How to Prevent Blackheads, According to a Dermatologist

September 14, 2022
Mary Honkus
By: Mary Honkus | by L'Oréal
person holding la roche posay bottle

If you experience black dots on your face, whatever you do, don't pick them! You might assume it’s a speck of dirt, but it’s probably a blackhead. These common blemishes — which look like tiny black dots on the skin — are a type of acne that appear when pores are clogged. To learn how to treat and prevent blackheads from coming back, we spoke to Dr. Jeannette Graf, a New York-Based board-certified dermatologist and consultant. Keep reading to learn how blackheads differ from other types of acne and find product recommendations for your skincare routine that prevent blackheads from forming.

What Are Blackheads?

Blackheads are a common type of acne that form when pores become clogged on the skin’s surface. They typically appear on the face around the nose and chin, but can also be found on other parts of the body including the back, chest and arms.

Though similar to your run-of-the-mill pimple, there are few defining factors that differentiate blackheads from whiteheads. “Both can appear in the same places on the skin and pop up after a plug develops in the follicle,” says Dr. Graf. “A pimple however is deeper in the pore, while a blackhead is on the skin’s surface. They differ from whiteheads as they are open pores versus closed ones that are clogged with oil and dead skin cells.”

How to Treat and Prevent Blackheads

Because blackheads are milder than other forms of acne (like nodules or cysts), Dr. Graf says that they’re relatively easy to treat and prevent. “I recommend finding products that contain ingredients like retinol and salicylic acid to treat blackheads,” she says. “Exfoliating with AHAs and BHAs as well as incorporating clay or charcoal masks into your routine can also help prevent them.”

One acid is powerful alone, but even stronger when paired with its friends. The La Roche-Posay Effaclar Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Serum uses salicylic acid (a BHA) alongside glycolic acid (an AHA) and lipohydroxy acid (a derivative of salicylic acid) to gently exfoliate skin without overwhelming it to the point of dehydration. In fact, it’s gentle enough for preventative daily use. 


If your blackheads tend to come and go as they please, try using a spot treatment like the CeraVe Acne Control Gel to clear clogged pores. Though spot treatments are known to dry out the skin, we like that this one is formulated with a special MVE technology to keep the affected area hydrated throughout the day. Although the cocktail of salicylic, glycolic and lactic acids is working to unclog pores and exfoliate your skin, you won’t be left with dry or flaky patches.

To prevent blackheads from cropping up again, integrate the Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask into your weekly routine. Made with both kaolin and bentonite clays, the mask acts like a magnet to absorb excess oil and clear out lingering impurities from the skin while visibly minimizing the look of pores. Though clay masks are known to be drying, the aloe in this formula helps to effectively soothe and moisturize the skin so you can put your best face forward.



Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

Read more

Back to top