How to Properly Get Rid of Blackheads

Let’s be honest… Blackheads are like those really annoying guys at the bar that keep coming back to you when you don’t want them to and you can’t figure out how to get rid of them. The only problem is that with blackheads, most people think getting them is associated with not having proper hygiene, and that isn’t necessarily true. So, what are blackheads and how do you properly get rid of them? Keep reading to find out what products and ingredients to use to finally get rid of and prevent your blackheads from coming back! As for the guys at the bar, well… I’m still trying to figure out the best escape route.


So, what is a blackhead?

There are hundreds of thousands of hair follicles on your face, and each one contains one hair and a sebaceous gland that produces sebum oil to keep that one hair soft. Your skin is continuously shedding dead skin cells, and when those skin cells get into the follicle, they mix with the sebum oil and form a plug that pushes to the surface of the skin. If the skin over the plug stays intact, this bump is called a whitehead. If the skin over the plug opens, then air gets in and mixes with the oil that then causes the sebum to oxidize and turn black or even a yellowish color, which, TAH-DAH, is a blackhead.

So, now that we all know how blackheads are formed, here are the proper ways to get rid of blackheads and prevent them from coming back!


1. Exfoliate with AHAs/BHAs.


What are they?

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (Glycolic Acid, derived from cane sugar, and Lactic Acid, derived from apples) and Beta Hydroxy Acid (Salicylic Acid, derived from willow bark) are used to reveal brighter, smoother, more youthful-looking skin.


Why you need them

AHAs work above the skin’s surface to exfoliate dead skin cells that clog pores and create blackheads. BHAs work below the skin’s surface to exfoliate the inside of pores and push out all the bad oil and dead skin cells that clog the inside of pores that result in blackheads.


How to use them

There are many products that have AHAs and BHAs in them. Whether it’s cleansers, treatment serums, treatment pads, masks, toners, etc., make sure to use these products at least once a day to remove excess dirt and oil that can be clogging pores and causing blackheads. Just remember, the use of AHAs/BHAs can put you at a higher risk of sunburn, so make sure to wear SPF during the day!


2. Incorporate Retinol into your routine.


What is it?

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A that is used in many skincare products to smooth out the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, enhance collagen production in skin, and improve skin texture and tone. Retinol and Retin-A are different types of Retinoids that are used in skincare. Retinol is what you can get over-the-counter and what you see as the most common form of Vitamin A in skincare products, while Retin-A is the prescription form of a retinoid that can only be given by a doctor. Retinol is a slow-release natural form of Vitamin A that can only be absorbed effectively by the skin when it’s converted by enzymes into retinoic acid. Retin-A is a derivative of retinoic acid, a synthetic form of Vitamin A, and is considered to be a fast-acting pharmaceutical ingredient that gives a slight chemical peel to the skin and can only be prescribed by a doctor.  


Why you need it

When retinol is absorbed by the skin, it jumpstarts the cell turnover process which then increases the efficiency of dead skin removal. The removal of dead skin cells means smoother skin and clearer pores. Plus, retinol is said to be one of the most effective treatments not just for acne and blackheads, but also for anti-aging as well — so why not kill two birds with one stone!?


How to use it

Whether you decide to go with an over-the-counter retinol product or a prescribed form of Retin-A, make sure to only use these products at nighttime and apply on cleansed skin before your serum and moisturizer. Using any form of retinoids can produce skin sensitivities to the sun, so make sure to wear SPF during the day to prevent sunburn.

Source: @monicawangphoto


3. Try using an Enzyme Exfoliant twice a week.


What is it?

Enzyme exfoliants are made of anti-inflammatory fruit extracts like papaya, pineapple, or even pumpkin that exfoliate and eat away dead skin cells from the surface layer of skin.


Why you need it

Exfoliation is key when you want to get rid of blackheads because it gets rid of the dead skin that is causing a plugged pore. Enzyme exfoliation is great for every skin type, especially sensitive skin because they do not use any hard or abrasive beads that could tear at skin and cause further damage. Plus, this is an at-home treatment you can do yourself!


How to use it

There are many types of enzyme exfoliating products out there, but whatever kind you use, make sure to use at least twice a week to remove unwanted dead skin cells and texture. This is best used after cleansing skin and before the use of any treatments or moisturizers.


4. Balance out your skin’s oil with a moisturizer.


What is it?

Most of you already know what a moisturizer is, but not everyone uses one. Using a lightweight moisturizer will help keep your skin supple and balance out hydration levels.


Why you need it

Getting rid of blackheads at home means using very drying products like the ones already listed above. To really combat your blackheads, you want to make sure you have balanced skin by hydrating with a moisturizer. When skin becomes unbalanced, it starts to overcompensate for moisture loss by producing massive amounts of oil — and remember what creates a blackhead? Sebum oil mixed with dead skin cells! So moisturizing will keep those sebum oils at bay.


How to use it

Use a lightweight moisturizer day and night after any treatments to balance out skin. If you are using a product like retinol that is making your skin very dry, try “sandwiching” the product between moisturizer; moisturizer, treatment, moisturizer.


Source: @shaymitchell


5. Reduce the appearance of black heads with pore strips.


What is it

Pore strips are made out of a woven texture on one side and polymers, the sticky part, on the other. When placed on areas of concern, they are proven to strip away surface levels of dirt, oil, and skin cells that can be clogging pores.


Why you need it

Pore strips are usually targeted to “get rid of blackheads,” and most of you have probably bought a box of these at least once in your lifetime — but do they really work for blackheads? Pore strips do not actually go deep down into the pore where blackheads are formed and pull out the plug. After you wet your skin and apply the strip, the polymers stick to the skin, and after a few minutes the strip hardens — which then you pull it off to reveal all the fascinatingly gross stuff that was in your pores. However, the polymers on pore strips really only pull off dead skin cells, dirt, oil, and bacteria that’s on the surface layer of your pores, and that is what you see on your pore strip, not a full plugged blackhead. These are still useful in the sense that pore strips help temporarily smooth out the appearance of blackheads and clogged pores.


How to use it

Apply pore strips on forehead, nose, chin or even chest after dampening skin with water. Make sure that the polymer (sticky side) is touching the skin. Pore strips are best used a couple days after using a salicylic acid treatment. Salicylic acid will loosen the plug that is inside of the pore and the pore strip will have a better chance at removing more than just the surface level of what is clogging the pore. Another tip is to steam your face right before applying the pore strip to open up pores, or you can do this by taking a hot shower before applying pore strips. Leave on until the strip hardens, usually 5 to 10 minutes depending on the brand, and then slowly peel the strip off starting from outside in. DO NOT rip off the strip like a band-aid; this could irritate or damage skin. Afterwards, use a toner to balance and take off any of the polymer left on skin, then moisturize!


6. Clear out your pores with an extraction.


What is it?

An extraction is a procedure during a facial where pores are unclogged by the use of extracting tools or manual means.


Why you need it

Extractions are the most important part of a facial because it is the only way to properly get rid of a blackhead and clear out your pores. When done in the right way, your skin will begin to clear up and you will see improvement in your pore size as well.


How to use it

My best advice is to get extractions done by a professional. There are steps to prepping skin that every experienced esthetician needs to take before beginning extractions, and these steps are crucial so that our skin isn’t damaged in the process of getting rid of clogged pores. There are a ton of products on the market that say they will extract a blackhead/whitehead, but most of the time these products aren’t used correctly by the consumer because our skin isn’t properly prepped by deep cleansing, exfoliating, and steaming — which then results in our blackheads still being a problem and the potential of damaging the skin. After prepping the skin right, your esthetician will begin using either a stainless steel tool with a loop at the end or they will simply use their fingers and a cotton round by applying pressure on either side of the blackhead to gently extract the clogged sebum. If you have a lot of blackheads, you might want to consider getting facials every two weeks until your skin sees improvement.


Source: @origins


7. Maintain clean pores with a Clarisonic.


What is it?

A Clarisonic is a mechanical tool used at home to help cleanse the skin at a deeper level. With a brush head that is detachable and interchangeable, this tool can help cleanse your skin 3x deeper than cleansing manually.


Why you need it

Clarisonics are the best way to maintain your skin, especially after a facial. Used throughout the week (the amount will depend on your skin type), a Clarisonic can help reduce blackheads by keeping pores clean and by lightly exfoliating the top layer of skin.


How to use it

There are many types and colors of Clarisonics: the Mia1, Mia2, Mia Fit, and Alpha Fit. Each have different functions, like speed, and what kind of brush head it comes with. Clarisonic also has different types of brush heads for your tool, depending on skin type, that need to be changed out every three months. Additionally, each Clarisonic is able to be programmed to focus on problem areas. So, say your problem area for blackheads is your T zone (forehead, nose, and chin), then you can program your Clarisonic to target those problem areas, and it beeps when you can move on to other parts of your face. Depending on which cleansing brush you get, you can also program it to what speed you want. My favorite cleansing brush is the Mia Fit because it’s small, portable, and has two speed settings to target problem areas. The Alpha Fit is specifically designed for men’s skin, so if your hubby is having blackhead problems, you can get him one too!


Mia, $129


8. Use clay masks for an at-home treatment to extract dirt and bacteria.


What is it?

Clay masks are a treatment used either at home or during a facial to help with the appearance of skin texture. There are many different types of clay masks for different concerns.


Why you need it

Clay masks absorb all that oil and grime that is clogging your pores and creating blackheads. Clay masks specifically made with charcoal or bentonite clay are designed to extract any dirt, oil, bacteria, toxins, and dead skin cells that clog pores, which then leads to smoother skin, less blackheads, and smaller pores!


How to use it

Use clay masks at least one to two  times a week after cleansing your skin. Apply mask to skin, and then leave on however long the instructions say on your product — usually it’s about 10-15 minutes. Wash off with warm water and then apply a lightweight moisturizer to keep skin supple and smooth.


Do you suffer from blackheads? What are your favorite ways to get rid of and treat your blackheads?