When it comes to your complexion you work really hard to achieve clear and glowing skin. You keep your skin clean, you use SPF, you moisturize, but for some people, no matter how hard you try to maintain healthy skin habits, you are still plagued by those pesky dark spots in your pores—ugh blackheads are the absolute worst. But how to get rid of blackheads properly is still sometimes vague. According to dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey, “blackheads, called comedones, are plugs of dead skin cells, oil, skin germs, and debris that got stuck in your pores.” The gunk that causes blackheads is actually supposed to be there and is quite normal, as long as it rises to the surface so you can wash it off. The issue arises when that gunk clumps together and clogs your pores so that you cannot remove it. Those clogged pores look like little black dots (or not so little, especially if you are brave enough to look in a magnifying mirror) and you can actually feel them on your skin. It doesn’t sound pleasant, and it isn’t. Plus, to add insult to injury, blackheads are really stubborn and really tough to get rid of.
Most people who are struggling with blackheads have been fighting the fight their whole lives, and while blackheads are certainly more common among teens—and you probably have nightmares about your teenage acne—adults can get blackheads too. And clogged pores can happen anywhere, and unfortunately, some of the skincare products you use might actually be making them worse. Great. But here’s the good news: blackheads can be eliminated, and while they are incredibly stubborn, the right products, right tools and right techniques can help you get rid of them and prevent them in the future.
So where do you begin? Well, for starters, you need to get to know your new best friend salicylic acid. We know it doesn’t seem like a good idea to use anything that is called “acid” on your face, but trust us on this one. OK fine, you don’t have to trust us, but you should trust the pros. As Allure reports, according to Rachel Nazarian, dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, “salicylic acid is a great option for dissolving those blackheads away, and it can be found in over-the-counter products. Ideally, you’d use a leave-on product rather than a cleanser or soap, since the longer the exposure to the active ingredient, the better it’ll work. After using a salicylic acid product for several weeks, many of the blackheads will resolve, but others will just loosen.” Keep in mind that salicylic acid can take a little time to work so be patient, and unless you experience any irritation or an adverse reaction, continue using this treatment for at least a few days to a week, or as advised by your doctor.
Next on the list is to use an exfoliating scrub, which is actually a pretty good idea whether you have blackheads or not. Exfoliating products such as scrubs and masks help remove dead skin cells on the surface, revealing fresh, glowing and clear skin. And since blackheads are caused by excess dirt and gunk in your pores, any product that helps minimize that debris is a must-use in our book. And if you’re not so into buying expensive exfoliating tools or products, you can just look in your kitchen for an effective DIY skin solution. As HuffPost tells it, Dr. Alicia Zalka, Connecticut-based dermatologist and founder of Surface Deep, explains, “baking soda is an ingredient that is often used in microdermabrasion which as a method of exfoliating, can aid in minimizing blackheads when done regularly.”
Skin brushes can work wonders as well, and they are far more effective than washing your skin with your hands alone. After all, you hands can only cleanse so well, while a brush such as the Clarisonic Mia brush can better penetrate your pores and remove dirt to prevent blackheads. Sure, it’s a bit of a splurge, but if you’ve been fighting against blackheads since puberty (the struggle is real) then it’s well worth every pretty penny.
Last but not least, let’s be real—you’re going to want to squeeze those suckers out of your pores as often as possible. It’s so tempting to pick at your pores until those blackheads disappear, but if you’re not doing it right, you could be doing more harm than good. Instead of tempting fate by squeezing your skin and potentially introducing more dirt or infection to your pores, use blackhead-removing strips to pull out your blackheads and free your pores of all the ickiness you so badly want to get rid of.
If none of those tactics seem to work, then don’t worry, all hope is not lost. Call your dermatologist and enlist professional help. Doctors have special tools and prescription products that can help remove blackheads when everything else you have tried fails. They know how to get rid of blackheads and can help you craft a treatment plan based on your skin type, and they can even de-clog your pores with specialized tools that are the perfect size and shape for squeezing out dirt from your pores. It might not sound pleasant, but it’s shockingly satisfying and it really works.