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Blackheads are essentially just clogged pores that have been exposed to air, making them appear black. They can show up on anyone, anywhere, but they’re super common on skin that’s prone to sweating and excess oil production, like the chin, nose or cheeks. If you’re looking for simple blackhead remedies, here are the best ways to tackle blackheads and get clearer, more radiant looking skin.
First, what are pores?
“Pores are actually little holes in the skin. Sweat glands in the skin use these holes to send sweat through when we want to get rid of heat to help keep our body temperature stable,” explains dermatologist Dr. Papri Sarkar, M.D.
Larger pores tend to look older since products don’t seep in as easily and make-up can appear heavier on your face. In general though, pore size is determined by genetics but says there are some habits and solutions that can minimize their appearance.
What Are Blackheads?
Blackheads are a type of acne characterized by a dark, oxidized bump in the hair follicle made up of excess oil and dead skin cells. And they don’t only appear on the face–they also be found on the back, chest, neck, ears, and shoulders.
The name “blackhead” is a little deceiving since they can be a range of colors from yellow to black. And when a blackhead is extracted, usually just the top of the blackhead is dark in color, which is the part that has had contact with the air. Beautiful, right?
Now that we know what a blackhead is, we can find out the best way to prevent and remove them. Cleansing regularly, twice a day at least, can keep excess sebum (oil) and dirt to a minimum. If you are an athlete, play sports, or work out, you’ll want to be sure to cleanse after exercising as well.
How to Prevent Blackheads
Once blackheads crop up, they can be pretty tough to get rid of. And because they’re so stubborn, prevention is often easier than treatment. In some cases, there are a few things you can do to prevent them from forming in the first place:
Washing your face with oil is a great way to remove oily buildup without drying out your skin. While adding oil may seem counter-intuitive, just remember that water repels oil, often forcing it deeper into pores, while oil dissolves oil, carrying it and other impurities away. Oil cleansing also moisturizes the skin so your body doesn’t produce extra oil to compensate.
Don’t wear as much makeup.
Full-cover concealer and foundation is notorious for clogging pores. I was skeptical about this until I tried it myself, but it works. My skin improved drastically when I stopped wearing makeup every day and started letting my skin breathe.
Keep pH balance in mind.
Our skin is naturally acidic. But when this acid mantle gets disturbed, it allows bacteria to flourish, which in turn causes blackheads and breakouts. Applying a slightly acidic toner to blackhead prone areas can help keep breakouts away. To make your own toner, mix ¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar with ½ cup water and apply using a cotton ball twice a day.
How to Remove Blackheads
The recipes below can help with loosening a blackhead, and may even help remove surface blackheads. However, if you try manual extractions at home, you’ll need to be familiar with some important do’s and don’ts! Our esthetician Deborah Harju walks you through how to do it:
- Always wash your face prior to trying to remove a blackhead.
- Always steam your face in a nice hot shower or with a portable steamer for 10-15 minutes to help open the pores.
- Wrap your fingers with plenty of tissue until you no longer feel your nails through the tissue.
- Gently squeeze the sides of the blackhead in an inward and upward motion.
- Force anything to come out of any pore, and especially avoid drawing blood.
- Leave any marks. If you see nail indentations on the skin you need more tissue on your fingertips to pad them.
- Work on unclean skin, as you can spread bacteria and cause more acne.
- Try to remove a blackhead that you can’t see (such as on the side of your face). It’s very important to be able to see the blackhead you are trying to remove.
Blackheads Remedy Skincare Regimen
The more often you cleanse, exfoliate and tone as advised by your dermatologist, the better equipped your skin will be to fight jumbo pores and more importantly, the healthier you will be.
Note that if you experience inflammatory and/or hormonal acne that remains persistent it is important to consult your board-certified dermatologist for the management of your acne.
1. Oil Cleanser for blackhead-prone skin
While it’s true that blackheads and oily skin go hand in hand, washing your face too often can actually make the problem worse. Stripping the skin of much-needed moisture causes the body to compensate by producing more oil, not less.
And more oil leads to more clogged pores. It’s the ultimate catch-22.
One solution is cleansing your face with oil. Oil traps the dirt, makeup, sebum and other ‘bad oils’ on the skin’s surface and washes them away. You’ll lose the dirt and excess oil without drying out the skin like alcohol-based, drying traditional cleansers can.
Use an oil that complements your skin type. This guide to the best oils for the skin can help determine the oil right for you. This recipe with jojoba and tamanu oil is a great choice for oily skin.
The ratio is 3 parts jojoba oil to 1 part tamanu oil. For every 2 ounces of oil you will add 9 drops of frankincense essential oil, both toning for the skin, and helps reduce the appearance of large pores. You can also use tea tree or chamomile as they are anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory.
Shake before each use and gently press into forehead, t-zone area, cheeks and chin. Rub gently in circular motions and then leave on for 1-2 minutes.
Next, remove with a warm, wet wash cloth, lastly a final rinse of warm water. This can also be used without the frankincense to break down eye and face makeup. Follow with appropriate facial oil or moisturizer.
2. Exfoliate to unclog pores
Baking soda scrub
When used correctly, baking soda polishes away blackheads and keeps pores clear without irritating sensitive skin. Use baking soda to gently scrub the areas with clogged pores and blackheads.
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons raw milk
Combine the baking soda and raw milk in a bowl and then gently scrub the areas with clogged pores and blackheads. Apply gentle pressure in a circular motion with your fingertips.
If you allow this scrub to partially dry it becomes more of a gommage that you can gently remove in circular motions with your fingertips; remove the excess with warm water.
Milk and nutmeg scrub
Apply a mixture of 2 tablespoons milk and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg to blackheads and massage gently using your fingertips. The lactic acid in milk helps break down dead skin cells so you can rinse them away.
And nutmeg absorbs oil and gently scrubs away dirt and grime, leaving behind radiantly smooth skin. To kick this blackheads remedy up a notch, try buttermilk instead of regular milk (it contains significantly more lactic acid).
Or try a chemical exfoliant
Find one containing glycolic acid, which gently breaks down dead skin cells, sebum, and dirt—all of which cause pores to stretch.
3. Steam open your pores
A facial steam helps soften blackheads and dead skin cells so they can be removed more easily. Pour piping hot water into a shallow bowl. Place a towel over your head and lean over the bowl so that your face is about 12 inches from the water.
4. Apply a treatment face mask to clean out your pores
Wherever you find blackheads, you’ll also find oil-production on overdrive. Bentonite clay works by absorbing dirt, oil and impurities from deep within pores and carrying them away.
Because bentonite clay can be somewhat drying, it’s best if you only use it once a week. For especially troubled skin, you can use it as a spot-treatment twice a week as a blackheads remedy, but be sure to take a break if you see any redness or peeling.
Clay Cleansing Mask for Blackheads
Use a deep cleansing mask 1-2 times a week to prevent oil from accumulating in your pores. This simple two-ingredient mask is designed to draw impurities out of the pores.
Most clay masks dry taut; you will feel a bit of pulling on the surface of the skin, which is normal.
Mix the clay (Bentonite or Moroccan Red Clay are ideal for battling blackheads) and witch hazel in a small bowl and apply to the affected area with a facial brush. Leave the mask on until it’s dry and then rinse your face with warm water.
Egg White DIY Pore Remover
Egg whites can remove blackheads just like store-bought pore strips, but for much, much cheaper. Take an egg, and separate the yolk from the whites. Pour the whites into a bowl and beat them slightly with a fork.
Then take a small piece of toilet paper and dip it in the egg white until it’s completely saturated. Lay it on top of the blackheads and let dry for 15 minutes. Using both hands, gently pull off the strip and, hopefully, the blackheads along with it.
Aspirin Face Mask
The main ingredient in aspirin, salicylic acid, sinks into pores and helps break down blackheads quickly. Simply crush an aspirin tablet using the back of a spoon and mix it with a few drops of water. Apply to blackheads and let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse off.
5. Close pores with toner
Apple cider vinegar works by restoring skin’s pH balance, removing dead skin cells and rinsing away other impurities that can cause clogged pores. To use as a spot treatment, simply pour raw ACV on a cotton ball and dab on the affected area.
For use on the entire face, combine ¼ cup apple cider vinegar with ½ cup water and apply twice daily. Let dry completely without rinsing.
6. Use a lightweight serum
Use a serum both in the A.M. under your makeup and at nighttime with a clean face, this organic and botanical serum offer a multitude of benefits. A serum with aloe vera can help reduce any sort of inflammation from acne or redness, but it also cuts through clogged pores to reveal healthier skin underneath.
Or try a serum like Ampersand Renew that’s made with naturally-deprived ingredients including white willow bark, organic nettle and aspen bark extract. For those who prefer their products to be easy-peasy and fuss-free, you’ll also appreciate the lightweight, non-greasy feel that does it’s diligence without leaving behind residue.
7. Apply a moisturizer with acne-fighting ingredients
When you are acne prone, Dr. Sarkar says you need to set your skin for success by utilizing the best ingredients for your skin. Since major zits can leave your pores wider, ensuring you treat your symptoms and balance your production of oil will make a huge difference. A moisturizer with salicylic acid will help keep your pores clean and fresh.
You should also look for brands that feature glycolic acid, which rids of dead skin cells before they get trapped in our pores, thus revealing fresh new skin with normal-sized pores. If you’re inching toward your late 20s, use a retinol formula or those products rich in antioxidants, which will naturally decrease your pores size over time.
Some other things you want to look for when choosing a moisturizer for acne-prone skin: Look for something oil-free, light-weight, and non-comedogenic to avoid clogging your pores.
8. Don’t skip sunscreen
You already know how important it is to guard your delicate skin from harmful UV rays by applying sunscreen every day — no matter the season or weather forecast. But this non-negotiable step in your beauty routine also has another bonus, according to Dr. Sarkar.
As she explains, our skin and all of its many structures are supported by collagen and elastin. The more support our skin gets — via cleansing, exfoliating and protecting — the smaller and less misshapen our pores look.
“Sunscreen helps to protect these structural components of the skin from damaging UV radiation, so your pores stay the size they were meant to be,” she explains.