David B. Reath, MD
Knoxville, TN (865) 450-9253
HKB Knoxville Staff

The Blackhead Whisperer Speaks: How to Control Them for Good

One of the most fun parts about working at our office is seeing Christy Ledford’s patients come to the front desk, absolutely glowing, after she works her magic in the skin care room. With eight years working as a Licensed Aesthetician, Christy has a wealth of advice on the do’s-and-don’ts of great skin. 

So when we asked her how to get rid of annoying blackheads (one of life’s most enduring questions) it turns out she has a lot to say. We now call her “The Blackhead Whisperer”.

How not to fight blackheadsWell, we all know blackheads can be one of the most stubborn things to treat, let alone completely get rid of. I do have some good suggestions, but let’s start with what I see all the time that does not work and go from there.

Pore strips work poorly.
It can be really tempting to reach for pore strips to solve your blackhead issues. When you peel them off and see all the little black dots sticking to the strip, it’s darn impressive and really feels like you are making progress in eradicating them. I hate to ruin that sense of satisfaction, but you’re probably doing more harm than good with the strips.

The main ingredient on the strips is polyquaternium-37, a film-forming, hairspray type ingredient—so it’s basically a piece of gauze with sticky stuff on it. Ironically the adhesive can get into the pores and cause breakouts and…blackheads. Ripping the strips off, even though it’s fun, can tear skin and cause spider veins to surface.

What you see on the strips is just the top layer of the blackhead, but the blackhead returns because the source of the problem was never corrected. Nothing was done to reduce irritation, exfoliate skin cells, help keep oil flow normal, or reduce the enlarged pore.

Home extractions can backfire.
Doing extractions at home can actually damage and outstretch the pore walls. This creates a “backfire” situation: resulting in more, not less, blackheads.

What you should be doing to fight these pore-pluggers.

There are several ways we can effectively work on these pesky little things, both in the treatment room and at home. Trust me, it will take both. Since it is impossible to completely eliminate blackheads altogether (even Nicole Kidman has them, I swear!), we want to hit it from all angles.

In-office treatments deliver powerful results.

Depending on your other skin care needs, I usually recommend a Hydrafacial MD, Probiotic Youthboost, or Transition Peel to start. All three help loosen plugged pores with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and exfoliating ingredients and make professional extractions easier.

SkinPen Collagen TherapyI can’t say enough good things about the results we’re seeing with the SkinPen, not just on blackheads but also for fine lines, crepey skin, acne scars, and overall skin tightening.

The SkinPen actually penetrates the walls of the pore, which allows the pore wall to remodel and strengthen itself over time. This allows less sebum to build up , which is key in fighting blackheads. Excess sebum is what causes the clogging effect, expanding the pore and making it appear larger.

In a perfect world, a combination of the SkinPen alternating with one of the previous mentioned treatments every 4-8 weeks would be ideal.

Diligently taking care of your skin both day and night will give you optimum results.

Let’s not forget about the most important thing: at-home skin care.

Blackheads tend to run from salicylic and lactic acids, so I recommend a gentle cleanser containing one, or both, of these ingredients for starters. You will be surprised at how a great cleanser can transform your skin. Also, cleansing both night and day is a game-changer, since we sweat and excrete sebum as we sleep.

We also have several wonderful, follow-up products after cleansing that help keep oil and dirt from filling the pores (Let Me Clarify, Blemish Clarifying Complex and Glowbiotics Resurfacing Pads, just to name a few). These are products that help with skin resurfacing to reveal radiant, youthful-looking skin with the appearance of smaller pores.

After you have things under control a bit, you may consider adding one of our heavier-hitting retinols to maintain constant cell turnover and keep the pores as clean as possible.

Since you have gone to all this trouble cleaning out your pores, it’s essential to hydrate properly. The final step: use a good oil-free moisturizer, at least in the areas where you’re fighting blackheads, since oil is the culprit to begin with.

I tell all of my patients to be realistic when trying to treat blackheads and recognize there is a slim chance they will be completely removed. However, when combined with professional treatments and the proper at-home regimen, they certainly can be kept completely under control.

Here are the products that give our patients the best results with links to our online store where you can get them.



Take Control Probiotic Calming Cleanser– Gel cleanser with 2% salicylic acid, peptides and probiotics

L.O.L. Cleanser (Lots of Lactic) – Foamy cleanser with both lactic and salicylic acids

AHA Cleanser- Concentrated exfoliating cleanser with lactic, malic and glycolic acids.

Treatments:Glowbiotics pads

Let Me Clarify Refining Solution- Pore refining gel with exfoliation and peptides

Blemish Clarifying Complex- Daily treatment for oily and problematic skin

Glowbiotics Probiotic Instant Resurfacing Pads The staff and patient favorite!


Break Free Oil-Free Hydrator-  Light calming moisture with probiotics


A Team Retinol + Wrinkle Treatment– Minimizes fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and blemishes

Refinishing Complex-  Accelerates skin cell turnover and regulates pigment
Medical Grade
Skincare Products
Visit our online store.Shop Now



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