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How to Get Rid of Blackheads: 11 Ways to Get Clearer Skin and Beat Breakouts For Good

Oily skin? Blemish-prone skin? There’s a good chance you’ve had to deal with those pesky, tiny dots on your skin too. But worry no more because we’ve rounded up how to get rid of blackheads for good!

How to Get Rid of Blackheads

Blackheads tend to constantly creep up on your chin and nose even after all the oil congestion-busting products and treatments you used. 

So we decided to get to the bottom of it all. Read on for our rundown on why you get blackheads and some great advice and tips on how to get rid of them in the safest, most effective way possible. 

What’s the Deal with Blackheads?

Blackheads are a milder type of acne, appearing like dark pigments on open bumps on the skin.

Their black appearance makes it easy to assume that blackheads are due to dirt buildup on your pores. But that isn’t quite the case. But excess oil or sebum and dead skin are the main culprits. 

Quick Facts About Blackheads

They might not be painful, but you will be painfully aware if you have blackheads because you can usually find not one but several of them.

  • Blackheads are not caused by trapped dirt but by oxidized melanin. 
  • They are not painful but visible on the skin because of their dark color.
  • Blackheads are not inflamed like pimples.
  • They are not infected and won’t cause pain or any discomfort. 
  • Blackheads are not contagious and will not spread to other people through skin-to-skin contact.

What Causes Blackheads?

Hair grows from the follicles in your skin pores, and underneath lies the sebaceous glands that produce an oily, protective substance called sebum. When the pores become plugged with sebum and dead skin cells, it creates a bump called a comedo

While most of these acne lesions are closed, blackheads have open pores, allowing air to interact with the clogged dead skin cells and sebum oils. So what happens is that they get oxidized, forming the blackhead as we know it: dark pigments on the skin, although sometimes they appear yellowish. 

Several factors make you susceptible to having blackheads:

  • Skin Type: Those with oily skin are more prone to developing blackheads because their skin produces excessive pore-clogging sebum. 
  • Hormones: Fluctuating hormones, especially a significant increase in androgens, make one prone to blackheads because it leads to increased sebum production. It makes those with health conditions like premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) more likely to have blackheads. 
  • Genetics: Those with larger pores usually have more problems with blackheads. 
  • Cosmetics: Blocking skin pores with cosmetics or thick, oil-based products gives you a higher chance of having blackheads. 

Other factors that can clog pores, such as heavy sweating (think athletes), tight clothing like hats, shaving (which opens the hair follicle), and high humidity and grease in the air, can cause blackheads. 

How Can You Get Rid of Blackheads?

Fortunately, as far as skin blemishes go, although they are frustrating to see, blackheads are among the easier to get under control. 

Build a Consistent Skin Care Routine

But beware! Don’t extract blackheads using your fingers (or worse, nails) might be incredibly satisfying, but it can traumatize your skin when done wrong. It can lead to more problems than dark spots on your skin:

  • The problem can get worse. For example, if you can’t remove the entire blackhead and have managed to push a part of it further into the skin, it can cause painful irritation
  • It can cause inflammation that might eventually lead to scarring. 
  • It can cause blackheads to get bigger or even spread.

So, what do you do about it?

6 Ways to Treat and Manage Blackheads

Again, don’t pop your blackheads, or any type of blemish for that matter. Instead, follow these tips to help clear your blackheads and help stop more blackheads from forming instead. 

1. Exfoliate to Remove Dead Skin Cells

Number one on our list – exfoliate your skin! If you haven’t been religious with exfoliating, it’s time to start now. Spending a few minutes in your skincare routine to exfoliate goes a long way in helping remove dead skin cells and clean any clogged pores. Exfoliants also help eliminate excess sebum and any product buildup on your skin. 

And with the oily skin and clogging problems taken care of, you can reduce blackheads. Cleansing skin brushes or a sonic brush, paired with a gentle cleanser, is an excellent natural exfoliator you can use in the shower. The sonic action of the skin brush is great for facial cleansing as it can gently exfoliate the skin, loosens the buildup, and unclog your pores. Thus, getting rid of and preventing any more blackheads. 

Enzyme exfoliator peels are another good option against blackheads. They typically include ingredients like pineapple and papaya. And besides helping clear your skin from blackheads, this type of exfoliator smells great. 

2. Try Salicylic Acid

If you’ve tried looking for acne treatments, you’ve probably stumbled over salicylic acid. And this ingredient does wonder in treating blackheads too. 

Salicylic acid (SA) is a type of BHA (beta-hydroxy acid), a gentle chemical exfoliant that dissolves oily sebum, diving deep into the layers of the skin and effectively unclogging the pores. 

Salicylic acid boasts anti-inflammatory properties, which is extremely helpful if you’re experiencing other comedogenic breakouts. And with regular use, salicylic acid can also prevent blackheads from forming. 

Besides BHA, AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids) is another option if you prefer chemical exfoliation over harsh scrubs. When choosing products for treating blackheads and acne, keep looking for ingredients like glycolic acid. 

Overall, both alpha and beta-hydroxy acids are classic derm favorites, and there are plenty of over-the-counter skincare products, both lotions, and cleansers.

3. Try other Nonprescription Medications to Unclog Pores

There’s no single way to treat or remove blackheads that will work the same way for everyone. Hence, it’s good to have options so you can find which ones will work best for your skin.

Some nonprescription medications you can use for an acne-prone skin include:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: You can find this ingredient in several over-the-counter acne treatments, usually in the form of a face wash or leave-on gel. Benzoyl peroxide is a spot treatment that targets surface bacteria that often make acne worse. While it’s effective in clearing the skin,  dryness is a common side effect. If you have highly sensitive skin, choose products with less concentration or, better yet, pick a wash formulation as they are less irritating to the skin. 
  • Azelaic Acid: If you have blackheads and other blemishes, azelaic acid is effective in killing microorganisms on the skin and reducing any inflammation or swelling. Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring substance in various grains like rye, barley, and wheat and is present in many acne treatments.

4. Relax with a Mask On

Face masks are a person’s go-to favorite for many of us. But did you know that relaxing at the end of a long week with a mask on, and preferably a glass of wine, can do so much for achieving a blackhead-free skin?

You heard that right! Face masks are one of the super effective blackhead treatments you can try. If you have oily skin, clay masks, particularly kaolin clay-based face masks, are your best friends. Besides drawing out dirt and impurities from the skin, kaolin clay masks also balance the skin’s natural oils, giving your pores some major detox!

Besides clay masks, charcoal-based masks are also great for removing dirt and sebum from within your pores, clearing out any blackheads in the process. 

But don’t get too over the top. You only need to treat your acne-prone skin with a face mask once a week. Any more than that, and you risk excess dryness in your skin, and that’s another problem for another day. 

5. Make Sure to Hydrate your Skin

Although oil is a great contributor to blackheads, it doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of any oils in your skin to minimize blackheads. Unfortunately, that is not the case because this is what will happen: A lack of oil will cause your skin to produce more of it. 

Do you know what happens then? More breakout!

Overly dry skin will cause it to produce excess blackhead-causing sebum. And that’s why it’s essential to keep your skin’s moisture balanced (versus nonexistent) to remove existing blackheads. 

The trick is figuring out the best product to hydrate your skin, depending on your skin type. But overall, make sure that the moisturizer you’re using is non-comedogenic. Meaning it won’t cause comedones or clog your pores, which is the cause of blackheads in the first place. A moisturizer with hydrating ingredients like squalane oil or one that features niacinamide and salicylic acid is great for visibly reducing blemishes. 

6. Apply Topical Retinoid

Topical retinoids are another excellent way to treat and manage blackheads. They are vitamin A derivatives, often called vitamin A acid or retinoic acid, and are usually the first-line treatment for stubborn blackheads. 

Retinoids work by unclogging the pores and removing blackheads. What’s more, they also speed up your skin cell turnover, promoting new cell growth and collagen production and also shortening the lifespan of any other acne forming in your skin. Not to mention, retinoids also help tighten enlarged pores and lighten any hyperpigmentation. 

Overall, it’s heaven-sent if you are dealing with breakouts in addition to blackheads. And you have options for over-the-counter retinoid products or prescription retinoids. 

5 Natural Blackhead-Busting Remedies

How about at-home treatments for blackheads? Can you get rid of blackheads using only natural ingredients?

You Don't Need Blackheads Medically Reviewed

If going natural is your jam, a few proven home remedies can help banish blackheads and clear up your complexion. 

1. Try Baking Soda + Water

Baking soda is such a kitchen staple, but you might not realize that it works like magic in busting blackheads out of your skin. A simple baking soda paste works as an exfoliant that can remove dirt, dead skin cells, and oil from your pores. 

What’s more, baking soda can neutralize any pH imbalance on the skin. You need to mix about two tablespoons of baking soda with an equal amount of water, mix to make a paste out of it, then massage it to your face. Leave the baking soda face mask on for 5-10 minutes before rinsing your face with warm water.

This mixture can dry out your skin, so don’t forget to moisturize afterward. 

2. At-Home Exfoliation with Sugar

Another one of the cheap but most effective natural blackhead treatments is a quick DIY exfoliator. The ingredients? Brown sugar, lemon juice, and honey!

Sugar scrubs are perfect for scrubbing away the dead cells on the surface of the skin, minimizing clogging problems that can lead to blackhead formation. 

It’s simple, really. Make an at-home scrub by mixing a tablespoon of brown sugar, a tablespoon of raw honey, and two tablespoons of lemon juice. Mix them before applying them to the blackhead-prone area of your face in a circular motion. 

Treat your skin in a 5-minute massage using the sugar scrub before rinsing off and applying moisturizer. 

3. Apply Tea Tree Oil for Clearer Skin

For years, many people have taken advantage of the wonders of tea tree oil to treat different skin ailments. And one of the most common uses for tea tree oil? Clearing acne and other skin blemishes!

But besides its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help treat acne, tea tree oil is also effective in managing open comedones. In addition, it’s a facial cleanser that can help rid your pores of any clogging that causes blackheads. 

Skincare tip: You can use several products like creams or soaps with tea tree oil. Or, mix a drop of tea tree essential oil with a tablespoon of non-comedogenic carrier oil (avoid comedogenic oils like coconut oil) and use it to massage into your clean skin. 

4. Green Tea Mask Prevent Clogged Pores 

Green tea has long been used for its number of health benefits. But did you know it’s excellent for your skin too? 

The antioxidant-rich green tea isn’t just for drinking. It’s also for making an excellent tea mask to treat blackheads. A teaspoon of powdered green tea (or dry green tea leaves) and water make a potent paste that can help reduce your skin’s sebum production. 

Use this treatment 2-3 days per week, and it will leave your skin sans blackheads in no time. 

5. At-Home Pore Strips: Milk + Honey

Another at-home blackhead treatment on our list is a pore strip made of ingredients you probably already have in the kitchen: milk and honey. 

Both ingredients are super skin-friendly and can help remove those dreaded blackheads. In addition, honey has antibacterial properties to help treat other acne and skin problems, while milk boasts lactic acid. And lactic acids are effective in getting rid of excess oil and dead skin cells clogging your pores. 

Here’s how to make DIY pore strips: Mix equal parts of raw, organic honey and whole milk, then microwave for at least ten seconds. Let it cool before applying it over your skin, then place a cotton strip on top of the layer. After 15 minutes, you can start gently peeling off the cotton. 

Final Thoughts – How to Get Rid of Blackheads?

Blackheads are one of the most common skin conditions that affect many people, mostly adolescents, although adults are not safe from it. 

Hopefully, the tips and ways on how to remove blackheads and improve acne we’ve outlined can help you. 

But also remember, regardless if these techniques work in treating your blackheads or not, it’s important to remember that they are normal. Having blackheads doesn’t necessarily mean your skin is dirty unless you actually skipped washing your face last night!