5 Blackhead Removal Tricks that Actually Work
No pimple is pleasant to deal with. However, blackheads have got to be one of the most annoying blemishes to banish — and the worst part: they always return.
Blackheads, medically known as open comedones, are pores filled with sebum, dirt, and dead skin cells. Sitting at the surface opening of the pore, this oily mixture gets oxidized by air causing tiny black dots to appear.
Before you squeeze ‘em (which will only make matters worse), try one or more of these blackhead removal tricks finally blast away those stubborn black dots.
#1: Exfoliate with Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), is a wonder ingredient for blackheads. Oil soluble, salicylic acid deeply penetrates the pores and oil glands to gently remove the buildup of gunk, excess oil, and dead skin cells — and ultimately unclog the pores.
Since blackheads are caused by clogged pores, this chemical exfoliant will keep your pores clear, aiding in both treating and preventing blackheads. Salicylic acid boasts both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties so it’s the perfect active ingredient for treating blemishes on oily skin and acne-prone skin.
Look for a cleanser formulated with salicylic acid, and use it in your daily skincare routine to keep blackheads at bay. This BHA works on a range of breakouts, including blackheads, whiteheads, and pustules. You can also look for it in other skincare products such as face masks, toners, and serums if you’re having a hard time with blackheads.
#2: Try an AHA-Based Treatment
Like BHAs, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are chemical exfoliants that break up the buildup of oil, impurities, and dead cells in your pores. The two most common AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acid. With its smaller molecular size, glycolic acid can be easily absorbed by the skin to provide maximum benefits, making it one of the best AHAs available. That said, lactic acid is one of the gentlest, making it more favorable to sensitive skin types.
AHAs exfoliate the surface of the skin, which will minimize the appearance of your pores and reduce the number of blackheads on your skin. By exfoliating on a regular basis using AHAs, you’ll also prevent these pesky black dots from returning.
You’ll find AHAs in face washes, toners, serums, and even some moisturizers. Include them in your daily routine unless you have sensitive or dry skin, in which case limit your use to 2-3 times a week.
We recommend Rainbow’s GLOW Bundle, which features a face mask + serum powered by glycolic acid and bakuchiol to brighten, smooth, and banish blackheads.
#3: Apply a Retinoid
Retinoids and retinol are vitamin A derivatives that can extremely helpful at combatting blackheads. You’ll find them in cleansers, toners, creams, and acne treatments simply because they’re so effective at treating a range of skin concerns. From fine lines and wrinkles to hyperpigmentation and blackheads, retinol cures all. While retinol is typically associated with anti-aging formulas, it works just as well at treating blackheads.
"Retinoids change the way your skin cells develop from the inside out, to prevent the clogging of pores and acne formation," explains Ife Rodney, M.D., a dermatologist and founding director of Eternal Dermatology in Fulton, MD.
Essentially, retinols work to increase cellular turnover, shedding old cells and promoting new cell growth for clearer, smoother skin. They also make other products in your routine work harder since they’ll be able to absorb better without clogged pores getting in the way.
#4: Steam Your Face
Steam is a simple yet powerful home remedy for dislodging dirt and sebum from your pores. That’s because steaming your face opens up your pores, making it easy to remove blackheads. After steaming your face for several minutes, try removing your blackheads — the DIY way.
Simply take two cotton swaps, gently press them against the sides of the blackhead, and extract the gunk. You can also try draping a warm washcloth over your face, leaving it on for a few minutes, and the proceeding with the extraction. Or even easier: just hop in the shower and let the steam open up your follicles ready for the blackhead removal process.
Now that your pores are open, it’s the perfect time to apply an oil-sapping face mask...no time to mask? Splash your face with cold water to close your pores and prevent the introduction of bacteria.
#5: Slather on a Clay Mask
Clay masks are great for oily and acne-prone skin types. They work by drawing out dirt, oil, and impurities from the skin to ultimately unclog pores. Clay masks are like a detox for your skin. Besides combatting blackheads, they also provide a mattifying effect to the skin by soaking up excess oil.
Another good option is a charcoal-based face mask. Like clay masks, they remove dirt and oil, keeping pores clear and blackheads away. The only downside to charcoal masks is that they can dry out the skin, which is why the derms recommend using them once a week to avoid dryness. Always remember to follow up with a moisturizer and sunscreen post-masking.
Blackhead Removal Treatments to Avoid
When you Google, “How to get rid of blackheads,” a bunch of DIY, often bizarre, and sometimes slightly dangerous options appear. It’s important to handle your blackheads wisely to avoid irritating or damaging your skin.
For starters, we don’t recommend using blackhead extractors — they’re best left to the experts. As for those pore strips you see on all the ads, they can work but they often don’t penetrate deep enough, making them less effective. Toothpaste is another DIY remedy to avoid, as it’s too drying on the skin, as is baking soda formulations.
Most importantly, don’t pay attention to everything you see on TikTok. Always check with your derm (or do thorough research) before trying a blackhead removal trick for yourself.
If blackheads are bugging the heck out of you, try one or more of the above blackhead removal hacks. Backed by science and dermatologist-approved, these tricks will bust those pesky black dots in no time!