Do you keep picking on the black or yellow plugs on the tip of your nose? Those pesky, stubborn things are blackheads, which are enough to pull down the overall appearance of any face. Moreover, they keep coming back again and again in multitudes even after you squeeze them out. It is really tricky to get rid of those ugly little bumps, especially when they become overwhelming. But worry not. We are here to get you covered. The best way to manage the problem is to use simple home remedies and here, we are going to talk about some of the most effective ways to remove blackheads naturally. So, stay tuned.
What are Blackheads?
Blackheads are tiny, dark bumps or lesions formed on the surface of the skin due to clogged hair follicles. They are the most common form of mild acne in which other signs of acne may not be present (1). While blackheads are most commonly found on the nose and the chin, they can appear on any other body parts including neck, shoulders, chest, back, and arms too. Usually, people with oily skin are more vulnerable to blackheads, but you can get them even if you have dry, combination, and even normal skin. However, blackheads are not trapped dirt and they have nothing to do with skin hygiene. Even those following a strict cleanliness regime may also face this issue as it is caused by the accumulation of excess oils in the sebaceous glands. The appearance of blackheads may also vary based on heredity, age, hormonal status, lifestyle, skincare regimen, and so on.
Acne or acne vulgaris is a skin infection that is considered as the most common skin issue in the United States (U.S.). According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it affects as many as 50 million of Americans every year (2).
Causes of Blackheads
Our skin has millions of pores containing hair follicles with hair fibers and sebaceous glands lying underneath them. When these glands become overactive, the excess sebum (yellowish, oily protective substance) secreted by them gets accumulated in the hair follicles. This, along with the dead cells collected in the openings to hair follicles, clogs the skin pores and forms tiny bumps or ‘comedones’. If the skin over these comedones remains open, everything inside them gets oxidized due to the exposure to air. This turns the top visible surface of the bumps dark or yellowish in color, thus forming ‘blackheads’. There are also certain factors that may increase the chances of developing blackheads, which include the following (3):
- Oversecretion of sebaceous glands
- Higher rate of turnover of skin cells by the body
- Too much sweating
- Extremely humid environment
- Blocking of skin pores by makeup products
- Opening of hair follicles by shaving and other similar activities
- Buildups of bacteria (P. acnes) on the skin
- Hormonal fluctuations due to puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, birth control pills, etc.
- Certain medical conditions like stress, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), etc. (4)
- Intake of steroid-based drugs like corticosteroids, lithium, androgens, etc.
- irritation of the hair follicles when dead skins cells don’t shed on a regular basis0
- medications that encourage rapid skin cell turnover
Contrary to popular belief, poor hygiene does not directly cause blackheads. Excessive scrubbing in an attempt to remove them can make them worse. Handling blackheads in the right way can help prevent the development of more severe acne. Blackheads are made of oxidized melanin and not trapped dirt.
Symptoms of Blackheads
Because of their dark color, blackheads are easy to spot on the skin. They’re slightly raised, although they aren’t painful because they aren’t inflamed like pimples. Pimples form when bacteria invade the blockage in the hair follicle, causing redness and inflammation.
The main symptom is the small, dark lesion that gives blackheads their name.
Blackheads are a symptom of acne, but, being caused by open pores, they differ in some ways from other acne lesions.
Blackheads are non-inflammatory. This means they are not infected, and they will not cause pain and discomfort in the same way as pimples and pustules.
Blackheads have a raised texture, but they are flatter than pimples.
The change in appearance caused by blackheads can lead to embarrassment and social or psychological difficulties in some patients.
Sebaceous filaments look like blackheads, but they are different. They can appear on the nose. They tend to be smaller, appear in groups, and feel flat to the touch. Sebaceous filaments are glands that channel the flow of sebum through the pores. Unlike blackheads, they are not a form of acne.
Treatments for Blackheads
It is such a common beauty problem that there are a number of remedies suggested for managing blackheads ranging from simple home remedies to prescriptions and over-the-counter methods. However, the efficacy of each method can vary hugely because of different skin types, climatic conditions, etc. An ideal way to manage this problem would be to try all no side-effects methods and then personally judge their suitability for your skin and lifestyle. A regular skin care regimen and continuous maintenance can be crucial for keeping the problem at bay for long durations.
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments
Many acne medications are available at drug and grocery stores and online without a prescription. These medications are available in cream, gel, and pad form and are put directly on your skin. The drugs contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and resorcinol. They work by killing bacteria, drying excess oil, and forcing the skin to shed dead skin cells.
If OTC treatment doesn’t improve your acne, your doctor may suggest that you use stronger prescription medications. Medications that contain vitamin A keep plugs from forming in the hair follicles and promote more rapid turnover of skin cells. These medications are applied directly to your skin and can include tretinoin, tazarotene, or adapalene.
Your doctor may also prescribe another type of topical medication that contains benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics. If you have pimples or acne cysts in addition to your blackheads, this type of medication may be particularly helpful.
Dermatologists or specially trained skin care professionals use a special instrument called a round loop extractor to remove the plug causing the blackhead. After a small opening is made in the plug, the doctor applies pressure with the extractor to remove the clog.
During microdermabrasion, a doctor or skin care professional uses a special instrument that contains a rough surface to sand the top layers of your skin. Sanding the skin removes clogs that cause blackheads.
Chemical peels also remove clogs and get rid of the dead skins cells that contribute to blackheads. During a peel, a strong chemical solution is applied to the skin. Over time, the top layers of the skin peel off, revealing smoother skin underneath. Mild peels are available over the counter, while stronger peels are performed by dermatologists or other skincare professionals.
Laser and light therapy
Laser and light therapies use tiny beams of intense light to decrease oil production or kill bacteria. Both lasers and light beams reach below the surface of the skin to treat blackheads and acne without damaging the top layers of the skin.
Most people manage their blackheads at home without needing to see a doctor, but some activities can make them worse or trigger a more severe type of acne.
There are many myths and contradictions about how to treat blackheads, so it may be best to see what works for you.
Do’s for blackheads
Gently cleansing the skin can help blackheads, so long as the cream used does not excessively dry the skin.
Cleansing: Special scrubs for gently exfoliating the face can help. Look for those that are fragrance-free and for sensitive skin, and avoid anything that makes your skin overly dry. Various products are available to purchase online.
While it is important to dry up the skin by decreasing excessive oil production, drying it too much may make matters worse due to stimulating the extra production of oil by the glands.
Make-up and cosmetics: Use non-comedogenic products that do not clog pores instead should keep the pores clear and open and reduce the buildup of dead skin. Non-comedogenic makeup is available to purchase online from various brands.
Prescription treatments: Azelaic acid, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide are also available in both prescription and over the counter (OTC) forms for non-inflammatory acne. These are topical treatments, applied directly to the skin.
Prescription medications that contain vitamin A, such as tretinoin, tazarotene, and adapalene, may be prescribed to keep plugs from forming in the hair follicles and promote the more rapid turnover of skin cells.
However, most people do not seek these treatments until their acne has worsened to become an infected or more severe form, such as pimples. It might be best to have a skin care specialist remove the blackheads if they become bothersome.
Underlying conditions: Any other skin problems, such as eczema or rosacea, can make treating blackheads a little harder. The condition should be treated before the acne, as successful treatment may lead to improvements in the blackheads.
Rest and relaxation: Getting enough rest and avoiding stress can also help, as stress can trigger sebum production. Exercise can help reduce stress.
Food: Research has not confirmed that cutting out fries or chocolate either will or will not reduce acne, but a healthful, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is beneficial for overall health. It may reduce the risk of skin lesions becoming infected.
Don’ts for blackheads
Hormonal triggers can make blackheads unavoidable, but some factors can increase the risk or make them worse.
Squeezing: Avoid squeezing blackheads, even with a metal blackhead remover, as this can irritate the skin and make the problem worse.
Steaming: A steam bath has long been recommended as a treatment for blackheads, on the basis that it “opens the pores.” However, this has not been confirmed by research. Some people find it makes the problem worse.
Scrubbing: This can worsen the problem. Scrubbing removes sebum. The sebaceous glands then work harder to replace the sebum, leading to more blockages and the risk of inflammatory acne.
Removers: Removal strips, masks, and vacuums should be used with caution, as these can irritate and damage the skin if misused.
Makeup and cosmetics: Avoid oil-based makeups and skin care products.
Other environmental triggers to avoid are:
tight clothes that close off the skin
skin products with alcohol, as these can also tighten and dry out the skin
Hydrogen peroxide: This has been recommended for acne. It can reduce the severity of outbreaks, but it is also a harsh product that can dry and irritate the skin. Researchers remain undecided about whether it should be used or not, because of its adverse effects.
10 Home Remedies to Remove Blackheads Naturally
Natural ways of removing blackheads are so popular because they are inexpensive and have no side-effects like many prescription treatments. Also, they offer the ease of being completed as per your own convenience. The 10 most popular natural methods to remove blackheads are:
Plant-based treatments are often recommended for acne, and some research is under way. Tea tree, thyme, aloe vera, and rose oils all appear to offer antibacterial benefits to prevent acne from becoming infected. Further research is needed. As a form of mild acne, blackheads tend to resolve on their own when the body more successfully regulates hormones after puberty. It can take a long time for blackheads to self-resolve, and they may persist for many years. A patient who is experiencing psychological difficulties with the appearance of blackheads may find it helpful to see a counselor.
If you’re finally ready to rid yourself of blackheads, these home remedies can help. There are many types of acne and not all of them may respond well to home treatments. For acne that’s primarily blackheads, there are some really good home remedies that may help decrease those clogged pores. Here are proven home remedies that can help reduce your blackheads, from natural face masks for blackheads to tips on how to get rid of blackheads on your nose.
1. Baking Soda
Baking soda is even used by some professional dermatologists for micro-dermabrasion which is a method of exfoliating. At home, baking soda mixed with water can be used to create a gentle scrubbing paste to remove blackheads.
Baking soda is a natural exfoliator. Create a paste using baking soda and water and apply on the blackhead affected area. Use your fingers to gently scrub the skin for a few minutes and then wash off with water. This should be done twice a week.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Using apple cider vinegar instead of plain water in face packs and face masks can clear out the blocked pores due to its astringent and anti-bacterial properties.
3. Egg White
Take the white part of a fresh egg with one teaspoon of honey and spread the mixture evenly over the face, specifically on areas with dense blackheads. Let this pack dry for 20-30 minutes and wash the face afterward with warm water.
Known for their skin tightening abilities, egg whites make an effective ingredient for blackhead removal. When applied directly on the skin or as a mask, egg whites shrink the pores, hence forcing blackheads out. Being rich in nutrients, egg whites also improve skin texture and remove extra oil from the skin.
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is known for its soothing qualities for the skin. Break a stem and rub the mucus into areas having blackheads. Aloe Vera accelerates the healing of the uppermost layer skin and can make blackheads disappear or reduce significantly.
Aloe vera is well known for its moisturizing properties ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/ ). Aloe vera also contains zinc that helps tighten pores and saponins that cleanse the skin. All of these properties can help keep blackheads at bay.
You Will Need
½ teaspoon of aloe vera gel
What You Have To Do
Apply aloe vera gel to the areas prone to blackheads.
Leave it on overnight and rinse off with water when you wake up.
How Often You Should Do This
Repeat this every day until the blackheads disappear.
Table salt can be used to remove blackheads effectively. Washing your face once a day with warm salted water can reduce excess oils that cause blackheads and its abrasive qualities may remove prominent blackheads too.
6. Ice Cubes
Rubbing ice cubes on the blackhead affected areas of the face for about 10 minutes can shrink the skin pores and check blackhead growth and expansion.
Mix the juice of a lime with some almond oil and glycerine, and apply to the affected areas having facial blackheads for a few minutes. This remedy is effective for the removal and reduction of blackheads as well as the reduction of acne scars.
Lemon is rich in vitamin C or ascorbic acid that exhibits moisturizing properties. This moisturizing effect can help eliminate dead and dry skin and prevent clogging of the pores in your skin, thereby getting rid of blackheads ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073409/ ). It also increases collagen synthesis that helps tighten pores.
You Will Need
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
What You Have To Do
Mix a teaspoon each of lemon juice and honey.
Apply this paste to the affected areas.
Leave it on for about 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off.
How Often You Should Do This
Caution: Lemon juice can cause an allergic reaction in some people. You must do a patch test before you can follow this remedy.
The astringent quality of lemon will cut grease while the fine granules of salt will act as a non-abrasive scrub for your skin. Honey will leave your skin moisturised and help keep the germs away. Make a paste with these three ingredients and apply on the blackheads. After five minutes, gently scrub in circular motions for a minute and let it stay for another five minutes. Wash away with warm water. Do this thrice a week.
Honey is one of the most tried and tested methods to manage blackheads. Apply a little warm honey on the face covering the blackheads. Wash your face normally after 10 minutes. Honey acts as a natural moisturizer and removes blackheads from the face.
Honey is one of the oldest natural remedies for skin infection and dry skin. It helps keep your skin hydrated and supple, thus preventing the clogging of pores with dry and dead skin cells ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3611628/ ). This, in turn, can help in getting rid of blackheads.
You Will Need
What You Have To Do
Take a cotton pad and dab honey on it.
Apply this to the blackheads and wash off after 20 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This
Repeat this 3-4 times every week.
Steaming is often used in beauty treatments. Put a hot towel over your face for 10 minutes. This will soften the blackheads and make them surface. Wash with a mild face scrub or face wash.
Subjecting your face to steam is an effective way to soften the stubborn blackheads and then eventually clearing them away. Steaming the face makes the skin sweat, which in turn helps to clear out toxins from within. It also softens the pores, making the stubborn blackheads easier to work upon and remove.
10. Clay Mask
A clay mask can reduce the oil in the skin and pull out blackheads as well as prevent future growth of blackheads on the face.
The oil-absorbing properties of clay make it ideal for clearing extra grease from the skin along with other impurities. Masks made from fuller’s earth and kaolin clay, when used regularly on the face can help clear out the pores. This will eventually get rid of blackheads and make the skin smooth.
1. Cleanse with salicylic acid
Instead of benzoyl peroxide, look for OTC products that contain salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is the preferred ingredient for blackheads and whiteheads because it breaks down the materials that clog pores: excess oil and dead skin cells. By choosing a daily cleanser with salicylic acid, you can remove these elements in addition to daily dirt, oil, and makeup.
Although you still need to wash your face twice a day, try using a cleanser that has salicylic acid in it just once a day to start. You may consider using it at night only, and then using your regular cleanser in the morning. As your skin gets used to the product, you may choose to use it both morning and night. Many people are sensitive to salicylic acid and you may not be able to use it more than once every few days. If you continue to react to it, discontinue use.
Shop for the following cleansers online:
Murad Time Release Active Cleanser
Clean and Clear Acne Triple Cleanse Bubble Foam Cleanser
Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash
2. Gently exfoliate with AHAs and BHAs
In the past, you may have heard that exfoliating produces a negative effect on acne. This can be true for inflammatory acne, as the process can cause further redness and irritation.
For blackheads, though, regular exfoliation can help remove excessive amounts of dead skin cells that can lead to clogged pores. The process may also gently remove existing blackheads.
Rather than looking for harsh scrubs, you’ll want to focus on alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs). Glycolic acid is the most common type of AHA, and salicylic acid is a prominent BHA.
Both work by removing the top layer of your skin. In theory, this can improve the appearance of wrinkles and age spots, all while cleansing pores and making your skin softer. You’ll find that BHAs are more widely available on the market, and in some cases, they’re more affordable too!
Show for the following exfoliating products online:
First Aid Beauty’s FAB Skin Lab Resurfacing Liquid AHA 10%
Clean and Clear Triple Cleanse Exfoliating Scrub
3. Pick up a skin brush
A skin brush can provide similar exfoliating benefits as AHAs and BHAs by removing excess dead skin cells. The key, though, is to use it only once a week so you don’t cause irritation. You’ll also want to use your skin brush on alternating days from AHA or BHA exfoliators.
Depending on your needs and budget, there are a variety of skin brushes available to be used with your daily cleanser.
Shop for the following skin brushes online:
4. Try topical retinoids
Retinoids may be helpful for stubborn cases of acne by helping to unplug pores. This process can also make other OTC products more effective, because they’ll be better able to enter the follicle.
Shop for the following retinoids online:
ProActiv’s Adapalene Gel 0.1%
5. Use a clay mask
Clay masks are often considered must-haves for oily skin. They work by retrieving dirt, oil, and other elements deep from your pores. As far as blackheads are concerned, clay masks can even loosen and remove clogged pores.
Some clay masks also contain sulfur. Sulfur is another ingredient that works to break down the dead skin cells that make up blackheads.
No matter which mask you choose, you can use it once a week in addition to your once- or twice-weekly exfoliating treatment.
Shop for the following clay masks online:
L’Oréal’s Detox and Brighten Clay Mask
Michael Todd’s Kaolin Clay Detoxifying Facial Mask
6. Use a charcoal mask
Like clay masks, charcoal masks work deep in the skin to draw out oil, dead skin cells, and other impurities. The ingredient charcoal is thought to take these benefits up another notch.
Shop for the following charcoal masks online:
ProActiv Skin Purifying Mask
Origins Active Charcoal Mask
7. Consider a chemical peel
Chemical peels are traditionally used for anti-aging benefits, such as reduced age spots and fine lines. The peels often contain AHAs, and they work by removing the top layer of skin.
In theory, you should be able to reveal smoother, refreshed-looking skin after going through the process. Though they’re not considered a primary treatment for blackheads, chemical peels can possibly remove dead skin cells and shrink enlarged pores. This treatment method may be especially helpful if you’re looking for antiaging benefits too.
Shop for the following chemical peels online:
DermaDoctor’s Physical Chemistry Facial Microdermabrasion + Multiacid Chemical Peel
Murad’s Hydro-Glow Aqua Peel
8. Make sure you’re using noncomedogenic products
The right cleanser, mask, and exfoliator may do little good if you don’t use noncomedogenic makeup and face products. Noncomedogenic means that the product in question won’t cause comedones, or clogged pores. Not all products are noncomedogenic, so you’ll have to read labels carefully.
Shop for the following noncomedogenic products online:
ProActiv Green Tea Moisturizer
Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Makeup
Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen
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Have medical questions? Connect with an experienced, board-certified dermatologist online or by phone. Pediatricians and other specialists also available 24/7.
9. Don’t sleep in your makeup
At the end of a long day, the last thing you may want to do is to take off your makeup. However, sleeping with your makeup on is asking for more blackheads. If left on overnight, even noncomedogenic makeup can clog your pores. Plus, eye makeup left on overnight can lead to eye irritations or infections.
Makeup removers can also be used before washing your face for extra cleansing power.
Shop for the following makeup removal products online:
Neutrogena Makeup Removal Cleansing Towelettes
Garnier SkinActive Cleansing Water
Cetaphil Liquid Makeup Remover
10. Avoid pore strips and other home extraction methods
You already know that picking, scratching, and popping any form of acne is considered off-limits. Still, it can be tempting to locate some form of extraction to get rid of those pesky blackheads. In recent years, there’s been an uptick in masks, pore strips, and extraction tools that promise clean pores.
Although pore strips and masks may help remove junk from your pores, they can also remove elements that actually help your skin. This includes natural oils and hair follicles. Removing all of these elements can cause your skin to dry out and become irritated. When irritation occurs, your sebaceous glands may go into survival mode and produce even more oil — resulting in more blackheads.
Other extraction methods include professional-grade metal or plastic tools. These purportedly work by removing clogged blackheads without scratching your skin. The keyword here though, is professional — these tools are sometimes used by dermatologists who have years of training. When placed into novice hands, extraction tools can turn into a source for scratches, wounds, and even scars.
11. Don’t waste your time on benzoyl peroxide
When it comes to over-the-counter (OTC) acne spot treatments, you’re likely to find that many products contain benzoyl peroxide. The problem is that benzoyl peroxide doesn’t work for all types of acne.
Benzoyl peroxide works by reducing swelling, which a key marker of inflammatory acne. This includes cysts and pustules. It can also get rid of underlying bacteria in a pimple.
However, blackheads aren’t considered inflammatory, and they aren’t caused by bacteria, so products featuring benzoyl peroxide won’t do much good.
12. See your dermatologist for professional extraction
Any new acne regimen, including one for blackheads, can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks to take effect.
If you continue to see new and preexisting blackheads after this time, you may need to make an appointment with your dermatologist. They can use professional tools to extract blackheads.
They may even recommend a series of dermabrasion treatments or prescription retinoids to prevent blackheads from coming back.
How can blackheads be prevented?
You can prevent blackheads without spending a lot of money by trying a few of the following ideas:
Wash your face when you wake up and before you go to bed to remove oil buildup. Washing more than twice each day can irritate your skin and make your acne worse. Use a gentle cleanser that doesn’t make your skin red or irritated. Some acne cleansing products have antibacterial ingredients that kill P. acnes bacteria.
Consider washing your hair every day, too, particularly if it’s oily. Hair oils can contribute to clogged pores. It’s also important to wash your face after you eat oily foods such as pizza, because oil from these foods can clog pores.
Use oil-free products
Any product that contains oil can contribute to new blackheads. Choose oil-free or noncomedogenic makeup, lotions, and sunscreens to avoid making your problem worse.
Try an exfoliating product
Exfoliating scrubs and masks remove dead skin cells from your face and can help reduce blackheads. Look for products that don’t irritate your skin.
It may be tempting to try to pinch or push the black plug out, but this can cause unnecessary scarring and other damage to your skin. Keep reading to learn how to get rid of your blackheads and prevent future ones from forming. Squeezing or scrubbing at blackheads can make them worse. To reduce blackheads, avoid oil-based skin care products, humid environments, tight clothes, and skin products that contain alcohol.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- “How to Treat Different Types of Acne“, AAD.org
- “Skin Conditions by the Numbers“, AAD.org
- “Blackheads“, Healthline.com
- “Acne (Pimples) Center“, MedicineNet.com