Blackheads are tiny bumps that appear on the skin when an open hair follicle becomes clogged. They are called blackheads because of their black or dark appearance. Blackheads are a mild form of acne, and they generally appear on the face; however, they may also occur elsewhere on the body, specifically:
Blackheads on the nose are especially common.
Blackheads occur when a follicle (or pore) is clogged with dead skin cells and an oily substance called sebum. Usually, sebum helps protect your skin and keeps it supple and soft. But excess oil and dead skin cells can accumulate in a pore and produce a bump referred to as a comedone. When the skin above the bump remains closed, it is referred to as a whitehead. When this skin opens, exposure to air causes the bump to become black, and it’s called a blackhead.
Some factors may make you more prone to develop blackheads and acne, including:
- Excessive production of sebum
- Accumulation of the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes on your skin
- Accumulation of dead skin cells that may irritate follicles
- Hormonal changes, which may cause the overproduction of oil within the skin, such as during menstruation (period acne), puberty, and when taking oral contraceptives.
You may be able to easily spot blackheads on your skin due to their color. When you detect them, you may find it tempting to push or pinch the black clog or plug out; however, this may result in damage to the skin and unnecessary scarring. Here are some of the proven practices to get rid of blackheads.
To remove blackheads from your face, it’s important to wash your face twice a day. Washing your face after getting up in the morning helps remove any bacteria or dirt that has accumulated on the face during the night. Washing your pillow cases regularly can also help with that.
However, try not to over-cleanse: it may strip the oil from your skin, causing the skin to secrete more oil. Make sure any cleanser you use is noncomedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores.
Wash your face as soon as possible after exercising. This is because sweat may become trapped in your pores and clog them. If you can’t access a sink, use a wipe to cleanse your face.
Exfoliating your face using gentle chemical exfoliating agents is another way of removing blackheads. Regular exfoliation may help in removing excess dead skin that can cause clogged pores. The process of exfoliation may also help in gently removing existing blackheads.
Instead of using harsh scrubs, choose exfoliants that contain beta and alpha hydroxy acids (BHAs and AHAs). These acids help remove dead skin cells gently and allow the penetration of other products into the skin in a more effective and better way. One of the most common AHA that’s used for blackhead removal is glycolic acid.
Retinoids may help in improving cases of severe acne by unclogging pores. Using retinoids may also help in improving the effectiveness of other over-the-counter products by helping them enter the pores.
Look for over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid to get rid of blackheads. Salicylic acid helps with removing blackheads by breaking down dead skin cells and excess oil. Choose a cleanser that contains salicylic acid for your daily routine. You may want to start by using it once a day. When you feel that your skin has adjusted to it, start using it twice a day.
Some people who use non-prescription acne products develop an allergic reaction. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports on products containing either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. If you plan to use a non-prescription acne product for the first time and worry about having a possible allergic reaction, see a dermatologist.
The truth is, picking or popping spots or pimples doesn’t necessarily make them go away. In fact, popping blackheads can make things worse, as it can spread bacteria all around the skin. In addition, popping acne too often can cause scarring.
Using herbal and alternative therapies is another way of dealing with blackheads. However, there’s not enough data supporting their safety and effectiveness to recommend these agents as a treatment.
You may also try the following ideas to get rid of blackheads:
Apply a clay mask: Clay masks work by removing dirt and oil from the pores. They may also help loosen and unblock clogged pores. Sulfur is also present in certain clay masks. Sulfur helps clear up blackheads by breaking down dead skin cells. Use a clay mask once a week.
Apply a charcoal mask: Similar to a clay mask, a charcoal mask also helps remove dead skin cells, oil, and other kinds of impurities from the pores. This type of mask should be used just once a week.
Use a skin brush: A skin brush can exfoliate your skin and remove excessive dead skin cells. To avoid irritation, only use it once a week.
Use pore strips: Pore strips can remove blackheads on the nose. They temporarily remove the superficial skin layer along with the dirt and oil that form the blackhead.
If these tips don’t work, consult a dermatologist for advice. A specialist will determine the extent and severity of your acne, prescribe a course of treatment, or recommend alternative treatments such as photodynamic therapy or a chemical peel.
- Wash your face regularly with a gentle cleanser, especially after waking up in the morning and before going to bed at night.
- Always use non-comedogenic and oil-free skincare products and makeup. They won’t clog your pores or cause comedones.
- Avoid sleeping with makeup on. Left on overnight, makeup may clog your pores.
- Don’t use a large number of products on your face at a time. This may overwhelm the skin and exacerbate blackheads. Use a couple of products only and make sure to apply moisturizer to your face, as excessively dry skin may secrete more oil and increase the number of blackheads and blemishes.
- Use an oil-free sunscreen. It’s important to apply sunscreen, regardless of your skin type.
There are many ways to get rid of blackheads, such as by washing your face regularly, doing regular exfoliation, and using salicylic acid. You may prevent the occurrence of blackheads by removing makeup before sleeping, using non-comedogenic and oil-free cosmetic products, and using a limited number of products on your face at a time. If you still notice pre-existing and new blackheads after 6–12 weeks, visit a dermatologist. They can extract blackheads using professional tools.