Those blackheads you're trying to rip off? Turns out they're not blackheads after all.

We’ve never been more obsessed with blackheads. Whether picking our own or watching someone else do the deed, it’s safe to say it’s an addiction and it’s getting more and more of us everyday.

As a result, there’s been a huge craze for at-home blackhead masks and pore strips, that promise to strip away all those blocked up pores and leave us with fresh clear skin.

And of course it doesn’t count unless you share the footage on social media – even if it doesn’t quite go to plan.

But one comment on a blackhead removal video came to our attention:

It prompted us to think - are the blackheads that we've been trying so hard to remove not even blackheads after all? And what are those masks really doing to our skin?

According to dermatologist Dr Michael Freeman, it's actually a common mistake we make with our skin.

"The key difference is that blackheads are an abnormal structure, while sebaceous filaments which you see in your pores are normal structures. Pores can have secretions in them, which is the stuff you see emerge on your pore mask when you rip it off. Those filaments are normally inside the skin and come out in a conveyor belt structure, so they come out slowly," he explains.


Image: Supplied

"With blackheads, that normal biological movement is is interrupted and blocked. The pores get wider and look black as they are filled with dead skin," he says.

And yes, misdiagnosing your normal pores as blackheads could cause problems.

"If you use treatments wrongly, then you could see irritation or rashes. It also concerns me if people start to think that normal structures are abnormal and then get into the thinking that they have to keep them super clean and clear at all times," he says. (Post continues after gallery.)


"They actually provide a barrier and if you remove them completely, this could open up and allow things like dirt and grime to get in deeper to the skin."

So how can you tell the difference?

Dr Freeman says it's important to look at number, size and colour.

"Blackheads are infrequent, there won't be a lot of them. If there are a lot of them, then it's just your normal pores," he explains.

Bad skin habits
Take a closer look at your pores, Regina. Image via Paramount Pictures.


"Look for size too: blackheads are big and irregular, while normal pores are more uniform and similar. Blackheads are also much darker in colour."

According to Dr Freeman, blackheads to need to be removed, but gently. Too harsh a treatment can traumatise your skin and simply cause more problems.

"The issue with the overuse of these masks is they can actually traumatise your pores, and in some people actually cause more acne and blackheads," he says.


"If you don't see any of these symptoms and you use regularly, then that's fine. I'm not going to say you shouldn't use them, but be cautious."

Image: Beauty by Josie K

While you can use pore masks, Dr Freeman says the best way to get rid of blackheads is to use a preparation that dissolves keratin, which is the key protein in the formation of blackheads.

"Look for keratolytic products which range in strength from benzoyl peroxide to salicylic acid and retinoic acids," he advises.

Do you get have problems with large pores or blackheads? What's your secret solution?