6 ways to get rid of blackheads

Have you been battling with blackheads, those tiny black dots on your face? Read all about blackheads and our 6 best ways to get rid of them in this article.

blackheads prevention

In this article

What are blackheads?

Despite their appearance, blackheads aren't due to the skin being dirty. Blackheads (also known as open comedones) are a type of clogged pore. They can occur on their own or sometimes along with acne. Blackheads form when dead skin cells combine with excess sebum and dirt in the pore lining. Once this combination reaches the opening of the pore at the skin’s surface, it oxidises, turning black. Blackheads tend to arise in your T-zone (forehead, nose and chin), particularly around the nose area as it has more hair follicles and produces more oil than other parts of the face.

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How do blackheads form?

Excess sebum production inside the skin's pores makes it difficult for the sebum to reach the surface of the skin resulting in blocked pores.
As the flow of oil clogs up, it mixes with accumulated dead skin cells that haven't exfoliated as efficiently as they should, narrowing the 'exit' of the pores so that the sebum cannot be secreted naturally.
If the pore is still slightly open, the combination of excess sebum and dead skin cells is exposed to oxygen, which oxidises the mixture and turns it black, forming a blackhead.
Excess sebum production can be caused by hormones, diet, ingredients in cosmetics products, medical conditions and medication.

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Products to get rid of blackheads

What is the difference between blackheads and spots?

Spots and blackheads are caused by clogged pores. This occurs when a hair follicle is clogged with sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria. Spots form when the hair follicle is completely sealed, blocking the sebum and dirt in the hair follicle from reaching the surface. As a result, the size of the spot may increase.
If the pore is clogged but not sealed, the sebum and dead skin cells in the pore can reach the skin's surface. When it comes in contact with air (oxidisation), the sebum turns black forming a blackhead.

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What is the difference between blackheads and whiteheads?

Blackheads are open comedones (clogged pores) which look like tiny black dots. These black dots are essentially blocked sebum that has become oxidized, causing it to turn black.
Whiteheads are closed comedones, referred to as such because they’re covered (closed) with a thin layer of skin. Because of this skin covering, the sebum cannot reach the surface which causes its flesh-toned, bumpy appearance.

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Prevent blackheads with a consistent skincare routine

6 ways to get rid of blackheads

1. Be consistent with your skincare routine

The best way to remove blackheads is to prevent them from forming in the first place. Want to know how to prevent blackheads? Following a simple 3-step skincare routine will help keep skin healthy and help stop blackheads from appearing on your skin.

  1. Step 1 - Cleanse: Use a water-soluble, mild cleanser to remove pore-clogging dirt, makeup and oil from the skin's surface.
  2. Step 2 - Exfoliate: Follow with a well-formulated BHA exfoliant. Exfoliants with salicylic acid (BHA) ensure that dead skin cells are removed and penetrate deep into the pores, preventing pores from becoming clogged.
  3. Step 3 - Hydrate: Finish with a well-formulated day cream (with a minimum of SPF 30) and night cream that suit your skin type. Keeping skin balanced helps prevent excess sebum production.

2. Check the texture of your skincare products

If you are wondering how to get rid of blackheads with skincare products, use skincare products with a liquid texture or in gel form where possible. Rich creams and lotions often contain pore-clogging ingredients.

3. Avoid irritating ingredients

Avoid skin irritants. Many skincare products can stimulate sebum production and make blackheads worse. This is due to ingredients that irritate the skin, such as alcohol, peppermint, menthol, lemon, lime and eucalyptus. Avoid using products with these ingredients and never use soap bars to wash skin - they will clog your pores and irritate or dry out your skin.

4. Try using a mask

Remove excess sebum. Use a clay mask regularly to absorb sebum, particularly on the oilier parts of your face.

5. See a professional

Visit the beautician. They will safely and hygienically remove your blackheads and then your home-care products can help minimise their formation.

6. Remove blackheads safely by following these steps

  • Wash your face with a mild, water-soluble cleanser and then use a toner containing niacinamide that will help improve the shape of your pores.
  • Place a warm (not hot), damp facecloth on the areas of your face where you want to remove the blackheads for two to three minutes. Then gently pat the skin dry.
  • Use a comedone spoon. Place it over the blackhead, then gently apply downward pressure while pushing the spoon forwards.
  • Remove more of the blackhead by putting a tissue over your finger top and gently and evenly pushing down against the side of the blackhead.
  • Only do this once. If it does not work, then it means the blackhead cannot yet be removed. Don’t force it: if you do you risk wounding you skin and a creating a scab, which can lead to scar tissue. Try again in a few days.
  • Finish your treatment with a good exfoliant containing BHA (salicylic acid) and apply a product with sunscreen during the day to protect your skin from UV rays.

Make sure you never squeeze, push or scrape your skin too hard.

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Use a clay mask to get rid of blackheads

What you shouldn't do

If you're looking for a safe way to remove blackheads, be careful with what you see on the internet - some of the advice can actually make the problem worse. You should never do these things:

  • Squeezing spots and blackheads: when you squeeze spots and blackheads, you can actually damage your skin. Sometimes this damage is permanent, causing 'squeezing' scars. Not to mention the bacteria on your hands. When this comes into contact with your skin, it can make spots and blackheads a lot worse.
  • Removing blackheads with a needle: many websites recommend using a needle (sometimes in combination with a comedone extractor), but this can cause serious (and permanent) damage to your skin. Furthermore, a needle can cause additional problems if it is not sterile. Always visit a beautician or dermatologist who will safely remove your blackheads.

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How to get rid of blackheads on the nose

The nose is probably the most common area to experience blackheads. The reason why is because the nose has more oil glands than any other part of the face, and excess oil is a key component in the formation of blackheads. If you want to know how to remove blackheads on your nose, it is no different to getting rid of blackheads on the other areas of the face. That means consistently following a skincare routine suitable for your skin type and regular use of a BHA exfoliant to remove oil, dirt and dead skin cells on the surface of skin and inside pores. Removing blackheads yourself can damage your skin if done incorrectly, follow the steps above to ensure your nose blackheads are removed safely or visit a beautician if you don’t feel like going it alone.

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Which Paula's Choice products should I use if I suffer from blackheads?

Whatever skin issues you have: there is no single product that can solve them for you. It is important to have a good routine to keep skin clean and healthy. Once you've got the basics you can then add in products that are aimed at reducing and preventing spots and blackheads

The basics:

  • Facial cleanser: choose a mild facial cleanser that suits your skin type. A gentle cleanser will remove excess oil that can clog pores, plus clean skin absorbs other products better.
  • Exfoliant: a BHA exfoliant contains salicylic acid. Salicylic acid removes dead skin cells and also cleans pores inside. This helps to reduce existing blackheads and to prevent new ones
  • Day and night cream: a good day and night cream will hydrate skin and supply vital ingredients all skin needs to be healthy. Always use a day cream with SPF 30 to protect against sun damage as the sun can aggravate spots and inflammation.

Blackhead-reducing products that you can add to your routine:

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Scrubs won't remove blackheads

Should I use a scrub?

Scrubbing is never a good idea. The vast majority of scrubs contain hard, coarse particles that can damage your skin. This can lead to irritation and increased sebum production, which in turn can lead to more spots and blackheads. In addition, blackheads are too deep in the pore to be able to remove them with a scrub. If you do use a scrub, you will only remove the upper part of the blackhead and not the underlying cause. Instead of a scrub you can use an bha-salicylic acid. BHA exfoliants remove dead skin cells without damaging the skin and can penetrate into the pores. Still want to scrub? Then try The UnScrub . This mild cleansing scrub removes makeup, SPF and dirt, but unlike other scrubs, it contains no hard, coarse particles – just fine, flexible jojoba balls. They dissolve slowly so won't damage your skin.

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How to remove deep blackheads

If you are dealing with deep blackheads, which are particularly stubborn, you may want to consider having them extracted by a well-trained aesthetician. An aesthetician who knows what they are doing can extract blackheads without hurting your skin. If you are wondering how to remove a deep blackhead without the help of a professional, you can also try it yourself with a blackhead extracting tool, available at most drugstores, but be extra careful. Aggressive squeezing, poking, and prodding can aggravate skin and cause a bigger problem than the one you started with.

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Essential Routine to get rid of blackheads for combination to oily skin

1. Cleanse

Clear Cleanser
Refreshing cleansing gel gently removes excess oil, debris and pore-clogging impurities.

2. Exfoliate

Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Fast absorbing liquid removes built-up dead skin cells and fights blackheads.

3. Moisturise

Resist Anti-Aging Moisturiser SPF 50
Water-light fluid minimises the appearance of pores and protects skin from the sun.

3. Moisturise

Clear Oil-Free Moisturiser
This oil-free night cream moisturises acne-prone skin without clogging pores or making breakouts worse.

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Want to learn how to get rid of blackheads for good?

Sign up for our 3 day course on banishing blackheads and learn how to get beautiful, blackhead-free skin in just a few minutes a day.

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*Please note that by signing up to our blackheads course you will also be subscribing to our Paula’s Choice newsletter. New subscribers get € 5 off their next order over € 25.

Our bestsellers against blackheads (whiteheads)

Combination skin, Oily skin
Combination skin, Oily skin
Combination skin, Oily skin

References for this information:

  1. Pediatric Dermatology, November 2015, pages 316-317
  2. American Family Physician, January 2000, pages 357-365
  3. JAMA, February 2015, page 640
  4. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, July 2019, pages 17-45
  5. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, December 2015, ePublication
  6. Indo American Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, July 2015, pages 2,512-2,522
  7. Research & Reviews: Journal of Pharmacology, 2014, pages 1-12

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