Bye, Bye Blackheads!

Bye, Bye Blackheads!

We understand the frustration of dealing with stubborn blackheads—no amount of scrubbing gets rid of them (if anything that often makes it worse). Once you understand why you have blackheads, the path to getting rid of them becomes much clearer.

Why Do You Get Blackheads?

Diagram of hair follicle

  • When too much oil is produced inside the pore, it has difficulty flowing freely to the surface.
  • As the flow of oil gets backed up, it mixes with the built-up dead skin that isn’t shedding (exfoliating) as efficiently as it should.
  • Once this occurs and the oil and dead skin at the top of the clogged pore are exposed to air, they oxidize, forming a blackhead.

How to Get Rid of Blackheads

To start getting rid of blackheads, you need products that can do all of the following:

  • Reestablish, as best as possible, a normal flow of oil out of the pore lining.
  • Minimize and absorb excess oil.
  • Exfoliate built-up dead skin that isn’t shedding normally.

Unfortunately, many products that promise to get rid of blackheads aren't capable of doing any of the above. In fact, they often contain ingredients that actually make matters worse!

The secret to solving any stubborn skin problem is to avoid products that can make them worse, and only use the right products consistently. Here's what you can do to help diminish your blackheads:

  • Use a gentle, water-soluble cleanser and a soft washcloth or soft bristled cleansing brush for a bit of extra cleansing to be sure you get all your makeup off and the surface of skin is clean, but keep in mind over-cleansing can actually compound skin's problems. Cleansers or scrubs that make skin feel squeaky clean, tight, or dry, may seem like they're getting rid of the oil, but as those of us with oily skin know too well, it’s back again with a vengeance.
  • Avoid overly emollient or greasy moisturizers in blackhead-prone areas. Try to use only gel, light fluid lotion, or liquid skin care products because most of the ingredients that give lotions and creams their thick consistency can clog pores.
  • Use a well-formulated, completely non-abrasive, liquid exfoliant (with salicylic acid, also called BHA), which can help shed built up dead skin that would normally mix with oil in the pore and risk turning into a blackhead. BHA is also incredibly effective in smoothing out those stubborn, tiny, hard, white bumps that occur primarily on your cheek bones, but can show up in other areas too, and is suitable even for those with milia-prone skin.
  • Absorb excess oil. Those with oily skin and congested pores can benefit from a mattifying product or a non-irritating, absorbent charcoal or clay mask. It’s one more way to improve your odds against blackheads!

Blackheads often get worse because of using the wrong skin care products, so make sure your skin care routine is free of the following:

  • Skin-aggravating ingredients such as alcohol, peppermint, menthol, lemon, lime, eucalyptus—all of which trigger more oil production and make matters worse!
  • Abrasive face scrubs. Blackheads are too deep in the pore to be removed by surface scrubbing, and the abrasiveness only upsets skin more.
  • Blackhead-removing strips. Pore strips remove only the very surface part of a blackhead, which has no effect on the pore quickly getting clogged again so you'll see it back way too fast.
  • Bar soap. The ingredients that keep bar cleansers in their solid form can clog your pores.

Can I Remove Blackheads Myself?

If stubborn blackheads won’t go away, consider extraction from a well-trained aesthetician. An aesthetician who knows what they are doing can extract blackheads without hurting your skin. You can also try it yourself with a blackhead extracting tool, available at most drugstores, but follow our instructions carefully. Aggressive squeezing, poking, and prodding can aggravate skin and cause a bigger problem than what you started with.

Learn more about blackheads.


About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!