The measles that keep measling
July 20, 2010 3:29 AM   Subscribe

I have blackheads on my nose that won't go away. Help!

They 'come out' when squeezed, like a regular blackhead, but then reappear soon after. I've used pore strips, blackhead extractors, and regular masks, but they aren't budging - they also appear on the skin at the 'corners' of my nose as well. I use Origins face wash in the mornings, take off my make-up (a light liquid foundation) with some Clarins stuff that turns from oil to gel with water, and I also have a lotion called Duac my doctor prescribed me for spots elsewhere, but they aren't going away. I also use a light moisturizer. However, they've been there through any changes in skincare so I know it's not anything I'm using. Probably. I've tried a fresh face mask from Lush that seems to be good at calming down mys kin in general but it isn't budging the blockages.

I have a terrible habit of picking at spots so I'd like to know how to get these gone so I can remove the temptation. (By the way, I'm in the UK so 'go to a dermatologist' isn't much of an option - we see our GP for any skin related issues and only get referral for severe rather than cosmetic problems.)
posted by mippy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
I have a similar issue and have found some success with the oil cleansing method, though for some people it works wonders. It also costs next to nothing - all you need is castor oil and another oil, like olive oil, to mix it with.
posted by mdonley at 3:34 AM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

seconding oil cleansing method. It has made a HUGE difference with my blackhead problem. Also, an aspirin mask will help too.
posted by pearlybob at 3:57 AM on July 20, 2010

Duac contains benzoyl peroxide, which is not effective against blackheads because blackheads aren't caused by bacteria; they're caused by an excess of oil trapped inside the pore. Products containing BHA (or, if you cannot use BHA, then AHA) will gently exfoliate the pore lining, preventing build-up that prevents oil from flowing out freely. Paula Begoun's method for handling blackheads has more detailed information.
posted by neushoorn at 4:18 AM on July 20, 2010

Gross question, but is there hair in the blackheads?

My son had this problem, and had fine hairs on his nose. I waxed is nose and it helped make them less obvious.
posted by kidelo at 4:36 AM on July 20, 2010

You want a product with salicylic acid, quite a high % ie nearer the top of the ingredient list than the bottom. This reduces build up of excess oil and thus blackheads. Chances are you'll never be without any blackheads but they will be a lot less. Don't use the product and your lotion one after the other as the active agents can neutralize each other as I understand it
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:06 AM on July 20, 2010

From lots of experience: stop wasting money on the branded posh stuff, and do not buy anything that is advertised on teevee or in women's magazines. Go industrial: 20% salicylic acid. I am not blackhead-free but it diminishes them remarkably, and the day after using it I get ones just randomly giving up and ejecting themselves. Get a large bottle and it will last two years; good value (that place's int'l shipping was totally reasonable, too). Do read the reviews for an idea of what to expect.
posted by kmennie at 5:55 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Retin-A (from the dermatologist) plus BHA exfoliator (I use the 2% lotion) have pretty much completely taken care of my blackheads - which had very persistent. It does take a while (8 weeks ish, I think?) but my skin in general looks really good now.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:15 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, Retin-A gets rid of them once and for all (I only use it once or twice a week and it seems to do the trick, and I did not have to wait 8 weeks to see results).
posted by halogen at 6:50 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I find that benzoyl peroxide based cleansers work better than salicylic acid ones. (xkcd supports this claim.)
posted by Eshkol at 7:48 AM on July 20, 2010

kmennie - I only have posh cleanser because a friend got it me for Christmas, and it is good enough (no need for separate toner!) that I would buy it again. My skin has got a lot better, but I still get these blocked patches. (Sometimes I get things advertised on the TV free at work as I have to test them out - sadly high-end brands don't tend to buy airtime.)

Retin-A is prescription only it seems, but I can always ask.
posted by mippy at 9:05 AM on July 20, 2010

Blackheads are always going to come back. Even people with perfect, blemish-free skin have blackheads on their noses I've noticed. The most you can do is treat them on a regular basis and disguise with makeup.

What I've found to work the best on blackheads is a simple clay mask and regular use of a salicylic acid cleanser. Interestingly, I've noticed that if I leave the cleanser on for a bit longer, like 30 seconds, they seem to just dissipate.
posted by DeltaForce at 10:30 AM on July 20, 2010

Retin-A (or a suitable generic, there are lots out there - the generic name is tretinoin) will definitely work here. If you go to a dermatologist (or even your family physician) with complaints about acne, and if it's really as apparent as you say, then you shouldn't have any trouble getting a prescription.

It's ridiculously safe stuff, quite effective, and apart from the dryness and occasional redness that results, free of side-effects.

If you do get some, be patient. It takes a few weeks for the skin to adjust, and there will be a period where you are peeling a fair bit. That does go away. Even the redness (if you even have that problem) will subside eventually.

Oh -- and get the gel.
posted by rhombus at 10:39 AM on July 20, 2010

Seconding BHA products. I highly recommend Glycolix 10-2 pads (that's a link to SkinStore, but you can get them from a number of online retailers, hopefully ones that don't charge $25 to ship to the UK). I avoid areas of my face that are particularly sensitive and focus on my t-zone. They work really well.
posted by cowboy_sally at 11:11 AM on July 20, 2010

Totally nthing tretinoin cream. I had horrible oily skin issues from as far as I could remember and tried every prescription and OTC treatment under the sun along with obsessive cleaning regimens that left me miserable and convinced I was doomed. Then around college time I found out about Retin A and now I can pretty much freaking forget to wash my face fairly often if I want and be fine. It's become a total non-issue; I never think about my skin. When I do wash it it's just with uber gentle standard stuff like Cetaphil or its generic counterparts.

Start with the weakest one--0.025% IIRC--and in cream, not gel form to avoid irritation/excessive peeling. The key with tretinoin is you absolutely must protect your skin from the sun--as I understand it it speeds up the skin sloughing and regeneration process so that blackheads don't have "time" to form because oil and whatever else is constantly being cleared away, but a side effect is your skin will be more sensitive and the deeper layers will have pretty much NO protection from the sun. You must must must use proper UVA and UVB blocking sunscreen whenever you go out in the daytime, and preferably a hat and sunglasses too. And follow the directions of not applying it right after washing your face (unless you get Micro which apparently solves that issue but I've never tried it so don't take my word on that) and rinsing or washing it off first thing when you get up. To me it seems like overnight it's sloughing the junk underneath off, and rinsing it off in the morning clears away the crap it brings to the surface. If you don't clear it off it'll just sit on top and maybe clog things anyway.

As others mentioned, once it gets things in order--which can take quite some time for some people, months--you may find you only need to apply it every other day, or eventually even just weekly. That's where I am with it right now, now that my face is fine.
posted by ifjuly at 11:25 AM on July 20, 2010

I also meant to mention do not rub Retin A directly into areas of your skin that are currently broken out. It doesn't work that way like a topical healing salve or whatever and may in fact make the healing process worse. Wait 'til things die down a bit in the serious problem areas.

And a little goes a really long way, it's not like OTC spot treatment tube stuff. A pea-size amount for your entire face is often plenty.

With co-pay or whatever you will likely find Retin A costs much, much less than even something like a $5 tube of Neutrogena spot treatment you'd be buying every month. Since you use so little, it lasts forever (seriously, it takes me over a year to go through a tube) and isn't too expensive to begin with.
posted by ifjuly at 11:29 AM on July 20, 2010

This is sort of random, and I apologize if it's not relevant in your situation, but my partner had ongoing acne for a long time and used cleansers and stuff, but then noticed that I pretty much never wash my face. Ever. I get it it wet in the shower, and I dab off make up with a wet towel, but that's it. No soap or anything, etc, and I have decent skin. In fact, when I started washing my skin with cleansers and stuff (because that's what grown-ups do, right?), I actually started to break out. He stopped his cleaning regimen as well and found that his skin actually cleared up, despite the problems he had when he was younger.

Your mileage may definitely vary, but I always wonder if there are people out there who just haven't let their face breath free for a while, and it could be worth giving it a chance.
posted by redsparkler at 11:38 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Again with the Salicylic Acid (mornings) and Retin (Evenings). If you can't afford the script version try ROC Retinol Correxion.
posted by Mertonian at 12:52 PM on July 20, 2010

FWIW. I used Retin-A -- for twenty years -- it does help, but once I found the 20% salicylic acid (I also use a 70% glycolic from the same place*) I never had the Retin-A Rx refilled again.

(I didn't mean to snark on posh/TV stuff so much as say: you want stronger stuff for blackhead hassles, be it Retin-A or XX%-something-acid.)

I'll also throw out that I have seen various dermatologists over the years and never received any really useful advice, just, usually, more Retin-A. A largely unsolved problem, I think.

* The first time I ordered from them shipping to Canada was really reasonable. When I went back to order again a little while ago it had jumped up, and I mailed saying hey, what happened? And got oh, sorry, we'll fix that, and sure enough when I went back to order, it was back to a reasonable rate, so if you're out of the US and seeing a flaky rate, ask. I doubt there's a huge variation in hi-test acne whatever-acid liquids, but I was super impressed with their stuff (and nice packing job, and quick shipping, and very generous sample tossed in one order).
posted by kmennie at 4:03 PM on July 20, 2010

"With co-pay or whatever you will likely find Retin A costs much, much less than even something like a $5 tube of Neutrogena spot treatment you'd be buying every month."

I'm in the UK - all prescription medicines on the NHS cost about $10 regardless of what they are. I have a pre-payment cert which costs me £120 a year as I have to get a couple of meds per month, so anything on top of that is basically free! Hooray for Britain.

It's annoying - I had clear skin until the age of 21, and even slept in my makeup every other day as a teenager because I thought I'd save money on foundation by not taking it off! Now I take care of it and it's congested.
posted by mippy at 3:23 AM on July 21, 2010

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