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How to get rid of blackheads: The complete guide

October 23, 2019

Get rid of blackheads naturally

Blackheads can mess up an otherwise flawless face, and while your first instinct may be to squeeze at the sight of those little black dots, banishing blackheads for good requires more than just the help of your two pointer fingers.

Blackheads can be fairly resilient and hard to remove -- not to mention for every one you squeeze away, a dozen more show up in its place.

But don't fret, we’ve rounded up everything you ever wanted to know for getting rid of blackheads once and for all. Read on for the definitive guide to banishing blackheads.

What are blackheads?

Contrary to popular belief, blackheads (which tend to show up on the areas of the face most prone to oil — nose, chin, T-zone, etc.) aren’t actually dirt-clogged pores. When your pores get clogged with oil and dead skin cells, the result is one of two things: a blackhead or a whitehead.

Whiteheads are "poppable," where the skin thinly encloses the pore and traps the debris. Blackheads are different. They don’t hurt as much, since they’re not embedded beneath the skin. This makes extraction a lot more difficult.

Their color is caused by the exposed comedone, a mass of oil and dead skin, which turns dark when exposed to oxygen (thanks to melanin in the dead skin cells). You will most often see blackheads on the nose, since these pores tend to be more oily and larger than the others on your face.

What causes blackheads?

Though genetics play a role in oil production, there are plenty of environmental factors that can lead to clogged pores. Hair care products like pomades, dirt and oil from your hands or phone, and oil-based makeup can all lead to blackheads. So can wearing makeup to the gym. Sweating while wearing even non-comedogenic makeup can aggravate acne because it further moves everything to the follicular opening.

The best treatment for blackheads

Keeping your pores from clogging in the first place is the obvious key to keeping blackheads at bay, but it’s possible to dissolve them once they appear with a steady serving of beta hydroxy acids (BHAs).

BHA’s are ideal for treating blackheads because instead of just loosening the debris trapped deep within your pores, they actively penetrate them to remove whatever’s in there. Salicylic acid is one of the most recognizable and commonly used BHAs, and when it comes to blackhead removal, it’s your best friend. Salicylic acid gently helps skin-cell turnover, helping unclog your pores. 

How can I prevent blackheads from coming back?

Trade your cleanser for an oil-based formula.

It may seem counterintuitive to slather on a cleanser with more oil than your body naturally produces, but oil attracts oil, which is why oil-based cleansers are great for vacuuming out your pores. After you’ve massaged the cleanser into your skin, oils in the cleaning formula bind to impurities on the surface and tug them loose. Blackheads won’t have the chance to form, let alone grow in size or multiply.

Don’t forget to moisturize.

Moisturizing is a crucial step in any skin-care routine — even if you've got acne-prone skin. It's important to maintain the right balance in the skin, and moisturizing will allow you to continue using other products without any issues. 

Exfoliate regularly.

Between the layers of product and everyday exposure to air pollution—your skin faces a lot over the course of a day, which is why cleansing each morning when you wake up and every night before bed is a must. But even your everyday cleanser needs a boost once in a while. One or two times a week, start fresh with an exfoliating scrub to slough off the excess dead skin cells trapping makeup, dirt, and oil deep within.

Pass on the pore strips.

While it can be super satisfying to examine all the little black specks stuck to your pore strip, it isn’t doing your skin any favors. The adhesive sticks not only to the blackheads but to your skin too, taking some of it off as you yank the strip off.  

Leave the extracting to the experts. 

Besides further exacerbating an already-blocked area, squeezing a blackhead -- especially without steaming your face first to open and soften pores—increases your chances of acne scarring and hyperpigmentation. Manual extractions should be performed by a skincare professional. Otherwise, you risk damaging the pore by picking at it.

Detox with a face mask.

Face masks are the vacuum cleaners of the skincare world, sucking all the excess gunk from the depths of your pores. regularly treating yourself to a pore-clearing maskwill help keep your complexion clear in the long run.

If your blackheads are especially prevalent, you should absolutely stay away from deep-hydrating masks and comedogenic products, such as shea-butter laden moisturizers, silicone-rich primers and dense creamy foundations, as these may be the culprits behind your clogged pores.