Trying to figure out how to get rid of blackheads? It can feel impossible, especially since squeezing blackheads out one by one is like playing a never-ending game of Whac-A-Mole. Every time you get one bugger out of your pores, there are several more that pop up to take its place.
But before you despair, you should know that blackheads have been around for a long time. For so long, in fact, that we clever humans have learnt how to deal with them.
The bad news is that getting rid of blackheads forever isn’t as simple as applying a special cream and calling it a day – no, it takes a little more strategic planning than that. The good news? We’ve already done the strategizing for you and simplified it into an easy-to-follow, 5-step system that will help you get rid of blackheads and keep them away for good.
Let’s get started…
Step #1. Blackhead Extraction
The very first step in starting to clear yourself of blackheads is to purge the nasty buggers out of your pores. The easiest – and most well-known – method of blackhead removal is by way of pore strips, which latch onto the little snippets of blackheads poking out of your pores and pull them right out.
Tip: Want to loosen up your blackhead plugs so the pore strips can easily grab them right out of your pores? Use a salicylic treatment cream for a night or two to loosen up the plugs before you use your pore strips.
We love pore strips for blackhead removal, but they do have an obvious drawback: they’re created and contoured for your nose. Not to mention, they usually only pull out the very exposed blackheads.
The more stubborn buggers require a more dedicated approach, if you will. A simple way is to use a blackhead extractor tool – these are highly affordable and highly effective, albeit a tad addicting. But these, too, won’t be effective for all blackheads.
To really target stubborn blackheads, a bit of high-frequency coaxing is best – check out our list of the top blackhead removers to find out how you can literally shake out blackheads from your pores.
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Step #2. Get the Best Cleanser for Blackheads
Harsh facial cleansers targeted toward blackheads usually contain alcohol – which is pretty pointless considering your blackheads have no infection and don’t need the “disinfecting” alcohol. Plus, alcohol also has the unwanted side effect of drying out your skin way beyond what’s good for it. The result? Not-quite-goodbye to blackheads and hello to wrinkles. One of the worst mistakes made by those trying to get rid of blackheads is using harsh cleansers that irritate the skin and end up doing more harm than good.
Not to mention that over drying your skin has the unintended effect of making your skin work even harder to compensate for the lost oil, which means you may get stuck with greasy skin and larger pores.
So what’s the solution? Go for a blackhead cleanser that’s free of harsh and irritating ingredients like alcohol, super gentle and fantastic at thoroughly cleansing pores, gently exfoliating the skin, and doing an unparalleled job at removing makeup, dirt and excess oils – all without stripping your skin of its natural, necessary moisturizing oils.
And in case you’re wondering about active ingredients, these really depend on your preferences and your skin type. Benzoyl peroxide, for example, works great for blackheads, helping to break apart the sticky blackhead wax plugs stuck inside your pores so it can break free and move out.
But at the same time, benzoyl peroxide can be very drying and irritating, especially if you have sensitive or already dry skin. That’s part of the reason we don’t recommend benzoyl peroxide for blackheads.
Salicylic acid, on the other hand, takes a little longer to show results but it’s just as effective while not being as harsh as benzoyl peroxide. Plus, it not only gets rid of current blackheads but also prevents new ones from forming by keeping your pores clear.
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Step #3. Exfoliate Wisely
Exfoliation is a must for healthy, happy skin and especially crucial when you’re dealing with blackheads. Blackheads are caused by excess oil mixing with debris within your pores. As such, one of the most important steps you can take to both get rid of blackheads and prevent new blackheads from forming is to exfoliate regularly.
Exfoliation accomplishes two very important things: It dislodges and smooths away blackheads that are in your pores. At the same time, it allows you to gently get rid of dead, built-up surface skin cells that aren’t shedding normally so they won’t get trapped inside your pores and exacerbate further clogging.
Now, let’s be clear on what we mean when we say “exfoliation” ’cause we’re not talking about rough, gritty scrubs that slough off dead skin. When it comes to blackheads, you actually want to avoid these types of scrubs – i.e. St. Ives Apricot Scrub – because they have rough, sharp edges that can actually cut and damage your pores. So save these rough scrubs for your elbows and knees and be wiser when it comes to your facial skin.
So which exfoliants should you using to clear your face of blackheads? Look to chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid as well as fruit enzymes like papaya enzymes and pumpkin enzymes if you want something gentler.
Of all these, salicylic acid tops our list for best exfoliants for blackheads since it’s oil soluble and can penetrate pores for deep cleansing as well as exfoliate surface skin cells. And this really matters because dead skin cells have a tendency to accumulate and when they build up, they can combine with your skin’s sebum and clog your pores. Result? Blackheads.
Salicylic acid is brilliant at going beneath the surface to actually break down dead skin cells and sebum in your pores while increasing cell turnover. Use it in a daily face wash and/or in the form of occasional chemical peels – you can even do these right at home!
Another great option for deep-reaching exfoliation is microdermabrasion, which you can also do in the comfort of your home. Just keep in mind that this is not an everyday treatment for blackheads so do microdermabrasion and chemical peels occasionally for deep clearing and stick to salicylic acid cleansers, lotions or masks to keep blackheads at bay on a daily basis!
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Step #4. Get Rid of Blackheads from Within
Most people trying to get rid of blackheads focus on only one side of the battle: clearing blackheads externally.
But the most effective way to get rid of blackheads and prevent new ones from occurring is to target the root cause of blackheads. And that requires going within.
Here’s why: The hair follicles in your skin are connected to sebaceous (oil-producing) glands that make sebum to nourish and moisturize your hair and skin. In healthy, happy skin, the sebum travels up the hair shaft and comes out through the pore opening in your skin, keeping your skin supple and hydrated.
But when things go wrong, you skin can produce too much sebum, causing the pore to become clogged. The result? Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and a whole lot of hassle you don’t need in your life.
Because the increase in sebum production is internal, it simply makes sense to start there. Especially when it’s not difficult to do – you don’t need to do a major life overhaul, you don’t need to change your entire diet. All you need to do is make sure you’re getting more of certain vitamins.
So which vitamins are crucial for helping you get rid of blackheads? Let’s start at the beginning of the alphabet, with Vitamin A. This famous “beauty vitamin” is essential for fighting blackheads because it reduces the production of sebum by our sebaceous glands. To get more of it in your diet, add in egg yolks, liver, oysters, green vegetables as well as orange fruits and veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, papaya and mangoes.
One of the best ways to get more Vitamin A into your diet is to juice your fruits and veggies! Just one cup of carrot juice gives you 45,133 IU of Vitamin A, which is over 900% of your Daily Value. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about overdosing when you’re getting your vitamins from whole foods. And of course, if you don’t have the time to juice or add Vitamin A rich foods into your diet, you can always take Vitamin A in supplement form.
Another crucial vitamin to fight blackheads is Vitamin E, which helps prevent sebum oxidation. Sebum oxidation is simply when your sebum reacts with oxygen. This, as you already know, is the cause of blackheads. To get more Vitamin E in your diet, stock up on nuts, seeds, avocado, wheat germ, and vegetable oils.
As you can see, Vitamin E is mainly found in foods that contain fat (the good kind). And since Vitamin A is an oil-soluble vitamin – you can group these two together into your daily meals. Or again, you can always take a Vitamin E supplement.
Adding these two little vitamins into your everyday routine is a simple, easy and effective way to get rid of blackheads and keep them away!
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Step #5. Maintain a Blackhead-Free State
Now your pores are clear of pesky blackheads as well as dead skin cells that can clog them. Your sebaceous glands are also making less sebum and things are well under control.
So how do you ensure that you don’t get bothered with another round of pesky blackheads?
There are several little habits that, when done regularly, will help keep your pores free of blackheads. Hopefully, forever. Here are the best thing to do, on top of the exfoliation and regular blackhead extraction (above), of course.
- Face Masks. Face masks aren’t just fun pampering sessions, they are seriously great for de-clogging your pores so blackheads don’t happen. Look for facial masks that contain ingredients like activated charcoal and clay. Both charcoal and clays are known for their extreme absorbency, which gives them the ability to draw out and soak up grime, dirt, excess sebum and all the other nasties that mix to form blackheads. Mask time should happen at least once a week.
- Don’t Stress. We know, it’s easier said than done but if you want clear, flawless skin, this is an important thing to remember: stress increases sebum production and has been shown to exacerbate clogged pores and the range of skin problems associated with that, i.e. blackheads and acne. So next time you feel yourself getting riled up, ask yourself if the resulting blackheads are worth it. And meditate. Or deep breathe. Just do something to calm yourself back down.