Why You Should Not Try this Vaseline Blackhead Removal Hack

Experts weigh in on this "blackhead-melting" trick.

In 2018, Korean beauty YouTube star Fei Yang shared a beauty "secret" to clearing blackheads: Vaseline and plastic wrap. In the now-viral video, Yang said it "melted" away her acne.

In the video, Yang first applied a layer of Vaseline all over her face. Then, she placed a few layers of plastic wrap over her nose and cheeks. She left it on overnight and removed it in the morning. With two cotton swabs and her fingers, she removed oil and debris from her pores.

If the technique sounds like it could clog your pores, you would be right. Dermatologists agree that you should steer clear of this "hack."

What Are Blackheads?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), blackheads are a type of acne that appear when pores become clogged with excess oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells. If the pore fills with debris but stays open, you'll see a blackhead. The AADA notes that those black dots you see are not dirt. You should so resist scrubbing them as that will only worsen your acne.

Health was curious if Yang's Vaseline-plastic wrap solution could be effective for blackheads, so we reached out to dermatologists to get their thoughts.

Dermatologists Weigh in on the Vaseline Method

"I would never recommend this method to any patient," San Francisco-based dermatologist William Kwan, MD, told Health. "Vaseline can clog pores and applying plastic wrap is physically occluding the pores. This could cause acne." Dr. Kwan also pointed out that applying plastic wrap so close to your nose while you sleep could be unsafe.

Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, also agreed that Yang's hack could aggravate acne-prone skin.

"In the video, the blackheads she's pointing out truly aren't acne lesions," said Dr. Kwan. "This is normal sebum found in an oilier skin type. These can be easily extracted while in a warm shower by just using gentle pressure from your fingernails."

According to the AADA, sometimes, it's difficult to tell what types of breakouts you have. If you're unsure, a dermatologist can tell you.

How You Should Treat Blackheads

The good news, says the AADA, is that, while getting acne may be inevitable, you don't have to live with it. Thanks to decades of research, several remedies exist to treat acne. Besides determining the cause of your acne breakouts, the right acne treatment can help each type of blemish.

For example, if you have blackheads, you want a treatment that can unclog pores. The AADA advises using a retinoid to unclog pores that turn into blackheads. A dermatologist can prescribe one for you. Though there is one retinoid, adapalene, available without a prescription.

In addition, says the AADA, a benzoyl peroxide wash can help get rid of the excess P. acnes bacteria (the bacteria that causes acne) on your skin.

If your blackheads (and other types of acne) are particularly stubborn, the AADA recommends giving treatment for six to eight weeks to work. In some cases, a dermatologist can perform a blackhead extraction. Prescription-strength acne treatment is another option.

Is Vaseline Good for Your Skin?

That doesn't mean you should dismiss Vaseline, or all petroleum jelly brands when it comes to benefits for your skin. The AADA actually recommends using petroleum jelly for several purposes when it comes to your skin including:

  • Relieving dry skin, including your lips and eyelids
  • Helping injured skin heal
  • Preventing chafing
  • Treating diaper rash
  • Rehydrating nails

However, says the AADA, while petroleum jelly has many benefits for the skin, you should avoid putting it on your face if you are acne-prone, as this may cause breakouts in some people.

The AADA advises that you use only oil-free skin care products, sunscreen, and makeup when you have acne. Remember that acne means that you have clogged pores. To clear acne, you want to unclog those pores. If you apply anything that contains oil, you'll likely clog your pores again. Clogged pores can lead to more breakouts.

Remember that getting rid of blemishes and preventing new ones, takes time. You may need to try different treatments or use the same treatment for 6 to 8 weeks to see improvement.

And of course, if you have questions or concerns, see your healthcare provider or dermatologist for their care.

A Quick Review

A Youtube hack that involves applying vaseline and plastic wrap to your face is said to melt acne. Dermatologists disagree. They say this technique is more likely to clog pores, causing more acne. Worse, the technique can be unsafe.

Several remedies exist to treat acne including blemishes and blackheads such as retinoids and benzoyl peroxide. Speak to your healthcare provider or dermatologist if you have concerns about acne so they can suggest a treatment for you.

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