How To Get Rid Of Blackheads

June 28, 2016

Blackheads are a common skin concern, even for people who don’t suffer from acne. If you’ve noticed those little brown dots on your nose, cheeks, or forehead, you’ve probably wondered how to get rid of blackheads quickly — and chances are, you’ve tried pore strips to get the job done.

There’s something utterly satisfying about using pore strips to remove blackheads—peeling it off to reveal all the tiny blackheads and sebaceous filaments that have just been extracted from your nose. The payoff is too good (even if it is a little gross).

But do pore strips really work to get rid of blackheads?

In short, no. To fully understand why, it’s helpful to know a little bit more about what causes blackheads. These little black dots crop up (particularly on the nose) due to a buildup of excess sebum, the natural oil produced by the skin, in the pores. When pores get clogged, sebum breaches the skin’s surface and then oxidizes and turns dark, leaving them visibly enlarged.

It’s tempting to reach for one of those infamous strips to get rid of blackheads. Why not? Seeing blackhead remnants stuck to it post-extraction is one of life’s simple pleasures—and also cold, hard proof it worked, right? Not quite. It’s a short-term solution for removing blackheads, at best. According to the experts at Beautypedia, you may have successfully removed the top layer of blackheads, but the root of the problem—the excess oil—remains, and they’ll probably just recur.

Repeatedly using pore strips to remove blackheads may even rob the skin of natural oils and lead to dryness, which can ultimately exacerbate breakouts. To help them adhere to skin, these products are typically coated with polyquaternium-37—a film-forming agent that’s also used in hairsprays, which could penetrate the pores and cause irritation.

How to Get Rid of Blackheads

There are a number of different ways to get rid of blackheads. To remove blackheads individually you can try an extraction tool, which manually squeezes blackhead-causing dirt, oil, and debris out of the pores. (Follow the instructions on the package carefully to avoid damaging the skin.) 

The best way to actually get rid of blackheads and keep your skin clear is to regularly deep-clean the pores. A bentonite clay mask (like this one, exclusively available at Thrive Market) is one of the most powerful weapons to remove blackheads. Try this regimen once a week (or every other week if you have dry skin):

  1. Steam: The first step to removing blackheads is to open up your pores, and the easiest way to do that is with steam. All you need to do is boil some water then transfer it to a ceramic or glass bowl. Drape a towel over your head and hold your face about six to eight inches above the steaming water, allowing it to soften and open up your pores so that the dirt and debris trapped inside is more accessible. Do this for 10 minutes.
  2. Mask: Mix equal parts (about 1 to 2 tablespoons each) bentonite clay powder and apple cider vinegar. If your skin is especially sensitive or dry, you can also mix the clay with water instead of vinegar. Apply to oily areas, focusing on the T-zone (the forehead, between the eyebrows, the nose, and the chin), and leave on for 15 to 20 minutes until it dries. You’ll notice that as the clay dries, tiny holes will start to form around your pores; that’s because the mask is drawing impurities that form blackheads out of the pores, which the steam has already opened. Rinse the clay mask off entirely with cool water and a gentle washcloth.
  3. Moisturize: The clay can be quite drying, so when you’re done with the mask, hydrate with a replenishing, nourishing moisturizer and top it with a skin-balancing oil like rosehip. The oil will help seal in the moisture.

Ingredients to Help Get Rid of Blackheads

Certain skincare products, when incorporated into your daily or weekly routine, can help get rid of blackheads and even prevent them from forming in the first place. 

  • Regular exfoliation can help slough off dead skin, dirt, and debris that could clog pores and lead to blackheads. Try a product with alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic and lactic acid, beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid, or a retinol-based product. Acids can be found in cleansers, serums, masks, pre-treated wipes, and lotions.
  • Look for products like masks and cleansers that contain charcoal, which may also help draw impurities out of the pores.
  • Try physical exfoliation in the form of a gentle scrub or skin brush. Note that your facial skin is delicate, so start slow, and look for exfoliating scrubs with a very fine-grain texture.
  • To prevent your skin from overproducing sebum, maintain a healthy moisture barrier. You can do this by choosing a moisturizer that contains ceramides or hyaluronic acid.
  • Look for lotions, makeup, and sunscreens that are labeled “non-comedogenic,” meaning they are designed not to clog pores.

Getting rid of blackheads, just like any form of effective skin care, is a long game. Rather than acting on an impulse and expecting instant results, have some patience and treat your skin right. You’ll beat those blackheads in the end.

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

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Dana Poblete

Dana's love for all creatures under the sun (bugs, too) drives her in her advocacy for ethical eating, environmental sustainability, and cruelty-free living. A natural born islander, she surfs when she can, and writes, always.

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