Blackheads are a mild form of acne that affect just about everyone from time to time. But, contrary to popular belief, blackheads are not caused by dirt or poor hygiene. Rather, they’re simply the result of your skin’s natural processes.
Blackheads might be natural, but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating to deal with. Thankfully, there are a number of products you can use at home to safely extract them and improve your overall skin tone.
What Are Blackheads?
Blackheads are small bumps found on the skin when your pores become clogged. Every pore on your body has a tiny hair follicle and a sebaceous gland that secretes sebum, an oily substance that helps keep your skin hydrated and soft.
When sebum and dead skin cells build up in the opening of a hair follicle, it can lead to the development of a small bump known as a comedo. If the skin over the bump remains closed, the comedo is known as a whitehead. If the skin opens up, air enters and oxidizes the sebum oil, causing it to turn black, resulting in a blackhead.
Although blackheads most commonly form on the face, they can also develop on other areas of the body, including the:
While it can be very tempting to do so, you should always avoid squeezing, popping or scraping a blackhead with your fingers. When you squeeze a blackhead, there’s a risk of releasing the bacteria that dwells beneath the surface of your skin, which can spread to the surrounding tissue. This not only causes pimples and other skin issues, but also increases the risk of scarring.
How to Remove Blackheads on Your Nose
Blackhead removal strips
A simple and effective way to clear blackheads from your nose is to use pore strips. These adhesives contour to the shape of your nose and are designed to remove the top thin layers of dead skin cells and blackheads from the affected area. Blackhead removal strips are particularly effective if you wish to remove a number of blackheads at once. Results are instant.
Products to try:
» Read more about DIY pore strips and blackhead removal hacks you can try at home
Retinol products are usually used to treat wrinkles, but their ability to promote cellular turnover also makes them valuable for combating blackheads on the nose. Over-the-counter products range in strength from roughly 0.1% to 2%. Retinol products can cause redness and dry skin, so it’s best to start with a low dose and work your way up to see how your skin reacts. It may take four or five weeks before you see a reduction in blackheads.
Products to try:
- RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Anti-Aging Retinol Night Cream
- Retinol Moisturizer Anti Aging Night Face Cream
- Eau Thermale Avène RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream
How to Remove Blackheads on Your Chin
Blackhead removal strips
Blackhead removal strips can also be used effectively on your chin. For best results, look for strips that are made specifically for use on the chin area as they will adhere to your skin better than those designed to be used on the nose.
Clay masks offer a gentler way of removing blackheads from your chin. These products work by absorbing oil and dead skin cells, which keeps your pores clean and reduces the risk of blackheads forming. French Green Clay and Bentonite Clay are better suited for people with normal or oily skin, while Kaolin Clay is a good option for sensitive or dry skin types.
Products to try:
- Aztec Secret – Indian Healing Clay
- Bioré Charcoal Self-Heating One Minute Mask
- The Body Shop Tea Tree 3-in-1
» Read more about the best face masks for acne, including clay masks, exfoliating masks, and DIY recipes
How to Remove Blackheads on Your Back, Chest, Arms and Shoulders
Blackhead extractor tool
A blackhead extractor tool is a simple, cost-effective way of removing blackheads. It’s a thin metal tool with a loop at one end that is used to apply pressure to the skin surrounding a blackhead. It can be safely used on all parts of the body and is ideal for removing blackheads from the chest, back, arms and shoulders, although you may need help using it on hard-to-reach areas.
Products to try:
How to Prevent Blackheads
While there are many techniques for removing blackheads, the most effective way of dealing with them is to prevent comedones from forming in the first place. By taking a proactive approach to skincare, it is possible to reduce the risk of clogged pores and have healthier, clearer skin. Here are a few essential tips for preventing blackheads:
As you may already know, exfoliating is a technique used to remove dead skin cells, which can help reduce the chances of a blackhead developing. There are many exfoliating products available on the market, but your best bet is to look for one that uses alpha and beta hydroxy acids. Not only do these acids help keep your pores unclogged, they also combat the signs of aging.
» Read more about body exfoliation and how it can prevent future blackheads from forming
2. Choose your makeup and skincare products carefully
Given that makeup and skincare products are often left on the skin for hours every day, it shouldn’t be surprising that these products can have a significant impact on the health of your skin. Always look for products bearing a “non-comedogenic” label, which means the product will not clog your pores.
Although many blackhead prevention techniques revolve around removing excess oil from the skin, it is still important to maintain a healthy balance in your skin—and that means moisturizing. Regularly applying a gentle cleanser and moisturizer as part of your daily skincare routine will help keep your face properly hydrated, which is essential if you’re using exfoliating products or retinols that are known to dry out the skin excessively.
Common Blackhead Myths
Blackheads are caused by dirt in the pores
It’s a common misconception that blackheads are caused by dirt getting trapped in the skin. In reality, blackheads are caused by excess sebum and dead skin cells accumulating in your pores. The sebum turns black when it comes into contact with oxygen.
You can get rid of blackheads by scrubbing them away
While it’s true gentle exfoliation can help reduce the risk of developing blackheads, scrubbing your skin is not a good solution for removing blackheads. Harsh facial scrubs aren’t very effective at removing blackheads and can damage your skin. This can trigger increased sebum production, which may lead to more blackheads and other skin problems.
You can shrink your pores
Many beauty products claim to be able to shrink or even close your pores, which would help prevent blackheads from forming. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t possible. Most beauty products that claim to shrink your pores work by exfoliating your skin and removing dead skin cells. This may give the illusion of smaller pores, but doesn’t change the actual structure of your pores.
» Read more on procedures and prescription medicines that have had success shrinking enlarged pores
Only teens get blackheads
Blackheads are extremely common among teenagers due to the way hormones affect the oil glands at this time of life. However, this doesn’t mean teenagers are the only ones who get them. The truth is that people of all ages can get blackheads from time to time.
Blackheads are caused by the buildup of sebum and dead skin cells in hair follicles. They are most commonly found on the face but can affect other parts of the body, too.
Taking a preventative approach to blackheads by exfoliating, moisturizing, using retinol products and being mindful of your makeup choices will go a long way toward reducing your chances of getting blackheads. When it comes to removing blackheads, pore strips can be very effective for dealing with superficial blackheads on the face, while blackheads that have settled deeper or on other parts of the body can be removed with a simple and inexpensive blackhead extractor tool.