10 Best Ways to Help Prevent and Remove Blackheads

Published September 17th, 2021 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera

Blackheads are a common problem that affects people on different parts of their faces. They show up as unsightly dark spots on the surface of the skin and have been known to be particularly problematic in some individuals. Blackheads develop when sebum from oil glands gets trapped in hair follicles or pores. Bacteria build up after time, so removing blackheads is important to prevent clogging over time whenever possible. We’ll discuss the many options available to create a routine to both treat your current blackheads and prevent them from forming again.

1. Cleanse skin thoroughly before applying any product

The first thing that you need to do is wash your face daily. It may seem like common sense, but not everyone knows how to wash their face. You should make sure that you thoroughly cleanse with warm water and a good facial cleanser. Soaps are not ideal because they can be too harsh and often break down our skin's natural defenses more than necessary. 

Once you are finished washing your face, make sure it is completely dry. Also, make sure that your hands are clean before touching your face or putting any products on it. This will help reduce the spread of bacteria and other germs around your body. Either use a cotton ball or gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel. Be cognizant to not rub too hard as that can irritate your skin. 

2. Steam your face after cleansing or applying any product that contains AHAs (fruit acids)

Steam is a great way to soften and open up the pores on your face. This allows for better penetration of any skincare products that you are using. It can also help to reduce how irritated your skin feels after cleansing since the steam will open up your pores and allow them to breathe. The open pores will allow the blackheads to be removed more easily. Steaming must not take place more than once or twice per week because too much heat can damage your skin's protective barrier.

Steam is especially helpful for those with sensitive or dry skin because it makes the effects of using AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) more tolerable for your skin type. Learn more about alpha-hydroxy acids below. 

3. Exfoliate your face properly

An exfoliator is a product that when applied to the skin will rub away dead skin cells on the outermost layer of your skin. Exfoliation removes these dead skin cells that clog pores and cause blackheads to form. When the skin is exfoliated, it will reveal younger skin cells that are in the process of developing. This gives off a brighter complexion because the fresh skin cells have not been exposed to harsh sun rays or toxins that can cause them to look dull. By using an exfoliator, you will remove blackheads and other blemishes on your face. It is best to choose an exfoliator that contains alpha or beta hydroxy acids. Glycolic acid is the most common alpha hydroxy acid while salicylic acid is the most common beta hydroxy acid. Both beta and hydroxy acids have numerous over-the-counter brands to choose from so ask your pharmacist to help select one.

There are two different kinds of exfoliation: physical and chemical. A physical scrub using crushed seeds, nut shells or salt does the trick if you're looking for an at-home exfoliant. If you're looking for something stronger, try a chemical peel like salicylic acid or glycolic acid. As stated above, the methods using alpha and beta hydroxy acids seem to work best.

4. Choose a gentle skin cleanser to cleanse your pores 

Facial cleansing is important no matter what kind of skin type you have. If you're struggling with blackheads, try using a gentle cleanser in your daily routine. Look for labels like noncomedogenic or oil-free to make sure the product doesn't clog your pores. Some people choose to use a skin cleanser before exfoliating, however, there is no right order to the routine and both ways are effective. Choose whichever one you want first. 

5. Apply a natural mask 

Another way to remove blackheads is to apply a natural mask once or twice weekly. There are many different recipes for this, but most include some combination of baking soda, clay, and water. Apply the mixture on your face with your fingertips or a brush and leave it on for 5-10 minutes before rinsing it off. 

6. Use a face mask that contains AHAs every other day 

This will also help clear away blackheads and unplug the pores. This method works the same as the above ones which use AHAs and BHAs but this is a different method of delivery via a face mask. Be sure to use sunscreen daily because AHA products can make your skin more sensitive to the sun's rays.

7. Use sea salt to unclog pores 

Sea salt is a good alternative for those who want to avoid the strong ingredients found in many commercial blackhead treatments. Pour a small amount of warm water into a bowl, then add one to two teaspoons of sea salt and stir until it dissolves. Soak cotton balls or round cotton pads with this solution and place them on your face as you lay down. The added weight from the soaked cotton will help to press the sea salt against your skin as you sleep for about an hour or so. Be sure not to scrub or scratch at your skin while using this method.

Another method using sea salt would be to apply a small amount of sea salt onto a damp cotton pad and hold it against the problem areas for 10 minutes, while breathing deeply, in order to activate blood flow and unearth clogged follicles.

8. Use AHA or BHA serums on your face

Serums are a common method of using these acids topically to help treat and prevent blackheads. One way to use an AHA or BHA serum is to apply it on your face, concentrating on the blackhead prone areas, and let it dry for five minutes before applying moisturizer.

Another method of delivery would be to apply a thin layer of the serum on the areas you want to be treated. You can leave this on alone or top it off with another product like a day cream. Regardless of how you choose to combine these serums, do not leave either on for longer than recommended.

9. Apply a facial steam made with tea tree oil 

Tea tree oil is a powerful antibacterial agent that can be used to clear up blemishes. Over time, it can also help control blackheads as well as prevent them from forming in the first place. It's best to use this method to clean the pores once or twice weekly to help eliminate blackheads by unclogging pores, increasing blood circulation, killing bacteria, and opening up clogged pores for easy removal.

10. Use toothpaste to exfoliate 

When in a pinch, you can always use toothpaste to exfoliate your skin. Toothpaste is an inexpensive, accessible exfoliator that is readily available in most households. All you need to do is apply a small amount of toothpaste on your blackhead-prone areas and gently massage it into the skin using circular motions for a few minutes before rinsing off thoroughly. You can also make your own toothpaste by mixing baking soda with water to make a baking soda paste.

Summary

It should be noted that all these methods shouldn't be used at once. We are simply giving you 10 ways that have proven effective for other people to clear and prevent their blackheads. Choose the best methods for you for your daily routine. There are also prescriptions available should these methods not work. Please talk to your doctor or dermatologist if these symptoms persist to find an effective treatment method for you.

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