We’ve all been there: You flip on the bathroom light only to discover what looks like a T-zone peppered with little black dots. Ah, the reality of blackheads. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne—which accounts for blackheads—is the most common skin condition in the country, affecting over 50 percent of the population. In other words, you’re not alone, but blackheads are still annoying AF.
To combat these pesky clogged pores, we chatted with top dermatologists to discover the best way to remove blackheads. Keep reading to learn from their expertise.
What Are Blackheads?
We’ve likely all witnessed grayish-black dots on the nose, cheeks, forehead, or chin at some point in our lives. But can the same be said for actually knowing what they are?
“Blackheads are just an oxidized mix of oil and dead skin cells that sit in pores. Air exposure is what causes them to oxidize and turn black,” says Parvaneh Rafaeloff, MD of LA-based Le Jolie Medi Spa. In other words, blackheads are a pretty good indicator that your skin is either A) not as clean as you’d like to think, or B) oilier than you might realize.
The Best Way to Remove Blackheads
While spa facials are a fantastic (and not to mention the most obvious) way to extract blackheads, board-certified dermatologist and celebrity beauty expert Anna Guanche, MD says that a consistent regimen is essential to prevent recurring clogs.
Add Chemical Exfoliants to Your Skincare Routine
An ideal skincare routine geared towards clearing out blackheads consists of charcoal, benzoyl peroxide, and a variety of exfoliating acids. As much as you may want to pick and prod your skin (because, let’s be real, it can be satisfying), acids are a safer way to get the job done. They dissolve the gunk clogging your pores and creating the blackhead in the first place, all without applying excess pressure onto your delicate facial skin.
“Chemical exfoliation includes alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic and lactic acids) and beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid),” Dr. Guanche says. “Chemical exfoliators with these compounds can be in the form of a cream, lotion, mask, wash, or a pad.” Additionally, she notes that retinoids can also help improve cell turnover, effectively ridding skin of stubborn blackheads.
Reach for a Blackhead Extractor
If chemical exfoliators don’t do the full job, you can enlist the help of extracting tools—with caution, of course. “I recommend gently removing blackheads after a warm shower or steam, using a blackhead extractor (like these) if possible,” Dr. Guanche notes. She explains that blackhead extractors help open pores and limit the pressure necessary for removal.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads at Home
Ready to give it a go? Check out the five products below to help battle your blackheads with full (yet gentle) force.
These salicylic acid pore strips start as a solid. But once you dampen them, they transform into an exfoliating scrub to rinse blackheads away with ease.
This cleansing gel features a lactic and salicylic acid formula. It’s designed to target blackheads and other forms of acne from two angles.
This charcoal and jojoba oil foam exfoliator absorbs makeup, dirt, and impurities that clog pores. As a result, you’ll notice a tighter, more toned complexion with every rinse.
IS CLINICAL ACTIVE SERUM ($135)
This luxe skincare serum consists of lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acids. Together, they dissolve blackheads on the spot.
These self-absorbing, pore-refining strips suck gunk right out. They leave your face with visibly tighter-looking pores and a more toned visage.
Dr. Guanche emphasizes that consistency works best in the long run. “Adhering to a regular skincare regimen will yield the best results,” she explains. “I recommend using [anti-acne products] regularly, and avoiding products that don’t say ‘non-comedogenic.’ Also, when you have clogged pores, it’s best to avoid thick creams and lotions that can contribute to or worsen the condition.”
When all is said and done, if OTC remedies don’t work, Dr. Guanche advises seeking out professional assistance. For some, the best way to remove blackheads will involve a prescription-strength regimen and facials by an esthetician.