Blackheads: Causes, Prevention Tips, Treatment, Best Removal Products

  • Blackheads are caused by the buildup of oil and dead skin cells in your pores.
  • Exfoliating and using masks and retinoids can help prevent blackheads from developing.
  • There are a number of cheap, over-the-counter products you can use to remove blackheads at home.

Blackheads are tiny bumps that develop on the skin, most commonly found on the face, but can also be found on the back, neck, chest, arms and shoulders. There are a variety of DIY and professional treatments you can use to safely remove blackheads.

What Causes Blackheads?

Blackheads are small black bumps found on the skin. Despite what many people think, they are not caused by dirt trapped under the skin, nor are they are the result of poor personal hygiene.

A blackhead occurs when a sebaceous gland (oil gland) produces excess oil. This oil combines with dead skin cells and other debris in the lining of the pore and gradually moves through the pore toward the surface of the skin. If the skin is open, the oily mix is exposed to air and oxidizes, turning the substance black. This is known as a blackhead.

How to Prevent Blackheads


Exfoliating is one of the most effective ways of preventing blackheads. Regular exfoliation plays a key role in removing dead skin cells and other debris that clogs pores and creates blackheads. Remember to avoid scrubbing too hard or using exfoliants that contain harsh chemicals, as they can do your skin more harm than good.

Recommended products:

Bioré Baking Soda Acne Scrub

This scrub uses the abrasive power of baking soda to exfoliate and cleanse.

Check price

When used two to three times per week, this oil-free scrub can help eliminate the pore blockages that cause blackheads. Bioré also includes 2% salicylic acid in their formula to reduce the risk of future acne breakouts occurring. While those with sensitive skin should look for another treatment option, Bioré Baking Soda Acne Scrub is a perfect blackhead solution for those with combination skin.

  • Oil-free
  • Good for combination skin
  • Cheap
  • Not suitable for people with very sensitive skin
M3 Naturals Activated Charcoal Scrub

Combining dead sea salts and activated charcoal, M3 Naturals’ scrub delivers an exfoliating force that can be used across the body.

Check price

This scrub is packed with high quality natural ingredients, including malus domestica fruit cell culture extract stem cells derived from apples. While those with sensitive skin should avoid this powerful exfoliator, this scrub is ideal for those with oily and normal skin.

  • Contains quality, natural ingredients
  • Includes collagen to keep skin looking youthful
  • Can be used all over the body
  • Messy to apply
Paula’s Choice Facial Exfoliant for Blackheads

Paula’s Choice Facial Exfoliant utilizes beta hydroxy acid (BHA) to unclog pores and wash away the impurities that cause blackheads.

Check price

Unlike the other two options on this list, this exfoliant is non-abrasive, meaning you’ll have clearer pores without the need for scrubbing. This makes it ideal for those who find scrubs to be too rough for their skin. Nevertheless, people with sensitive skin should use caution with this exfoliant as it can still cause irritation.

  • Reduces the appearance of pores.
  • Gentle on the skin.
  • Contains 2% beta hydroxy acid, which is proven to help treat blackheads.
  • Expensive

» Learn more about the benefits and risks of alpha and beta hydroxy acids.

Be mindful of your makeup and skincare products

Any non-cleansing product that you apply to your skin can potentially have an adverse effect, and makeup is no exception. With this in mind, it’s important to choose your makeup carefully. Always look for products that are described as “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic”, as these products are less likely to clog your pores and irritate your skin.

Recommended products:

Maybelline Fit Me Matte Poreless Liquid Foundation

An oil-free foundation that is perfect for those with normal to oily skin

Check price
Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation

Maybelline Fit Me Matte is an oil-free foundation that is perfect for those with normal to oily skin and an ideal option for people who are prone to blackheads. Available in over 40 different shades, this foundation can match nearly any skin tone for a natural look.

  • Very popular and highly reviewed
  • Available in 40 shades
  • Light on the skin
  • Provides minimal coverage
Burt’s Bees Natural Mattifying Powder Foundation

A perfect foundation for those prone to blackheads

Check price

As an all-natural, non-comedogenic foundation that isn’t tested on animals, Burt’s Bees’ offering is a perfect fit for many who are prone to blackheads. Unfortunately, it’s only available in six lighter shades, making it impossible to recommend this otherwise ideal product for those with skin tones darker than tanned.

  • 100% natural and non-comedogenic product.
  • Blends easily.
  • Doesn’t feel heavy.
  • Limited color options
Neutrogena Skinclearing Makeup

A foundation that actively treats blackheads and acne

Check price

Unlike many foundations that only seek to avoid causing blackheads, Neutrogena Skinclearing Makeup actively treats acne and blackheads. Available in 12 diverse shades, this foundation offers treatment and beauty in a single package and is perfect for those with oily to normal skin.

  • Can be too orange for those with very fair skin

» According to dermatologists, these are the 5 best makeups for acne-prone skin.

Use a mask

Masks are an essential tool for preventing blackheads—particularly for those with oily skin. Masks combat blackheads by extracting oil, dirt and debris from the pores, which helps reduce the risk of them getting clogged. Most masks can be safely used once or twice a week.

Recommended products:

Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask

This mask is great for removing excess oil and exfoliating the skin

Check price

Using volcanic ash, a natural antibacterial agent, this mask removes excess oil and exfoliates. Better yet, it’s considered to be rather gentle, making it an option for most skin types, including sensitive skin. This mask can be used twice a week.

  • Great for oily skin types
  • Tightens pores and exfoliates dead skin cells
  • Soothing, cooling effect
  • Comes in a small container
Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay

This clay mask uses calcium bentonite clay, to treat a variety of skin issues including blackheads

Check price

One of the most popular clay masks available, Aztec Secret uses calcium bentonite clay to treat a variety of skin issues including blackheads. While it can leave a temporary redness, this should fade within an hour of use. This mask is good for most skin types, including sensitive skin.

  • Very highly reviewed
  • Removes excess oil and reduces the appearance of pores
  • Excellent value
  • Can feel quite tight
Aria Starr Dead Sea Mud Mask

This mask works to treat many common skin issues at once

Check price

This mask uses dead sea mud for its antimicrobial properties. By exfoliating and cleansing the skin, Aria Starr’s mask works to treat many common skin issues at once, including blackheads. Those with dry or sensitive skin will appreciate the gentle hydration of this mask.

  • Popular product
  • Uses a range of natural ingredients to cleanse the skin
  • Leaves skin feeling soft, clean and fresh
  • Some users don’t like the strong smell

Use a retinoid

Topical retinoids are widely used to treat acne and blackheads. Retinoids work by stimulating new cell growth, which helps keep your pores free of debris and makes your skin look more vibrant and youthful.

Recommended products:

Tree of Life Retinol Serum

This serum combines a number of natural and organic ingredients for an all-in-one skin care solution

Check price

Not only does it manage fine lines and reduce the visible signs of aging, the retinol component also helps to eliminate blackheads. Using vegan retinol, this serum is an ideal cruelty-free option for natural skin care.

  • Prevents breakouts and keeps skin looking youthful
  • No parabens
  • Contains 10% hyaluronic acid, which helps keep skin hydrated and smooth.
  • Watery consistency
Skincare+ Retinol Moisturizer Cream for Face

This face cream treats wrinkles, brightens skin, and of course helps to avoid blackheads

Check price

Combining retinol with hyaluronic acid (HA), vitamin E, and green tea, this face cream treats wrinkles, brightens skin, and of course helps to avoid blackheads. While it can be used on any skin type, this cream’s oily nature makes it best suited for those with dry to normal skin.

  • Top pump dispenser makes it easy to apply
  • No dyes, parabens or fragrances
  • Contains green tea, vitamin E and hyaluronic acid
  • Can feel greasy, especially for oily skin types
RoC Retinol Correxion

An anti-aging cream great for preventing and treating blackheads

Check price

RoC’s Retinol Correxion is above all an anti-aging cream. That said, this night cream uses retinol and is both oil-free and non-comedogenic, making it a good option for preventing and treating blackheads. It also contains alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), meaning direct sunlight should be avoided following use.

  • Oil-free, non-comedogenic formula
  • Combats the signs of aging
  • Works while you sleep
  • Can be too harsh for sensitive skin

How to Get Rid of Blackheads

Pore strips

Pore strips are adhesive strips that are designed to remove the top layers of dead skin cells and blackheads. They come in a range of shapes and sizes that contour to yourthe nose, chin, cheeks and forehead. For this reason, pore strips are better suited to yourthe face than other parts of yourthe body.

Recommended products:

Blackhead removal tool

A blackhead removal tool (sometimes referred to as a comedone extractor) is a simple, cost -effective and completely natural way of removing blackheads. It can be safely used on all parts of the body, although you may need help reaching your back and shoulders. Be sure to sanitize the extractor tool after every blackhead removal and apply an antibacterial product to the treatment site to minimize the risk of infection.

Recommended products:

Pore vacuum

Pore vacuums are a relatively new way of removing blackheads. They work by sucking up dead skin cells and other debris that clog pores and cause blackheads. You can use pore vacuums two or three times a week, though it may take up to a month before you start to see results. Many people report experiencing some light bruising and redness when they first start treatment. Pore vacuums are more expensive than other options, but they can be used over and over again.

Recommended products:


Microneedling is a minimally invasive procedure that involves using small needles to prick the skin. The process stimulates collagen production, which helps reduce the appearance of pores, scars and wrinkles. Professional microneedling treatments are much more effective than DIY dermarollers. Microneedling treatments cost $100-$700 per session and should be carried outperformed by a board-certified dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon.

» Learn more DIY options to remove blackheads from your nose, chin, and back.

Common Blackhead Treatment Mistakes

Squeezing blackheads

When you squeeze a blackhead between your fingers, there’s a risk of releasing bacteria that can spread to the surrounding tissue. This can cause pimples and increase the chances of scarring.

Scrubbing too hard

Exfoliating can do wonders for preventing blackheads, but try not to get carried away. Scrubbing too hard can irritate the skin and increase the risk of a breakout.


Blackheads are caused by the buildup of sebum and dead skin cells in hair follicles. Exfoliating, being mindful of your makeup choices and using preventative products such as retinoids and clay masks can help keep your skin free of blackheads. In the event that blackheads do appear, there are a number of inexpensive products you can use to remove them.

Related Posts