Before you get your fingers in position to squeeze, step away from the mirror and keep reading. We interviewed top dermatologists about the cause of blackheads and how to remove them in various ways ( including at home, both instantly and overnight) and in different places, from your nose, cheeks, back, and more. Plus, our experts share their favorite blackhead-busting ingredients and products.
There are many ways to treat and prevent blackheads, but generally speaking, you want to “consistently use medicated cleansers or treatment products that help break up the debris within your pores, regardless of whether the blackheads are on your cheeks or back,” Dr. Rodney says. Here are 7 ways:
1. Call your dermatologist for deep blackheads.
“For those super deep blackheads, you should see a dermatologist or esthetician, as they have special tools that can safely extract the gunk trapped in your pores,” Dr. Drodney explains. “Do not attempt to remove these yourself, as this can cause trauma and scarring of your skin.”
2. Use a medicated cleanser to nix blackheads on your back and body.
For blackheads on the back, “I recommend using a benzoyl peroxide face or body wash in the shower daily,” Dr. Gymrek says. “Let it sit on skin for a minute or two before washing off.” She recommends trying a formula that contains 5% benzoyl peroxide to start, then moving to a higher percentage if your skin can tolerate it without irritation. If benzoyl peroxide is too drying, apply a salicylic acid wash instead, Dr. Gymrek suggests.
Another option: Before bed, spread a thin coat of a retinoid gel or cream on the area, starting with every other night to prevent irritation. If you can’t reach your back, get someone to help you apply the cream or try a back lotion applicator. For more stubborn blackheads, visit a dermatologist: Dr. Bank suggests a Jessner peel, which contains a mix of alpha and beta hydroxy acids to deeply exfoliate skin and treat acne.
3. Try pore strips to get rid of blackheads on your nose.
Pore strips like Bioré Original Deep Cleansing Pore Strips adhere to the nose skin, and as they dry, the adhesive attaches to oil, sebum, and dead skin cells, which are removed when the strip is taken off, Dr. Gmyrek says. They can be irritating, though, so proceed with caution if you have sensitive skin or rosacea. If you’re prone to blackheads on the nose, Dr. Bank also suggests regularly using a cleanser or serum with salicylic acid on this area and getting a professional facial with manual extractions.
4. Get rid of blackheads overnight with a two-step process.
To disappear blackheads by morning, Dr. Bank recommends a two step process: Use a pore strip first and follow by applying a salicylic acid gel before bed.
5. Use steam to nix blackheads instantly.
Start by steaming your face to open up your pores, Dr. Bank suggests. Then “use two cotton swabs or a comedone extractor to gently press on the sides of the blackhead,” he says. “Do not use your hands, as this can introduce bacteria and lead to infection.”
6. Give powerful retinoids a try.
If all else fails, retinoids and retinol (a milder version), both vitamin A derivatives, can also be extremely effective in treating blackheads. “Retinoids change the way your skin cells develop from the inside out, to prevent the clogging of pores and acne formation,” Dr. Rodney explains. Retinoids are available both in over-the-counter and in prescription strength. (Bonus: They also help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.) Both Dr. Gmyrek and Dr. Bank recommend using an adapalene 0.1 percent gel, like Differin.
7. Try salicylic acid.
First, seek out active ingredients like salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that is ideal for removing blackheads. “Because it’s oil soluble, it is able to deeply penetrate the pores and oil glands to break up the debris and sebum,” Dr. Rodney explains. She recommends using it in a daily cleanser, like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser.
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