Blackheads Basics: How to Treat and Prevent Them (2024)

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Flatter than a pimple and not remotely as pleasing to pop, blackheads are a common facial scourge that seem to plague even the most meticulously cared for complexions (as you may have discovered if you've woken up with one on your face). Some research suggests that blackheads, which are a type of acne, affect nearly everyone at some point in life. Heck, even celebrities with all the skin-care perks in the world get them.

So if your face is filled with little black dots, you're in fine company. But if you'd rather not be part of the club, read on for expert advice on how to get rid of blackheads.

What Are Blackheads?

"Blackheads occur when the baby hair follicles on your face, neck, chest, and back, typically, fill up with the waxy skin oil known as sebum, dead cells, and P. acnes bacteria," says board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon Dendy Engelman, MD. "When the hair follicle gets blocked, it forms a keratin plug known as a comedone," says board-certified dermatologist Tracy Evans, MD, director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology in San Francisco. (Fun fact: a single bump is called a comedo, while multiple bumps are called comedones.)

Blackheads fall pretty low on the acne spectrum (yes, there is one) in terms of severity when compared to cysts, but they are a form of acne nonetheless, says board-certified dermatologist Naana Boakye, MD, and should be treated as such (more on that in a bit). Whereas a whitehead is considered a closed comedone because it has skin covering it, a blackhead is what's known as an open comedone. In fact, the exposure to air is what makes the junk trapped inside oxidize and turn black.

How to Treat Blackheads

Whether you've ever googled: "how to get rid of blackheads on nose" or you're simply looking to get rid of them on the rest of the face, you should be aware that there are two stages to the process, explains Dr. Boakye: blackhead treatment and maintenance. The treatment portion is often most successful when executed chemically with a prescription Retinoid, such as Retin-A, or an over-the-counter option like Differin Acne Treatment Gel ($13, originally $18), which will loosen up the trapped gunk so that it can get exfoliated by the medication. "I love Retinoids because they're not just helpful for acne, they also address fine lines and pigmentation issues," Dr. Boakye says. "But they are a journey. It takes a good six months sometimes to see results, but stick it out."

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Other products to treat blackheads include acids, which are well-known to help address the causes of acne. "I like to use salicylic and glycolic acid a lot. They're both amazing ingredients, and they help to keep your pores clean," Crystal Koro, a celebrity esthetician and founder of in LA, previously told PS. "Keep in mind, you have to remove that dead skin so that your serums and your moisturizers can actually penetrate through versus just sitting on top of a bed of dead skin," Koro says. Some of her favorite products to get rid of blackheads include the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel ($92), the Sanitas Skincare Brightening Peel Pads ($74), and the SkinBetter AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads ($120).

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"Acne is chronic," says Dr. Boakye. "So after you've successfully treated your blackheads, you'll want to continue to maintain what you've achieved." This is the second step in your treatment regimen.

For the maintenance part of your routine, Dr. Boakye recommends focusing on barrier protection to bolster the overall health of your skin. This can be achieved by using a gentle cleanser daily and following with an oil-free moisturizer like CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion ($12). Dr. Engelman also likes introducing an exfoliating peel into the picture once a month for maintenance to de-gunk and reduce the visibility of pores.

And always, always use oil-free sunscreen, such as MD Solar Sciences Mineral Moisture Defense SPF 50 ($43), during the day, whether you're treating or maintaining.

Should You Extract Your Blackheads?

Going to town on your blackheads with dirty fingers is not advised — "It can lead to infection or new breakouts," Dr. Engelman says. But there are ways to get rid of blackheads at home. (TL;DR: skip the extraction tool and turn to cotton rounds to help you squeeze out debris, making sure to keep the area clean before and after.) An aesthetician or dermatologist can also do the deed so that you don't injure your skin, putting you at risk for postinflammatory hyperpigmentation or erythema (redness).

— Additional reporting by Ariel Baker and Jessica Harrington

Didi Gluck is a PS contributor.

Ariel Baker is the assistant editor for PS Beauty. Her areas of expertise include celebrity news, beauty trends, and product reviews. She has additional bylines with Essence and Forbes Vetted.

Jessica Harrington Jessica Harrington is the senior beauty editor at PS, where she writes about hair, makeup, skin care, piercings, tattoos, and more. As a New York City-based writer and editor with a degree in journalism and over eight years of industry experience, she loves to interview industry experts, keep up with the latest trends, and test new products.

Blackheads Basics: How to Treat and Prevent Them (2024)


How do you get rid of blackheads and prevent them? ›

To prevent blackheads, try tips such as:
  1. Wash your face when you get up, before bed, and after you sweat.
  2. Put non-abrasive cleaners on your skin gently, using your fingertips. ...
  3. Use alcohol-free skin products.
  4. Avoid the sun since some acne medicine can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays.
  5. Shampoo oily hair regularly.

Why am I suddenly getting blackheads? ›

Blackheads are a type of acne vulgaris, or hormonal acne. The most common cause is oil gland over-production, which can happen during hormonal shifts, such as puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy. Blackheads can also form when hair follicles are irritated or when dead skin cells do not shed regularly.

What skincare prevents blackheads? ›

Using products with salicylic acid and retinoids may help prevent blackheads. Read on for more products and an example daily skin care routine gentle enough for people with sensitive skin.

What are the steps to get rid of blackheads? ›

How To Remove Blackheads At Home?
  1. Step 1: Start With A Clean Face. Before you make a nose dive into the pore-party, it is imperative that you start with clean skin. ...
  2. Step 2: Scrub Away. ...
  3. Step 3: Steam Time. ...
  4. Step 4: Use A Blackhead Removal Tool. ...
  5. Step 5: Post Extraction Care.
Feb 6, 2024

How to draw out a deep blackhead? ›

Deep blackheads should be removed by a medical professional — usually a dermatologist or medical aesthetician. They use a small tool with rigid metal loops on the ends (blackhead or comedo extractor) to apply even pressure to your blackheads.

How do I permanently get rid of blackheads on my nose? ›

Learn how to remove blackheads with these tips:
  1. Opt for salicylic acid. “My go-to treatment for blackheads is recommending a salicylic acid wash once a day,” he says. ...
  2. Use an alpha or beta hydroxy acid cleanser. ...
  3. Try a retinoid. ...
  4. Make sure you exfoliate. ...
  5. Chemical peels. ...
  6. Microdermabrasion. ...
  7. Extraction. ...
  8. Don't pick at your skin.
May 21, 2023

How to remove blackheads in 5 minutes? ›

Mix half a tablespoon of toothpaste with one part of salt. Rub this scrub on your nose, leave for five to ten minutes, and then gently scrub your face to remove the blackheads. This helps get rid of blackheads effectively.

Should you squeeze blackheads? ›

1.1 Squeezing blackheads does not treat the root cause Blackheads are naturally quite elastic and difficult to remove, so squeezing blackheads is only a temporary solution and does not treat the root. If you squeeze a blackhead with your hands, you can accidentally stretch the pore, causing the pore to enlarge.

How to remove blackheads with vaseline? ›

Clear Your Skin and Ideas on How to Remove Blackheads
  1. How to Remove Blackheads. Just like acne, there are treatments for blackheads but things can take time. ...
  2. Don't Touch Your Blackheads. ...
  3. Wash Your Face Twice a Day. ...
  4. Keep Your Hair Clean. ...
  5. Try Over-the-counter Acne Products.

How to remove blackheads with toothpaste? ›

Mix some salt to the toothpaste and apply the blend to your affected skin. You can use a soft toothbrush for applying the paste to your facial skin. Allow the blend to sit on your skin for at least ten minutes, and then scrub it lightly using a toothbrush.

Do blackhead strips work? ›

Do pore strips actually work? Essentially, yes. "They work and you can visibly see that they do work in terms of taking the clogged pores out," Tzu said. "But they work to a limited extent." They likely won't remove all of the blackheads that you're seeing (especially if you're not applying the strip correctly).

What dissolves blackheads fast? ›

Use Products With Salicylic Acid

One go-to ingredient for eliminating blackheads is salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that increases cell turnover and unclogs pores, says Saedi.

How do blackheads get so full? ›

Blackheads form when a clog or plug develops in the opening of hair follicles in your skin. Each follicle contains one hair and a sebaceous gland that produces oil. This oil, called sebum, helps keep your skin soft. Dead skin cells and oils collect in the opening to the skin follicle, producing a bump called a comedo.

How to get rid of blackheads overnight? ›

To help blackheads disappear by morning, Dr. Bank recommends a two step process: Use a pore strip first and follow by applying a salicylic acid gel before bed. If you have blackheads on your cheeks, be gentle.

How do you permanently get rid of blackheads naturally? ›

Home remedies for blackheads are green tea, tea tree oil, salt scrub or sugar scrub. Green tea helps lower the oil production on your skin while tea tree oil can stop the growth of bacteria. The salt or sugar scrub exfoliates your skin and removes the dead skin that is clogging the open skin pore.

How to remove nose blackheads naturally? ›

10 Easy Home Remedies to Get Rid of Blackheads
  1. Sugar And Honey Scrub.
  2. Ground Coffee And Coconut Oil.
  3. Egg Whites And Tissue Nose Strip.
  4. Oatmeal, Yogurt And Orange Peel Face Scrub.
  5. Lemon, Honey And Sugar.
  6. DIY Pore Strips To Remove Blackheads.
  7. Honey, Sugar And Milk.
  8. Tomato And Lemon Juice.
May 10, 2021

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