how to prevent and treat blackheads

How the heck do you treat blackheads?!

Those ugly, little black spots seem to have a knack for popping up at the worst times, like when you have a date with that special someone or an important job interview. They always appear in the most prominent places, too. How annoying is that?

Oh, well. We’ll just have to get rid of them, I guess. Here’s how to treat blackheads, according to science:

What Are Blackheads?

Annoying blemishes. They appear when skin produces too much sebum (thanks, hormones!). The excess can’t flow out of the pores. It gets trapped inside them, together with dead skin cells. When it comes in contact with air, this yucky mixture oxidises (i.e. turns black).

Related: What’s The Difference Between Blackheads And Whiteheads?

How Do You Treat Blackheads?

To treat blackheads, you need to keep oil production under control and exfoliate skin, so dead cells won’t clog your pores anymore.

Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think:

Need help creating the best skincare routine for you oily skin? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Oily Skincare Routine Cheatsheet” (it includes product recommendations, too!).

How do you treat blackheads? Share your fave products and tips below.

cosrx low ph good morning gel cleanser 01

1. Cleanse

Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser suitable for your skin type to remove dirt, excess oil, makeup and everything else that could clog pores if left on your skin. Just stay away from bar soaps. They contain ingredients, like sodium bicarbonate, that can dry out skin. And that too often leads to excessive oil production.

Best Picks:

  • Corsx low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser ($11.00): pH 5.5. Available at Sokoglam and YesStyle.
  • Paula’s Choice Moisture Boost Cleanser One Step Face Cleanser ($18.00): pH 5.5. Available at Paula’s Choice.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser ($18.00): pH 5.5. Available at Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice. 

Related: How To Choose The Right Cleanser For Your Skin Type

drunk elephant tlc framboos glycolic night serum

2. Exfoliate

Listen, girl. Brands will tell you that every single exfoliant they make can unclog your pores and treat blackheads. It’s a lie.

The ONLY exfoliant that can treat blackheads is salicylic acid.

Scrubs, the Clarisonic, glycolic acid & co only remove dead cells on the surface of your skin. So yeah, they can get rid of the black tip of the blackhead. But if you don’t remove the icky mixture that’s still lodged deep into your pores, it’s only a matter of time before those blackheads come back.

Salicylic acid is different. It’s oil-soluble so it can penetrate the skin’s lipid barrier, get inside your pores and remove ALL the gunk that’s accumulating it there. It gets rid of the entire blackhead so it won’t reappear again anytime soon.

The catch? You have to keep at it. If your skin’s oily and prone to blackheads, you need to exfoliate on a regular basis or those pores will get clogged again before you can say “blackhead”.

Best Picks:

  • Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboois Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): salicylic acid + glycolic acid. Available at Cult Beauty, Sephora, and SpaceNK.
  • Paula’s Choice Resist BHA 9 For Stubborn Imperfections ($43.00): salicylic acid + soothing agents. Available at Paula’s Choice
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% Bha Liquid ($29.00): salicylic acid + green tea. Available at Nordstrom and Feel Unique.

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is The Only Exfoliant That Can Treat Blackheads

drunk elephant b-hydra hydration serum

3. Avoid Greasy Moisturizers

Rich moisturizers may be godsends for dry skin, but they’re so not useful when you’re trying to get rid of blackheads. All those thickeners in the formulas could actually clog your pores, giving you blackheads and even pimples! Much better to stick to lightweight, gel-like formulas.

Best Picks:

Related: Oily Skin? Why You Need To Switch To An Oil-Free Moisturizer

4. Avoid Irritating Ingredients

Did you know that skin tends to produce more oil when it’s irritated? The worst culprits are:

  • Citrusy extracts
  • Fragrance
  • Menthol
  • Peppermint

If you’re serious about preventing blackheads, avoid them!

Related: 7 Natural Ingredients That Can Irritate Skin

5. Don’t Use Pore Strips

Same reason as scrubs: the can remove only the tip of the blackhead, not the whole thing. Plus, they’re irritating as hell. Stay away!

Related: Why Pore Strips Can’t Treat Blackheads

6. Don’t Squeeze!

Squeezing blackheads feels so good, doesn’t it?

Problem is, it terribly backfires: squeezing blackheads tears open the walls of the pores, so the bacteria inside can jump onto the skin and wreak even more damage. In other cause, you’re causing more blemishes.

If you really must squeeze, use a comedone extractor:

  1. Clean the area well to sanitize it.
  2. Warm it up with a warm washcloth to soften skin.
  3. Pat dry.
  4. Place the comedone extractor over the blackhead and gently press it down.
  5. If you still can’t extract it easily, give up. You’ll just damage skin if you insist to keep going.
  6. Clean the area with an antiseptic.

7. Absorb Excess Oil

If you have oily skin that never stops producing too much oil, just soak the excess up and away with clay masks and oil-blotting papers.

Best Picks:

Related: A Quick Trick To Keep Oil Production Under Control

The Bottom Line

The key to treating blackhead? Exfoliate with salicylic acid to unclog pores. For best results, help your skin reduce oil production, so those pesky blackheads won’t form in the first place.