Blackheads Explained by Jeff Murad


Jeff Murad, VP of Product Development, is often asked about his discoveries while developing new formulas and products. His team and himself discover new perspectives and use creativity to find solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges. The results are always rewarding and educational. Today, he shares with us the story behind the creation of our Blackhead and Pore Refining Duo in Murad’s Pore Reform line:


“Before I go into the story it may help to give a brief background on blackheads. Like whiteheads, blackheads are a type of acne lesion. The main difference is blackheads are not covered by a layer of skin as whiteheads are – hence the term open comedone. In the absence of this layer of skin, the sebum (the natural oils produced by our skin) within a blackhead-affected pore is exposed to the air around you, causing the sebum to oxidize; oxidized sebum turns dark brown or black – hence blackheads’ unique appearance.

Step 1
The methods of removing blackheads are well known (I am sure you have all tried several), so developing the first step in the duo, the Blackhead Remover cleanser/mask was relatively straightforward. The unique makeup of blackheads, however, makes any removal method short-lived since as soon as a plug is removed from a pore the sebum being produced underneath becomes exposed.  That exposed sebum quickly oxidizes and the never-ending blackhead cycle continues. While I didn’t know how we would solve this problem, I never doubted that the New Product Development team at Murad was up to the challenge.

Step 2
A second step was obviously needed to interrupt this cycle and it would likely involve antioxidants that inhibit sebum oxidation. The big question was which antioxidants? The variety of antioxidants on the planet is virtually limitless, each with unique strengths. Some, such as Vitamin E, function best in fatty tissues, primarily combating lipid peroxidation, while the unique polyphenol antioxidants found in grape seed extract seems best suited to inhibit oxidative damage of the skin’s collagen and elastin fibers.


Before embarking on a trial to evaluate a formula’s performance on a panel of people it is best to have significant confidence of its efficacy.  We develop that confidence through past performance history with, or extensive research on, the ingredients used in the formula. But in the case of our search for a blackhead inhibiting antioxidant, we had countless options and no experience or data that would give us a clue as to which antioxidant would be the best choice to inhibit oxidation of human sebum. Narrowing down our antioxidants options to test seemed an overwhelming task.

The solution
We purchased about 2 kilograms of human sebum from a biomedical research company (yes, there are actually companies that do this). We then broke it down into equal segments and added a measured dose to each of four dozen or so separate test tubes. We then added a sample of a different antioxidant (pomegranate, Vitamins A, C, E, Acai, Green Tea etc.) to each, left them exposed to the air, and closely monitored them for a few days to see which, if any, of the antioxidants prevented oxidation –and to what degree. We also kept one sebum-filled test tube sealed and did not add anything to it as a positive control – a sample of healthy, unoxidized sebum to compare our results against. After a few days, almost all of the sebum in the experimental test tubes had darkened to some degree, with two exceptions: a coconut derived compound and a pseudopeptide form of carnosine, an endogenous antioxidant naturally created within the human body’s fatty tissues.

The Discovery

Feeling confident that we had found two ingredients whose primary antioxidant activity worked on preventing sebum oxidation, we decided to take the test one step Blackhead and Pore Clearing Duofurther. We added a combination of the two winners to a sample of sebum that had already oxidized. To our surprise and excitement, the brown, oxidized sebum gradually became white again. Not only did these powerful antioxidants prevent sebum oxidation in our laboratory experiment, but they actually reversed it as well. By infusing the 2 ingredients into a delivery system that creates an antioxidant-rich reservoir within pores, we found this benefit also translates to the sebum on people’s skin.

This discovery lead us to the first ever treatment that not only clears your pores of blackheads (with the always fantastic Blackhead Remover mask+scrub in one), but also keeps them clear.  When used after clearing your pores with the Blackhead Remover, our Pore Refining Sealer creates a barrier between the oxygen in the air and the fresh sebum within your pores, preventing new blackheads from forming.”



More on Murad’s Blackhead and Pore Clearing Duo:


Article by Jeff Murad, VP Product Development

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