15 Things That Will Actually Help You Get Rid of Blackheads
You’ve probably been wondering how to get rid of blackheads since you were a teenager—and we can bet you’ve tried some popular yet questionable methods on your quest for smoother, clearer skin. Maybe you squeezed them out because it was the only thing that seemed to banish this tricky type of acne. Or maybe you always had a stash of pore strips ready for especially dire situations (no matter how much pain you had to go through to get one of those suckers off).
Unfortunately, as satisfying as it may be to see all of that gunk come out of your pores, those go-to blackhead treatments aren’t actually the best thing for your skin—in fact, they can make your complexion look much worse in the long run. To really become a blackhead removal ninja, it’s helpful to learn how and why blackheads form on areas like your nose, chin, forehead, and even your chest and back in the first place. Ahead, you’ll find everything you need to know about these pesky little face bumps, including why dermatologists say simpler, gentler, consistent treatment is the best method for finally getting rid of them.
What are blackheads, exactly?
Blackheads are noninflamed clogged pores called comedones. “A blackhead is an open comedone,” Shari Lipner, M.D., Ph.D., a cosmetic dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, tells SELF. “It’s a large opening in a hair follicle that’s been clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. When this gets exposed to air, it oxidizes and turns black.”
What’s the difference between blackheads vs. whiteheads?
Whiteheads, another type of acne that’s just as annoying to deal with, are actually closed comedones, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). “A whitehead is essentially the same thing as a blackhead, except there is a little skin on top of the follicle,” board-certified dermatologist Ife J. Rodney, M.D., founding director of Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics and a professor of dermatology at Howard University and George Washington University, tells SELF. This protective layer prevents them from oxidizing, so they end up looking a little white, pink, or flesh-colored instead.
What causes blackheads?
When oil, dirt, and bacteria have a party in your pores, the resulting cocktail can cause any type of acne, including blackheads. “If you don’t take care of your pores, eventually the dirt and oil will accumulate,” Cecilia Wong, a celebrity facialist based in New York City, tells SELF. “If someone has a lot of blackheads, you can feel it—the skin is rough, scratchy, and bumpy.”
Basically anyone can get blackheads, but those who have combination or oily skin are most prone to developing them, Marnie B. Nussbaum, M.D., F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells SELF. And if you think you get them around your nose more often than anywhere else on your face, you’re not imagining it: The skin around your nose has a particularly high concentration of sebaceous glands, meaning the area is a goldmine for excess oil, and thus, has a higher potential for clogged pores.
How to get rid of blackheads safely (and prevent them from coming back)
Perhaps because blackheads are both so common and so frustrating, people have tried countless weird (sometimes reckless) ways to remove them, including the grits exfoliation technique from Reddit and the DIY gelatin mask.