9 Tips for Removing Blackheads
Are guilty of squeezing your skin in order to get rid of blackheads? Let us be the first to caution you to stop that terrible skin-care habit before you cause any damage. Picking at your skin and squeezing blackheads is not only a bad way to approach blackhead removal, but it can also cause scarring and other acne issues down the road. Interested in learning how to get rid of blackheads the right way? Ahead, find blackhead removal tips that are both safe and effective.
What Are Blackheads?
Acne blemishes come in many forms — pimples, papules and whiteheads, to name a few — but for many of us, no blemish is as bothersome as a blackhead. Unlike pus-filled whiteheads and pimples, blackheads (as the name implies) appear as tiny black dots on the skin’s surface. The bumps can look different on each individual and can be slightly raised or flat with the surface of your skin. With blackheads, the clogged pore remains open to the air around it and when that air comes in contact with the dirt, oil and other impurities, it turns to a darkened color.
What Causes Blackheads?
Blackheads, also called open comedones, are caused when excess oil mixes with impurities on your skin’s surface — think: dirt, makeup, sweat, dead skin cells — and clogs the hair follicle or pore. Because the comedone remains open to the air, this clog oxidizes and gets its tell-tale black coloring. There are many factors that lead to clogged pores, and subsequently blackheads, including excess oil, hormonal changes, genetics, not exfoliating enough, poor skin-care habits and more.
They can pepper your entire complexion but especially your nose, forehead and chin. No matter where you have blackheads one thing is for certain — they are hard to get rid of and oh-so-tempting to touch.
What’s the Difference Between Whiteheads and Blackheads?
According to dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, whiteheads and blackheads are similar, but not to be confused as one in the same. “Whiteheads and blackheads are cousins,” he says. “Blackheads have a wide opening, so you can see the dark, oxidized clog, whereas whiteheads have a tiny opening so they just look more like skin-colored bumps.”
Sebaceous Filament or Blackhead?
If you see clogged pores on your nose that are more gray-ish or tan in color, those may be sebaceous filaments, often confused with blackheads. Sebaceous filaments are hair-like formations that help with the flow of oil in the pore. If you have an oily complexion or enlarged pores, they can be more apparent and even look like clogged pores. However, unlike blackheads, you can’t get rid of them.
What Not to Do With Blackheads
Blackhead removal is a tricky subject. On one hand, it can feel satisfying to use your fingers to squeeze blackheads out of their pores (after all, pimple popping videos go viral for a reason). But on the other hand, squeezing your face can cause some serious complexion consequences including scarring, infection and worsening the blemish. Simply put, don’t pick at your skin. Even if it seems like a quick squeeze is all you need to clear your pores and remove blackheads, avoid the temptation. Instead try one of our tips, ahead.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads
Blackhead Removal Tip #1: See a Dermatologist
The best way to remove blackheads is to see a dermatologist, as they are equipped with the tools that make extractions and blackhead removal possible in a sterile environment.
Blackhead Removal Tip #2: Stick to a Skin-Care Routine
A major contributing cause of clogged pores is a lack of proper skin care. Every morning and night, be sure you are cleansing your face to remove excess oils, impurities and product buildup. Staying loyal to your skin-care routine is the best way to get results, see clearer skin and avoid getting blackheads in the first place.
Blackhead Removal Tip #3: Use a Clay Mask
Incorporating a deep-cleansing clay mask into your routine a few times a week can make a lasting impression on your overall complexion, as well as target blackheads. “Clay has both skin-calming and oil-absorbing properties, making it useful both for patients with inflamed or sensitive skin, as well as oily or acne-prone skin,” says Dr. Zeichner. Luckily, there’s plenty of detoxing clay masks to choose from. We like Acne Free Kaolin Clay Detox Mask With Charcoal.
Blackhead Removal Tip #4: Try Microdermabrasion
Board-certified dermatologist Karen Sra, MD, recommends mechanical removals, like microdermabrasion, to remove blackheads. Microdermabrasion is a series of non-invasive treatments that exfoliate the skin for a softer, more even-looking complexion. Microdermabrasion can offer a slew of benefits, including the removal of built-up dead skin cells.
However, depending on the situation, microdermabrasion might not be the best solution for you. Consult with your dermatologist first to see if it’s a viable option.
Blackhead Removal Tip #5: Exfoliate Your Skin
If microdermabrasion is out of your budget or not right for your skin, you can still exfoliate with potent products. “At home, I recommend daily exfoliation with a good cleanser specifically formulated for acne-prone skin,” says dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD. “Cleanse with a Clarisonic brush two to three times a week to supplement.” We like the AcneFree Oil Free Acne Cleanser.
Blackhead Removal Tip #6: Reach for Salicylic Acid
One of the most well-known FDA-approved acne-fighting ingredients is salicylic acid, and both Dr. Bhanusali and Dr. Zeichner recommend using it for blackheads. “Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that exfoliates dead cells from the skin's surface,” Dr. Zeichner says. “This essentially keeps your pipes clear and allows oil to freely flow out of the follicles.” The results can make your skin feel smooth, too. “Salicylic acid is great for softening the skin and giving you that tight, firm feeling after cleansing,” says Dr. Bhanusali. “However, salicylic acid can be very drying, so I usually have my patients with mild to moderate acne use it two to three times a week.”
Blackhead Removal Tip #7: Reach for Topical Retinoid Creams
In addition to salicylic acid, many people can experience positive results on blackheads by using retinol products. For those who aren’t familiar with retinol, it’s a form of vitamin A that promotes rejuvenation and the growth of new skin cells. You can find this ingredient in a number of over-the-counter topical acne products, be it gels or creams. If you’re just beginning a retinol routine, look for a low-percentage option like SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3.
Blackhead Removal Tip #8: Don’t Forget to Moisturize
No matter what skin type or concern you have, moisturizing is a non-negotiable step — especially when incorporating acne-fighting products that target blackheads. These products can be notorious for stripping the skin of its natural oils, prompting even more issues beyond blackheads. Reach for non-comedogenic moisturizers that can lock in your skin’s moisture and won’t clog pores. If retinoid creams are too drying for you, layer them with a rich moisturizer formulated for your skin type.
Blackhead Removal Tip #9: Have Patience
Remember to have patience. Acne, whether you have just a few blackheads or hard-to-treat cystic acne, doesn’t go away overnight. Having patience is key when trying to get rid of stubborn blackheads. In the meantime, consider covering up blemishes with non-comedogenic foundations and concealers to blur the appearance of imperfections.