One of the most popular questions about acne is how to get rid of blackheads, so we created a guide to explain what blackheads are, how they form, and what you can do about them. Wondering how to get rid of blackheads? Look no further, here at Exposed Skin Care we have all the answers, from DIY home remedies to popular “solutions” that can actually make blackheads worse. Blackheads are the most common type of acne, and the most persistent. Without consistent skin care, blackheads will keep coming back, no matter how many times you use those charcoal strips (more on those later!). Blackhead prevention is the most effective way to ensure your skin stays blackhead free, but you can’t prevent everything. That’s why we’ve compiled the best solutions for how to get rid of blackheads when they do pop up.
What Are Blackheads?
According to many skin care companies, blackheads are dirt and grime clogging your pores, but that is simply untrue. Blackheads are open pores that have been clogged with oil and dead skin cells. They get their dark color because the pore is open and exposed to oxygen, which oxidizes the oil and turns it a dark color, similar to how an apple turns brown if you cut into it and leave it on the counter. Blackheads are not related to dirt or poor hygiene at all; even the cleanest person in the world can get blackheads!
This misconception is part of an unfortunate trend in the skin care industry, where companies try to make their customers buy their product by telling them they should be ashamed of their acne. At Exposed Skin Care, we know that acne happens to nearly everyone (80% according to the American Academy of Dermatology) and there is no shame in being human. Our products can significantly reduce acne, but we don’t believe that acne is inherently bad. It’s a fact of life that many people want to change, so we help with that. Simple. No shame necessary.
Blackheads differ from other kinds of acne, like whiteheads, pimples, or cysts, because they are the least inflamed form of acne. All acne starts with inflammation—the skin swells slightly, closing pores and trapping oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria beneath the surface, which then turns into whiteheads, pimples, and cysts. Blackheads are slightly inflamed, but not enough for the pore to close entirely. Instead, the inflammation constricts the pore just enough to trap oil and dead skin cells in an open pore.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads on Your Nose
If you’re wondering how to get rid of blackheads on your nose, you may be surprised to learn that most “blackheads” on your nose are not actually blackheads. Although blackheads on the nose do occur, most of those slightly dark dots are something called sebaceous filaments.
Sebaceous filaments are pores that create and release sebum, which is another word for the oil your skin naturally produces. This oil can oxidize slightly, turning the filaments a light brown color, but the oil is not trapped or causing any acne-related problems. The trouble starts when you try to get rid of these sebaceous filaments like they’re blackheads.
Squeezing the oil out of a sebaceous filament could actually cause acne. Squeezing your skin causes irritation, and your skin is always trying to protect itself from irritants that could harm it. The skin’s first line of defense is the inflammation response. Whenever the skin is irritated, it quickly becomes inflamed, closing off pores to prevent the source of irritation from penetrating deeper into the skin. When you squeeze a sebaceous filament, you remove the oil that was protecting it from outside irritants and leave it vulnerable to dead skin cells, bacteria, and excess oil that could get trapped when the squeezing triggers the inflammation response.
Although their slightly dark color can be frustrating, it is best to let sebaceous filaments be. The less you pick at them, the less noticeable they will become, so try to be patient.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads
The key to getting rid of blackheads is breaking up the oil and dead skin cells that are clogging the pores. Once the oil and dead skin cells have been broken up, you want to gently exfoliate the skin. This will prevent any of the oil or dead skin cells from finding their way into a different pore.
There are many products that break up clogs and exfoliate skin. Unlike pimples or cystic acne, prescription acne treatments are not usually necessary for blackheads. Most prescriptions for acne focus on killing bacteria, and bacteria aren’t involved in blackhead formation. Rather than paying for a dermatologist appointment and an expensive prescription, try some of our favorite DIY and over-the-counter solutions for how to get rid of blackheads:
- DIY Honey and Lemon Face Mask
- Salicylic Acid
The Best DIY Recipe to Get Rid of Blackheads
The nice thing about blackheads is that you don’t need any fancy product to get rid of them. If you like using your own home remedies, there are plenty of options when it comes to blackheads, but the best DIY recipe to get rid of blackheads is just the right combination of honey and lemon juice.
Honey is one of the best ingredients for DIY acne treatments because it is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and it speeds the wound healing process. All of these properties make honey ideal for treating acne, which is caused primarily by inflammation and bacteria. The only cause of acne that honey does not address is oil production/clogged pores, which is why we’ve included lemon juice.
Citrus in general is good for unclogging pores because it contains a lot of vitamin C, which promotes new skin cell growth. Pores are less likely to get clogged when skin cells are being produced consistently. The new cells push the old cells out of the way, so the pore is less likely to get clogged with dead skin cells. Lemon juice is also good for the skin because of its acidic nature, which can break up clogs in pores.
DIY Honey and Lemon Juice Blackhead Remover Face Mask
1 tablespoon of pure honey
½ fresh lemon, squeezed
Slice a lemon in half and squeeze as much juice as possible into a bowl, then pick out the seeds. A fresh lemon will work much better than pre-packaged lemon juice because the vitamins in citrus that are so good for the skin lose their potency if they have been exposed to the air for too long.
Next, measure out one tablespoon of pure honey and add it to the bowl. It’s important that the honey is pure because added ingredients only dilute the honey. To check if your honey is pure, you just need to look at the ingredients list. The only ingredient should be honey; if other ingredients like fructose or water are listed, it is not pure honey and will not be as effective.
Then mix the lemon juice and honey thoroughly. Using a cotton ball or your fingertips, apply the mixture to your skin. You can apply it to your blackheads specifically or all over, this recipe is safe for both options. Allow the mask to set for 20-30 minutes.
After half an hour or so, rinse the mask off with cool water. Remove the mask by moving your fingertips in small, gentle circles—do not scrub. This will irritate the skin and cause even more problems. Once the mask is removed, pat dry with a soft towel.
Over-the-Counter Options: Salicylic Acid and Sulfur
Salicylic acid is one of the best answers for how to get rid of blackheads. It is a beta-hydroxy acid that breaks up the oil and dead skin cells that cause blackheads, and it exfoliates the skin gently. We say gently because that is an important part of acne treatment that is often overlooked. Many acne treatment products are far too harsh, and they dry out the skin. This helps reduce acne caused by excess oil, but it creates new acne, caused by dry skin. Dry skin has no oil to protect it from irritants, which leads to inflammation and acne.
Because of this need for gentle but effective ingredients, we also recommend sulfur. You may recognize sulfur as the stinky, rotten-eggs element, which is correct. One of the biggest drawbacks of using a product with sulfur in it is that it tends to smell a bit funky. We still recommend it though, because it can dry out excess oil without irritating the skin. While salicylic acid breaks up blackheads that you currently have, sulfur can prevent new ones by preventing excess oil buildup.
Two over-the-counter products we recommend when asked how to get rid of blackheads are the Clear Pore Serum and the Clarifying Mask from Exposed Skin Care. Our Clear Pore Serum uses 1% salicylic acid to break up blackheads, and it incorporates other ingredients like green tea extract to prevent irritation and reduce inflammation. Our Clarifying Mask combines 3% sulfur with charcoal and zinc oxide to remove excess oils and dead skin cells and prevent future blackheads. Combined with one of our daily acne treatment kits, these products can both prevent and treat blackheads.
Do Charcoal Strips for Blackheads Work?
Many skincare companies offer charcoal strips as a good solution for how to get rid of blackheads, but do charcoal strips for blackheads work?
Yes, and no. Yes, charcoal strips can get rid of the blackheads you currently have, but no, they can’t get rid of blackheads long-term. Charcoal strips are essentially Band-Aids with a very strong adhesive. The adhesive clings to the oil and dead skin cells clogging the pores and when you pull the strip away, the blackheads come with it.
The biggest issues we have with charcoal strips are that they are a temporary solution to a long-term problem, and they can irritate the skin and cause more acne. If you have acne, you want to find products that know how to get rid of blackheads for good, not just for a week or two. Charcoal strips can’t prevent blackheads, they can only rip them out of your skin, often causing irritation in the process. Pulling a strong adhesive off your skin can definitely irritate it, something you should typically avoid when treating acne.
Generally, we don’t recommend charcoal strips, but they typically don’t do much harm, unlike some other common solutions for how to get rid of blackheads that you want to avoid.
The Worst Ways to Get Rid of Blackheads
If you are looking up how to get rid of blackheads, there are several popular solutions that many websites recommend. For instance, you’ve probably heard that toothpaste can work wonders for treating acne overnight, right? Unfortunately, research has proven that toothpaste cannot get rid of blackheads or any other acne, and it may actually make acne worse. Scrubbing brushes and baking soda are other common “solutions” that are more likely to worsen acne than to improve it.
Because toothpaste kills bacteria in our mouths, people recommend it as an acne treatment as well, but it doesn’t work that way. Just because something kills one type of bacteria doesn’t mean it kills them all. You wouldn’t brush your teeth with a prescription acne medication, after all.
Not only does toothpaste not help reduce acne, it can often make acne worse because of the kinds of chemicals it contains. Chemicals are not an inherently bad thing, but the chemicals in toothpaste are simply too harsh for the surface of your skin.
Scrubbing brushes sound like the perfect solution for how to get rid of blackheads. In theory, they scrub away the dirt that causes blackheads, keeping your skin clean and fresh. But we know that blackheads don’t have anything to do with dirt, and that scrubbing the skin usually causes more acne, not less.
Baking soda is also commonly cited as a good acne-fighting ingredient because it is basic as opposed to acidic. Supposedly, this means it balances the skin’s pH to prevent it from becoming too acidic. The biggest reason this doesn’t work is because the skin is naturally slightly acidic and making it too basic can cause irritation and acne.