Everyone, at some point in their life, has Googled “how to get rid of blackheads.” Even though all of us have them, most acne advertisements work very hard to make us feel bad about them. Blackheads are a natural part of healthy skin, and nothing to be ashamed of. Still, it’s not a bad thing to want clearer skin. On the bright side, blackheads don’t require any fancy prescriptions or creams. A few simple changes to your skincare routine or occasional DIY facemask should do the trick. Although it’s not possible to stop blackheads from ever forming again, there are several possible answers to the question of how to get rid of blackheads.
Everyone gets them, so we’ve come up with some tips for how to get rid of blackheads.
In this article, we will explore a few of those options, as well as explain exactly what blackheads are and why they differ from other acne. We’ve also included a do-it-yourself section and answered some of the most popular questions about how to get rid of blackheads.
A word about oil (and water)
Okay. We’ve established that your best weapon to get rid of blackheads and enlarged pores is to get rid of dead skin cells that trap oil in your pores and reveal the newer skin beneath. So how do you make sure that new skin’s ready to face your world?
It seems like common sense to not ‘add oil’ when you’re trying to remove oil.
But not everything is what it seems.
Properly-balanced creams and lotions don’t ‘add oil’ to your skin – they help reduce it to the right level, where it protects your skin without going overboard.
Light, deep-penetrating carrier oils allow far better nutrient distribution than water-based products. They put the good stuff right where it needs to be for your skin to use it, instead of wasting away on the surface unabsorbed. Water-based skin care products do, of course, have their place (they’re part of the METRIN system, too). They’re best used as cleansers and moisturizers since they make poor delivery vehicles for nutrients.
Skin care myth # 3,467 (busted)
Washing your face in cold water to prevent large pores doesn’t help. It can even make it harder to remove the excess oil that’s causing the issue.
While we’re on the subject of water… the whole “wash your face with cold water to avoid opening your pores” thing? It’s a total crock. Pores can’t “open” or close at all – they’re hair follicles, not eyeballs, and don’t have any muscles to move them (it’s the muscles below the follicle causing your hair to stand on end when you get a chill). They’re always open, except when they’re clogged, and hot water does a much better job of removing excess oil.
What are pores, anyway?
Simply put, they’re the skin surface openings for hair follicles. Imagine a tiny tube going through the first few layers of the skin. This one tube is a hair follicle, one of many hair-making factories inside the skin. The opening of each tube at the surface of the skin is a pore. Think of it like a volcano rim — a particularly apt metaphor for acne sufferers.
We all have pores, but sebaceous glands, found on either side of the follicle, determine how large they are. These glands are often mistaken for sweat glands, which are separate and not responsible for the pores that we see.
Sebaceous glands produce sebum, a waxy substance that protects our skin from the outside world. The more oil that a sebaceous gland produces, the larger the pores will be.
Sebum is also the main culprit in acne. Keep in mind that oil is not all negative. As we age, our oil production slows. This leads to dry skin and wrinkles. Those with very active sebaceous glands (read: bigger pores) will experience less dryness and likely fewer fine lines later.
As is typical with skin issues, the most effective treatments are provided by dermatologists. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things you can do at home as well.
Making smaller pores a reality
Now knowing what causes large pores, it is easier to understand why certain purported cures are less than effective. Creams can help smooth out the skin surrounding pores, but effective at-home treatments like retinoids, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid can help to treat the underlying issues that cause large pores.
If you choose to go the clinical route, there is no shortage of options available. From laser treatments to microneedling, professional treatments can truly target and eliminate enlarged pores.
The following products are recommended by skin experts to help fight enlarged pores and acne blemishes.
Paula’s Choice SKIN PERFECTING
Containing 2% BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid), Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting is a gentle exfoliant that unclogs pores, fights blemishes, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Maximum Strength Acne Pad
An essential product for anyone with oily skin, Neutrogena Rapid Clear Maximum Strength comes with 60 pre-moistened salicylic acid pads. Using them helps prevent breakouts, remove blackheads, and slough off dead skin cells.
Epicurean Discovery Glycolic Lotion Face Peel
Epicurean refines pores while accelerating the release of dry, dead skin cells. This peel’s low concentration of glycolic acid won’t cause flaking or irritation, making it a good choice for those with sensitive skin.
Mario Badescu Glycolic Skin Renewal Complex
This cream contains a blend of papaya extract, vitamin A, and glycolic acid. After cleansing and toning, gently apply Mario Bodescu’s Renewal Complex to rejuvenate dry, dull skin.
LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer
In addition to keeping follicles clear and stimulating collagen production, LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer repairs damaged skin. Equally important, the lotion does not leave any oily residue, nor does it contain artificial fragrances or parabens.
Clarisonic Mia 2, 2 Speed Facial Sonic Cleansing Brush
The Clarisonic Mia 2 effectively removes makeup, dirt, and sebum. This gentle exfoliator comes with two different speed options: Speed 1 for delicate, sensitive skin, and Speed 2 for daily cleansing.
As an affordable alternative to the Mia 2, the Wonder Puff is a sponge that can be used to remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and dirt from the face. Rather than using your hands, a more hygenic approach is to apply your favorite cleanser on the sponge and lightly brush your face in a circular motion.
- Gill, H. S., Denson, D. D., Burris, B. A., & Prausnitz, M. R. (2008). Effect of microneedle design on pain in human volunteers. The Clinical journal of pain, 24(7), 585-94. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917250
- Although all acne is technically inflamed, blackheads are the least inflamed kind of acne
- Acne treatments that help get rid of pimples or whiteheads are not very effective for getting rid of blackheads
- Salicylic acid is a popular acne-fighting ingredient that can help reduce blackheads due to its exfoliating and drying nature
- Sulfur is another possible blackhead treatment that works by gently drying the skin
- A retinoid may help get rid of blackheads for some people, but it could also lead to dry, flaking skin, and potentially more acne
- Lemon juice is a good DIY answer for how to get rid of blackheads, but it can be harsh and may cause discoloration in dark skin
- You should never use toothpaste or baking soda as acne treatment because both are too harsh and have been proven to be ineffective
Salicylic Acid: Breaking Up Blackheads
Salicylic acid is one of the best tips we can give for how to get rid of blackheads. It can break up blackheads you currently have, but it can also prevent future blackhead breakouts. It does this through two basic mechanisms: first, it slows down the skin’s production of new skin cells, and second, it breaks up the sebum and dead skin cells clogging pores causing blackheads. Although salicylic acid is definitely a good treatment option, there are a few things you’ll want to look out for.
If your skin becomes red or irritated, or if the salicylic acid stings, it may be drying out your skin too much. To avoid this, start with the lowest concentration of salicylic acid available. Over-the-counter you can often find products with concentrations as low as 0.25% and as high as 2%. We do not recommend starting at 2%, no matter how bad your blackheads are. Another way to avoid drying out your skin is to start by using salicylic acid every other day, then slowly increasing to once a day, then incorporating it into your morning and nighttime routine.
There’s a common acne myth that if an acne treatment product stings or burns, then it’s working, but this is definitely not true. If it’s stinging or burning, it is hurting your skin and causing irritation. It’s important to avoid irritating the skin because irritation always leads to inflammation, which is the root cause of acne. That’s why we do not recommend those spinning scrubbing brushes that are in style at the moment. They only serve to further irritate the skin.
Exposed Skincare is gentle enough to take care of your skin, but strong enough to clear it too.
There are plenty of acne products out there that include salicylic acid, but be sure to check the concentration level before buying. We recommend Exposed Skincare’s line of products, because they combine a responsible amount of salicylic acid with our next blackhead-busting ingredient: sulfur.
Do-It-Yourself Solutions On How To Get Rid Of Blackheads:
If you prefer to take care of your acne with home remedies, or if you just enjoy making fun facemasks, there are a few DIY options we like to recommend for how to get rid of blackheads. Although lemon juice is much too harsh to use on a regular basis, it can be an effective way to break up stubborn blackheads if used sparingly.
Lemon juice usually fits into the category where people think it’s working because it burns, but it is actually harming the skin. For this reason, if you choose to use lemon juice, we recommend only applying it to particularly oily areas with blackheads. Applying lemon juice to dry, sensitive, or even just normal areas will cause irritation, inflammation, and more acne.
It is usually best to squeeze a fresh lemon, since there are often preservatives and other ingredients in pre-packaged lemon juice that could irritate skin. You shouldn’t need much juice, maybe a quarter of a lemon at most. Squeeze the juice into a small bowl, then use a cotton ball to absorb the juice. Gently dab it on the affected area, being careful to avoid dry parts of the skin. Generally we recommend you allow the lemon juice to set for an hour, but if your skin begins to itch or burn, rinse it off immediately. Rinse in warm water to open up the pores and remove the sebum and dead skin cells clogging the pores, then pat dry with a towel.
Used sparingly, lemon juice is one possible answer for how to get rid of blackheads.
Although lemon juice is an effective option for those with fair skin, it is generally not recommended for those with dark skin. The excess of vitamin C in lemon juice when applied to dark skin can cause discoloration, like white spots or light patches. We don’t have another DIY ingredient that removes blackheads as well as lemon juice, but we do have a powerful way to prevent acne in general: honey.Honey works well with all skin tones and skin types, and it can make a decent impact on reducing acne. That is because honey has anti-inflammatory properties. Although it does not possess qualities that can help breakdown or remove blackheads, it can help prevent the inflammation that causes blackheads in the first place.
Honey can be applied directly to the skin without any added ingredients, but make sure you’re using pure honey. Some studies show that Manuka honey is the most effective when treating acne, but others show that all honey has potential benefits for acne, so for now, we recommend you choose the option that best suits your budget. Either way, make sure you check the ingredient list. The only ingredient should be honey. If there are any others added, like fructose or water, then it will be significantly less effective in treating acne. Apply the honey to your skin and let it set for 20 minutes to one hour. Then remove the honey by rinsing with cool water and pat dry.
Some studies suggest that ingesting honey can also reduce inflammation. If applying honey to your skin is a bit too messy, or you just like the taste of honey, eating a spoonful each day or adding some honey to your tea in the morning could also help reduce inflammation and reduce acne.