheads as having more dirt trapped in them, not true, the plug turns black because the pore is open and the air has oxidised the oil and skin cells.

What causes blackheads?

Pores that contain hairs and sebaceous glands are in fact all over our body, but blackheads are mostly on our face because there’s the higher concentration of sebaceous (oil) glands around our t-zone (forehead, nose and chin). Blackheads sometimes pop up on our chest, neck and bum too. Cheeky! Sebum (oil) lubricates our skin and keeps it healthy, but sometimes we produce extra sebum, which stretches the pore so it appears larger than normal and creates a fertile environment for blackhead formation.

Our lovely hormones control how much sebum we produce, and it may be no surprise that at puberty, it’s very normal for sebum production to go up 500%. It’s just nature doing its incredible thing. Stress, menstruation and pregnancy can also affect our hormones and sebum production. So, if you experience more blackheads around this time, don’t worry, it’s a very normal fluctuation in the natural processes in your body.

Tips to help reduce the appearance of blackheads

Ready to learn the gentle art of blackhead negotiation? Reducing the appearance of blackheads might be a more enjoyable process than you imagined. You can try these tips on their own or together as a kind of blackhead whispering ritual.

Woman's face

Tip 1 - Open your pores

Get a nice big towel and a big bowl of steaming water or fill up your sink with hot water. Take care not to touch or splash very hot water. Then put your face over the steaming water, pop the towel over your head to keep the steam around your face, taking care it’s not too hot. Do this for 5-20 minutes and your pores will open up and start to release the blackheads.

Hand holding a blackhead remover

Tip 2 - Cleanse

As if tip 1 wasn’t enough fun, this next method using our handy little innovative Blackhead Remover to negotiate with your blackheads. First up, always make sure you either steam your face with a bowl of water for at least 5 minutes or pop a hot flannel over your face for a few minutes. This softens your skin and helps open your pores and extract the blackheaded plug. Ready? Now the super fun bit. Take the Blackhead Remover, a metal tool with a small hoop at the end, make sure it’s clean by washing with soapy water, then pop the hoop around a blackhead and press. Pop! The blackhead should just slip out in a super-satisfying way and you can wipe away with a cotton pad or tissue.

Woman applying charcoal face mask

Tip 3 - Mask

And now for the grand finale. Our Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask. We can’t sing this tingling vegan clay mask’s praises enough – packed with bamboo charcoal from the Himalayan foothills and inspired by Ayurvedic traditions. Fortunately you lot do that for us! Perfect for using after a face steam or just on its own after you’ve cleansed your skin. Leave it on for 10 minutes. Being super absorbent it helps draw out excess oil and impurities, helping to leave your face feeling fresh and looking more radiant.

How to help prevent blackheads?

Women using makeup face cloth

Step 1

Jump in a nice warm shower and splash luke warm water over your face to help open your pores. Or a sink of warm water and a clean Muslin Cloth over your face for a minute or so will do the trick too. (Be careful not to use hot hot water.)

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The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash

Step 2

Next up our delightful Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash, squirt into your hands and run over your damp face, it foams immediately and cleanses blemished skin gently without overdrying. Wash off and pat your skin dry.

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Hands pouring The Body Shop Tea Tree Toner onto cotton pad

Step 3

Now for a cooling wipe over with our Tea Tree Toner on a cotton pad, this helps remove impurities and excess oil.

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Smiling woman with a glass of water

Step 4

Blemished skin needs to be moisturised just like all other skin types, the best way to do this and help prevent blackheads is to use our Tea Tree Daily Anti-Imperfection Solution. Massage 2-3 drops of this clever little lightweight pre-serum over your face, and it will help your skin feel smoother and healthier.

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The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash

"I never knew the real reason for a toner until I used this product. I use it after washing my face with The Body Shop tea tree cleanser and it leaves my skin feeling so smooth and clean."

– Ruksadhil

About Tea Tree Skin Clearing Mattifying Toner

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4 tips to help prevent blackheads from happening

The Body Shop Himalyan Charcoal Purifying Clay Wash

Tip 1: Use a face mask weekly

It makes sense really doesn’t it – a gorgeous relaxing face mask with the ability to help absorb impurities, unclog pores – that might just help reduce the chances of the blackheads. Enter our highly sought-after Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Clay Wash, enriched with bamboo charcoal, famed for its absorption properties, with faithful assistance from our Community Fair Trade tea tree oil. This smart, multi-tasking face mask simply reveals clearer-looking skin, so you can just wash them away when you rinse your skin, helping your face get back to its dynamic radiant self. Result.

Camomile sumptuous cleansing butter

Tip 2: Always remove your makeup before going to bed

It’s probably going to be common sense to you smart bunch, but just in case. Fact 1 – bacteria plays a part in the formation of blackheads. Fact 2 – when you’re out and about on your daily business, whether as a city-slicker or a country-bumpkin, your beautiful face is picking up grime and bacteria. If you add makeup residue on top of that… no-brainer right? Yes, your grubby mug needs a jolly good clean at night, including proper makeup removal.

We know at the end of a long day, time is of the essence. So for a faff-free all-in-one cleanse, try our Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil. Simply smooth over your face and then add a splash of water, see makeup (even waterproof varieties) wash away. It’s beautifully gentle, helping leave skin feel thoroughly cleansed and fresh. If you prefer a good creamy clean, try our luxurious Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter. Scoop it out and massage away all impurities and makeup. Then wet our Muslin Cloth and wipe away for a deep clean. It leaves your skin feeling so silky soft and pure, you’ll dive into bed with a halo over your head.

tea tree 3 in 1 wash scrub mask

Tip 3: Exfoliate

Nature is brilliant isn’t it. Every day our face creates and sheds thousands of skin cells with us barely noticing. But for those of us who want to shimmer with radiance, those dead skin cells need a helping hand to exit the face area to reveal our ready-and-waiting bright new skin cells. Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells, usually with a granular formula. Our incredible Tea Tree 3-in-1 Wash Scrub Mask can be used every day to gently exfoliate or once to twice a week as a face mask. When massaged onto the skin it helps unclog pores and politely asks those blackheads to pack their bags, leaving skin feeling refreshed and beautifully smooth.

Smiling woman with a glass of water

Tip 4: Make your diet work for you

Drink lots of water

As we well know drinking at least 2 litres of water a day helps keep skin hydrated and healthy-looking. But does it have a blackhead prevention capability too? Well actually it does. Dry skin can produce more sebum to compensate for being dehydrated, and an increase in sebum production, as we know, can lead to pores becoming blocked and increase the likelihood of blackheads forming. So get that glass of water filled up, and keep filling it up.

Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A

Now for some super science. Hold on to your hats. Vitamin A is found in vegetables like carrots, broccoli and spinach, and fruits like kiwi, grapes and melon. Vitamin A is known to promote new skin cell growth, and it also helps reduce the production of sebum. So this super nutrient not only helps look after your skin from the inside, it’s also fighting your corner against blackhead formation. So don’t forget your weekly visit to the local fruit and veg shop.

The Body Shop Tea Tree products on shelf

Tea tree oil can help reduce the appearance of blackheads

Ready for some more science and nature? Wondering why our Tea Tree Oil is so unique and works so beautifully with oily skin? Okay, here we go. Tea trees grow across the Southern Hemisphere in Asia, South America, Africa as well as being indigenous to Australia. They have beautiful, fluffy, lime green, needle-like leaves and grow to about two metres high. They’re pretty much the Einstein of the plant world. This geeky tree has generated the ability to produce natural compounds that are reputed to ward off bacteria, viruses and fungi.

While pure tea tree oil should never be ingested, when diluted in a skincare formula it’s the business when it comes to help reduce the appearance of blackheads. Remember those pilosebaceous pores (home to hair follicles and sebaceous glands)? Well, blackheads, as we know, form when bacteria, dead skin cells and sebum build up here and oxidise to form a black plug.

And it’s not just all about being a science geek of a tree, our whole Tea Tree skincare range comes with ethical and environmental brownie points too. It’s infused with Community Fair Trade tea tree oil from Kenya. Here, we’re helping local farmers get a fair price for their harvest, which in turn helps them educate and support their families. Our passionate farming partners hand-harvest tea tree leaves and steam-distil them within 12 hours of picking. This helps us produce a very pure and potent oil to infuse our Tea Tree range with. Watch out blackheads!