Beauty Clinic: First aid for bothersome (bridesmaid) blackheads


Q. My teenage daughter is about to be a bridesmaid. Her skin isn't bad but she has blackheads on her nose, which make her very self-conscious. Can you suggest a way of getting rid of them and the best sort of concealer/foundation for the event?

 A. GP and cosmetic doctor Rabia Malik, who has a special interest in skin health, explains that ‘blackheads are the result of sebum being produced by sebaceous glands, which darkens when it comes in contact with oxygen in the air.  They are most commonly seen in those with oily skin and adolescents, when sebum production is higher.’

‘There are two main issues to address,’ she continues. ‘Firstly, reducing sebum production and, secondly, cleansing the skin effectively so there is no residual sebum left in the pores to cause blackheads.’

Sebum production is often related to hormone balance, which is hard to control with teenagers. ‘Keeping skin well-hydrated can help,’ says Dr. Malik. Teens are often swayed by marketing towards harsh products that strip the skin of sebum. Paradoxically, this can send the sebaceous glands into overdrive to redress the situation by producing more sebum, which is not what you want.

Skin experts agree that the best option is a salicylic-based cleanser. (Salicylic acid comes from willow bark; the botanical family is called ‘salix’.) These have ‘fantastic pore-cleaning abilities’, according to pharmacist Shabir Daya of Victoria Health (see his comprehensive feature on blackheads here’.

We like this explanation from beauty expert Alice Hart-Davis, the mother of two daughters. ‘Salicylic acid can weasel its way into the pores and decongest the oily blockage of trapped sebum in a way that no other ingredient can.’ Alice suggests trying Nip+Fab Purify Salicylic Fix Gel Cleanser/£9.95 for 145ml.

Other options: the Yes to… range for blemish prone skin includes Detoxifying Charcoal Cleanser for Combination Skin, which is 97% natural and contains a bunch of goodies including salicylic acid/£8.99 for 147ml. Derma E Acne Deep Pore Cleansing Wash/£15 for 175 ml, contains an Anti-Blemish Complex of natural ingredients including salicylic acid and tea tree.

Facial scrubs are popular with people with problem skins but ‘must be done GENTLY!’ emphasises Alice Hart-Davis. ‘The temptation is to scrub away the problem but that is a very bad idea, have some mercy for your poor skin which is trying to provide a barrier between you and the outside world, and when you use a scrub, twice a week, think of it as ‘polishing’ your skin rather than scrubbing.’ Alice formulated Good Things skincare when her daughters were in their teens. It includes Pore-Fectly Clear Face Scrub/£4.99. There’s also a companion Face Wash with willow bark (salicylic acid), which is in stock/£4.99 for 150ml.

Dr. Nick Lowe’s acclenz range includes salicylic acid, niacinamide and eucalyptus to cleanse, strengthen and normalise skin. He suggests using Deep Action Blemish Serum daily/£40.83 for 50ml, and Deep Down Clearing Mask/£25 for 50 ml, as directed.

 Topical retinoids can also help. But, as with all retinol type products, they can sensitise skin so please only use them three times a week and only at night. Dr. Malik suggests trying Medik8 Retinol 3TR/£27.95 for 15ml

For intractable blackheads, Dr. Lowe suggests considering Differin Cream, a prescription product which is now available online via Boots Acne Online Clinic.

The temptation to extract blackheads with a mechanical extractor – or a needle! – is best resisted. ‘It can leave marks and irritation,’ explains Dr Malik. Pore removal strips may help but need to be used with caution so skin is not pulled in the process, and should not be over-used, she warns. The old favourite of steaming your face over a bowl of hot water, with a towel over your head, opens pores, making blackheads easier to remove by gently (that word again – GENTLY) pressing either side with a tissue.

Finally, make up – the fun bit! ‘In terms of concealer and foundation for blemish-prone complexions, mineral-based products are better for skin health,’ says Dr Malik. She favours bareMinerals, which is available nationwide. Visit their website,, for a Store Locator. We recommend your daughter asks a bareMinerals consultant for help with products and how to tips then has several practice sessions before the Big Day.