Little black dots that crop up around the lips are no insurmountable acne problem—these blackheads are the direct result of clogged pores. You can prevent and get rid of blackheads by cleansing your pores of debris and letting oil flow freely.
When pores overproduce oil, the oil gets backed up inside the pores and mixes with dead skin cells, which become unable to shed. Whiteheads occur when a layer of skin grows over the clogged pore. Blackheads, however, turn black because of oxidation—the oil and dead skin cells are exposed to air at the top of the pore and darken.
Pore strips can make blackheads appear less noticeable; these are available at any beauty supply store or drugstore. One side of the paper strip has a mild adhesive that binds to pore debris. After wearing a strip for 10 to 15 minutes, you peel it off of the skin, and some of the blackheads get pulled away along with it. This fix is only temporary, though, since it only removes the dark upper layer of the blackhead. Eventually the oil in the pores resurface and turn into blackheads again.
Comedone extraction may be more effective than pore strips. It’s better performed by a professional esthetician or dermatologist, but you can do it yourself with a comedone extractor, or pore extractor. Found at any beauty supply store, this thin metal tool features a looped end that helps make blackhead removal much less damaging to the skin than popping with fingers alone. Here’s how to do it:
- Wash the lip area with a gentle cleanser and pat skin dry.
- Apply an alcohol-free toner on the skin around the lips, avoiding the actual lips.
- Place a warm, damp cloth over the lip area for 2 to 3 minutes, then pat the skin dry.
- Sanitize the comedone extractor with mild soap and warm water. Make sure your hands are clean as well.
- Hold the end of the comedone extractor over the blackhead, then press down and pull forward simultaneously to remove the debris.
- Cover the ends of your fingers with clean tissues and press gently on the sides of the blackhead to remove any remaining debris. Do not apply too much pressure, or else you may cause broken capillaries and scarring.
Keep your pores as clean as possible with regular cleansing and exfoliating.
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser to remove makeup every night before you go to bed.
- Apply a light moisturizer to the skin around your lips. Avoid heavy creams.
- Blot the area periodically with blotting paper to remove excess oil.
- Exfoliate once or twice weekly with a gentle scrub.
Lipsticks and balms often contain pore-clogging ingredients, such as D&C Red dyes or thick emollients. These contribute to blackhead formation. Stick with noncomedogenic lip products.