How to target blackheads

Updated: Jul 6

Growing up, we definitely squeezed at the skin on our noses and chins with abandon trying to extract the gunk inside our pores. It was fascinating and a bit cathartic, but painful—and not to mention, pretty inconclusive. After a day or two, those pesky spots would reappear, and there we were, once again, fingers in position pushing and prodding our pores.

Pore strips are commonly recommended to get rid of blackheads but they only temporarily remove the top layer of blackheads, leaving room for the build-up to reoccur. What you might not know is that pore strips aren't the safest solution—in fact, they even have the potential to make your pores appear larger, They however do nothing to actually deal with the cause. Here are few ways to effectively treat blackheads:

✨Treatment with salicylic acid in the formula will help reduce blackheads by penetrating the pore and clearing out all that trapped material.

✨Acne treatment with the added benefit of retinol will speed up cell turnover.

✨A lactic acid serum will help to dislodge blocked pores, thus revealing clearer skin.

✨A rose clay mask/soap gently gives a deep clean while boosting the skin's appearance.

The best blackhead removers run the spectrum from toners to face washes and peels, but most dermatologists recommend choosing a product with acids to exfoliate and unclog pores.

What to Look For in a Blackhead Remover

Chemical Exfoliants

Acids help dissolve dead skin cells and excess oil, both of which are components of the “gunk” that can end up clogging pores. (Once that gunk oxidizes, you end up with a blackhead.) Beta-hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, are great for breaking down oil, while alpha-hydroxy acids (like glycolic and lactic acids) also have the added benefit of evening out skin tone and texture.

Physical Exfoliants

You can also opt for physical exfoliants that scrub away dead cells and other pore-clogging debris. These ingredients, like clay and charcoal, work like magnets, drawing out impurities that can get lodged deep in pores.


For those who want to steer clear of acids, retinoids speed up the rate at which skin cells turn over, which helps to push out blackheads.

Are blackhead removers safe?

In short, yes, though not all blackhead removers are created equal. While those iconic pore strips of your youth can be admittedly satisfying to use, they can end up doing more harm than good. Their mechanism of action—that sticking and then yanking—may pull out a few blackheads, but it also poses a risk of skin damage, which can ultimately end up making your pores appear bigger. Instead, dermatologists agree that using chemical exfoliants such as retinoids or beta-hydroxy acids is the safest and most effective way to go.

How do you use a blackhead remover?

This largely depends on the particular product you’re using, so it's always advisable to follow particular product directions. Typically, exfoliating cleansers can be used once or even twice daily, while leave-on serums, masks, and peels can be used a few times per week.

How do you prep your face for removing a blackhead?

Again, this depends on the product you’re using. For the leave-on serums, masks, and peels of the world, you’ll always want to apply these on clean skin, so prep by washing with a mild and gentle cleanser. Also, while it can be tempting to try and squeeze or push out blackheads, resist the urge. Like popping a pimple, this can end up only exacerbating the situation. One of the aforementioned products plus a little bit of patience will ultimately yield the best results.

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