What are Blackheads? And, 9 Ways to Get Rid of Them

The term blackheads may sound simple at the outset, but they sure can be stubborn and very annoying at times. Battling blackheads can be quite challenging as they tend to pop up time and again.

So, here we are providing you with some tips to conquer these tiny little guys. But before we go any further, it definitely helps to know what these blackheads are and why they occur.

Why do Blackheads Occur?

A blackhead is basically a hair follicle on the face that gets blocked with dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil. This causes the pores (openings of the hair follicles) to grow wider and get dilated on the skin's surface.

When this wide surface comes into contact with air, it becomes oxidized and turns black, resulting in what we call a blackhead. While anybody can develop a blackhead, those with oily skin are more prone to getting it, on account of high sebum production.

Blackheads vs. Whiteheads

Blackheads are also called open comedones. In a blackhead, the pores are open, causing oxidation (that leads to dark color), whereas, in a whitehead, the pores are closed and blocked, leading to the formation of pustules. Whiteheads are technically called closed comedones.

How to Get Clear Blackheads?

There are multiple ways to get rid of these annoying blackheads. The underlying cause for blackheads is primarily the excess oil that is secreted by our body. So no matter what treatment we take for blackheads, they can recur again, much to a person's dismay.

This means we have to tackle blackheads in an on-going fashion rather than opting for a one-time treatment. A one-time treatment will not enable one to get rid of blackheads permanently.

Tips to Rid of Appearance of Blackheads & Get Maximum Results with these skin products

#1. Use an Exfoliator

The first step would be to try a physical exfoliator like a scrub. Exfoliation helps to remove the superficial layer of dead skin cells and impurities. It helps to clear everything from dead skin to any debris and pollutants trapped in the external layer of the skin.

Exfoliation can be accomplished in two ways – physical and chemical. Physical exfoliation is done by using an abrasive substance on the skin like a face scrub with granules that helps to clean the top layer.

Skin brushes (electric or handheld ones) are also a good option. Chemical exfoliant, on the other hand, uses chemicals like Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA). Glycolic acid is a common type of AHA, while salicylic acid is a popular BHA. These acids help to dissolve the top layer of skin cells and cleanse the pores, making the skin softer.

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#2. Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are also another option.

A professional chemical peel involves the use of glycolic acid or salicylic acid to dissolve dead skin cells and unclog the pores. However, these treatments need to be redone at regular intervals as blackheads can keep recurring. This is great for oily skin type.


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#3. Opt for Clay Masks

Clay masks are a good alternative if one has blemish-prone skin or if one suffers from acne. They are effective in gently removing impurities from the skin and minimizing oil production.

They also help to loosen clogged pores. Certain clay masks contain sulfur which is quite effective against blackheads. Sulfur helps to break down dead skin cells that cause blackheads and other skin conditions. Charcoal masks with sulfur are also a good option.

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#4. Use Non-Comedogenic Skin Products

Opt for non-comedogenic skincare products (products that do not clog the pores & surface of the skin), especially if you are prone to acne or have sensitive skin.

Avoid oil cleansers, thick creams, and dense ingredients like petroleum, shea butter, etc., because such products can clog the pores.

Many oils, including coconut oils, are comedogenic by nature, and hence it is best to avoid them. Instead, opt for lightweight, gel-based formulas.

Look out for products labeled as non-comedogenic or oil-free.

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#5. Try Topical Retinoids

Retinoids are excellent for treating stubborn blackheads. While retinoids have been quite famous since time immemorial for fighting wrinkles, they are also great for unclogging the pores and minimizing the stickiness of skin cells.

They help speed up cell turnover and regeneration thereby keeping blackheads at bay. Retinoids (a derivative of Vitamin A) available in prescription at the pharmacy like tretinoin or benzoyl peroxide are good for peskier blackheads as they also exfoliate the skin, and help to de-clog the pores.

Certain OTC retinoid cream like adapalene also accomplish the job as effectively as prescription-strength retinoids and these can be used by people with sensitive skin. However, there are certain pitfalls with respect to retinoids.

Retinoids can cause side effects on the skin, and hence it is best to start with lower concentrations if you are trying one for the first time.

Try using them for a few days a week, and if suitable, one can enhance the frequency of application.

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#6. Try Professional Extraction Facial

If things still don’t work, then opt for an extraction facial. Consult a dermatologist like Dr. Pimple Popper or aka dermatologist Sandra lee who can professionally extract blackheads.

A dermatologist can also recommend dermabrasion treatments.

#7. Try Spot Treatments

If you are prone to getting blackheads and acne only on certain parts of the face, like, for instance, on the nose or chin, then it is ideal to try spot treatments that target only a particular region rather than treating the entire face.

This will not only save one from irritation but also limit concentrated treatments only to specific parts of the face.

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#8. Use Pore Strips Carefully

Pore strips are touted by many to be effective in removing blackheads. They act like adhesives and rip away the dead skin cells.

However, experts are divided when it comes to using pore strips.

As pore strips aggressively act on the junk clogging the pores, they can sometimes leave the clog pores more dilated and unclogging pores. Hence, many feel that a gentle chemical exfoliator would work better.

Cecilia Wong, a celebrity facialist based in New York City, advises saving pore strips for newer breakouts.

For blackheads that have been around for some time, it is better to try other options.

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#9. Wash your Face at least Twice Day

Last but not the least, make it a habit to wash your face at least two times a day.

This also forms one of the most important aspects of a good skincare routine because regular cleansing helps to get rid of excess oil and dirt that can clog the pores, leading to blackheads, acne, or other skin condition.

Also, make it a point to wash your face before and after a workout, especially if you do intense workouts that lead to excessive sweating.

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If none of these methods seem to work properly then it is better to get a dermatologist opinion and go in for oral medications to clear things up.


  • Axel Arzola

    Really good article guys. I like the simple explanations and I understand the black heads a lot better now. I have to stick to that habit of washing my face twice daily.

  • Axel Arzola

    Really good article guys. I like the simple explanations and I understand the black heads a lot better now. I have to stick to that habit of washing my face twice daily.

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