How to Get Rid of Blackheads on Your Nose, Chin, and Forehead
It seems simple, but do you really know how to get rid of blackheads? Personally, Iâ€™ve been at war against my blackheads since I first discovered BiorÃ© pore strips back in high school. Seeing that black gunk is just so satisfying! However, that may not be the best way to get rid of themâ€”or to prevent them in the first place.
Instead, it helps to learn how blackheads form, why theyâ€™re such a stubborn type of acne to treat, and why simpler, gentler, consistent treatment is actually the best way to deal with them. Hereâ€™s what the experts want you to know about getting rid of blackheads.
What are blackheads?
Both blackheads and whiteheads are types of noninflamed clogged pores called comedones. â€œA blackhead is an open comedone,â€ Shari Lipner, M.D., Ph.D., dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, tells ishonest. â€œItâ€™s a large opening in a hair follicle thatâ€™s been clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. And when this gets exposed to air, it oxidizes and turns black.â€ Whiteheads (closed comedones) are covered by a layer of skin cells that prevent them from oxidizing. So they look a little white, pink, or flesh- colored.
â€œA blackhead is a clump of oil and dirt mixed together in a pore,â€ Cecilia Wong, a celebrity facialist based in New York City, tells ishonest. â€œIf you donâ€™t take care of your pores, eventually the dirt and oil will accumulate. If someone has a lot of blackheads, you can feel itâ€”the skin is rough, scratchy, and bumpy.â€
Basically anyone can get blackheads, but those with combination or oily skin are most prone to developing them, Marnie B. Nussbaum, M.D., a medical, cosmetic and laser dermatologist in New York City, tells ishonest. And if you think you get them around your nose more often than anywhere else on your face, youâ€™re not imagining it: The skin around your nose has a particularly high concentration of sebum glands, meaning extra oil and a higher potential for clogged pores.
How can you prevent blackheads?
As with managing any type of acne, a maintenance and prevention plan is usually necessary to keep blackheads at bay. That usually starts with a solid cleansing routine, which means washing your face twice a day and after sweating with a gentle cleanser, the American Academy of Dermatology explains (AAD). You should also be sure to use sunscreen every day (broad spectrum and at least SPF 30) because sun exposure can worsen acne. And itâ€™s crucial for those with acne-prone skin to stick with products that are oil-free and are noncomedogenic, which means they wonâ€™t clog pores.
It also means keeping up with a few important behaviors, like washing your sheets and pillowcase regularly, washing your face soon after working out or getting sweaty, and keeping in touch with a dermatologist for ongoing advice and treatment.
Whatâ€™s the best way to treat blackheads?
Perhaps because blackheads are both so common and so frustrating, people have tried countless weird (sometimes reckless) ways to remove them, including the grits exfoliation technique from Reddit and the DIY gelatin mask.
When comedones are extracted with something like a pore strip, you will see that plug of gunk removed in an extremely satisfying way. But as ishonest explained recently, the pore remains dilated, which makes it easy for it to get clogged again and form another pimple. And please donâ€™t try to do extractions on your own. â€œIf not done correctly, that can cause permanent scarring,â€ Lipner says.
Whatâ€™s the best way to actually get rid of blackheads? Slowly and gently, Lipner says. And weâ€™ve found that the bestâ€”and least damagingâ€”ways to treat and prevent blackheads tend to be on the simpler side. But â€œkeep in mind youâ€™re not going to get instant gratification,â€ Lipner says. It may take up to a month to see your skin get clearer.
If youâ€™re wondering how to get rid of blackheads, here are 15 helpful dermatologist-approved tips to make it easier to get rid of blackheads on your nose, chin, and forehead.
1. Wash your face at least twice a day.
This seems like basic advice, but cleansing can go a long way to help prevent dirt and oil from accumulating in your pores. Washing your face is one of the three most important steps in your skin-care routine for good reason: Regularly cleansing your skin will help remove any excess dirt, oil, dead skin cells, bacteria, or makeup thatâ€™s lingering on your face.
For most people, washing their face twice a day is the right move. But some people with especially dry or sensitive skin may only be able to wash their face with cleanser once a day.
If youâ€™re trying to manage acne, you might find that a cleanser containing a chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid or glycolic acid helps to keep those issues in check. For those with inflamed acne, a cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide could be helpful instead. But know that all of these ingredients can be harsh and drying if used too frequently. Some people with oilier skin may be able to use them twice a day, but once is plenty for others.
- Peter Thomas Roth 3% Glycolic Solutions Cleanser, $39, Ulta
- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Deep Cleansing Foaming Cream, $23, Dermstore
- L'OrÃ©al Paris Exfoliate & Refine Pure Clay Cleanser, $7, Amazon
2. Also wash your face after exercising.
Excess sweat can combine with dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells to clog your pores, possibly leading to blackheads. So itâ€™s important to wash your face before and after a workout or any activity that causes excessive sweating, Nussbaum says.
But itâ€™s important to be gentle because irritating the skin by rubbing too hard or wiping sweat off your face too aggressively can actually exacerbate inflammation and breakouts, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says.
- Vichy Normaderm Deep Cleansing Gel with Salicylic Acid, $18, Amazon
- La Roche- Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Cleanser, $15, Ulta
- Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion, $24, Amazon
3. Use pore strips carefully and sparingly.
Pore strips are like a Band-Aid, using adhesive to rip away dead skin cells and dirt. If that sounds a little aggressive, youâ€™d be correct, which is why experts are divided on whether itâ€™s ever a good idea to use pore strips to remove blackheads.
However, Wong stands by the effectiveness of pore strips to get rid of blackheads quickly. But, she says, save these for newer breakouts. â€œPore strips only really work for blackheads that havenâ€™t been in pores for a long period of time,â€ she says. For blackheads that have been hanging around for a while, youâ€™ll need to use other methods.
- BiorÃ© Deep Cleansing Pore Strips, $7, Amazon
- Boscia Pore Purifying Black Charcoal Strips (12 count), $28, Ulta
5. Try chemical exfoliation for a gentler option.
Gentle exfoliating acids are an effective way to break down the dead skin and oil clogging the pore, Lily Talakoub, M.D., dermatologist at McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center in Virginia, tells ishonest. These ingredients dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to be washed away easily.
That includes both alpha-hydroxy-acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid and lactic acid as well as beta-hydroxy-acids (BHAs), such as salicylic acid. More recently, polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), such as gluconolactone, have become popular ultra- gentle acids.
- First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads, $34, Ulta
- Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant, $43, Dermstore
- Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment, $85, Dermstore
6. Use a clay or charcoal mask occasionally.
Masks containing clay or charcoal can help get rid of excess dirt and oil from the skin. Products like these may not â€œdetoxâ€ your skin, but over time they can help get rid of blackheads and manage other acne issues.
- Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask, $6 Amazon
- Tata Harper Clarifying Mask, $68, Tata Harper
- Kiehl's Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask, $36, Sephora
7. Spot-treat clusters of blackheads rather than trying to treat your whole face.
- Glossier Zit Stick, $14, Glossier
- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Spot Treatment, $20, Amazon
- Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Medicine Spot Treatment Gel, $8, Target
8. Get extractions from a professional.
In general, itâ€™s best to avoid popping any pimples at homeâ€”as tempting as it may be. Theyâ€™ll go away on their own if you donâ€™t mess with them (really!) and if done incorrectly, a popping session can cause irritation and even an infection.
But if you happen to deal with stubborn blackheads frequently, it may be worth it to see a professional to have them professionally extracted. During that process, an esthetician will use a small tool to squeeze the clog out of a pore without breaking the skin or enlarging the pore even further. Ideally, this should be done every four to six weeks, Wong says.
9. If you do try to extract your own blackheads, ice the skin after.
Okay, yes, it happens. Sometimes you just go for it, despite the warnings from your dermatologist. And when that happens, itâ€™s important to care for the skin afterward to reduce inflammation and help prevent more acne.
In particular, Nussbaum recommends icing the area for a few minutes to help decrease redness and inflammation. Just make sure to wrap the ice in a paper towel or wash cloth rather than applying it directly to the skin, as that can cause more damage.
11. Wear (oil-free) sunscreen every day.
Wearing a daily sunscreen is undoubtedly the most important part of your daily skin-care routine because it can help prevent skin cancer and premature signs of aging. Plus, UV rays can dry your skin out, which makes acne worse. So itâ€™s important to be protected for a bunch of reasons.
You should make sure your daily sunscreen (or SPF moisturizer) contains broad- spectrum protection of at least SPF 30. And if you have oily or acne-prone skin, be sure to use a product thatâ€™s noncomedogenic and oil-free so it wonâ€™t clog your pores.
- EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, $35, Amazon
- Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 30, $12, Ulta
- SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shieldâ„¢ Broad-Spectrum SPF 32 Tinted, $38, Dermstore
12. Avoid comedogenic makeup and skin-care products.
Sunscreen isnâ€™t the only product that can clog your poresâ€”there are tons of ingredients in all kinds of makeup and skin-care products that can be comedogenic, such as dimethicone, Talakoub says. Additionally, many oils (including coconut oil) can be comedogenic, Nussbaum says.
Itâ€™s not always easy to know what is and isnâ€™t actually a comedogenic product, ishonest explained previously. The term noncomedogenic isnâ€™t regulated by the FDA, so a company can put it on basically any product regardless of the ingredients. And the way an ingredient is determined to be comedogenic is pretty confusing. Still, looking for the label noncomedogenic or oil-free on products is the best place to start when trying to find nonclogging products.
- Avene Hydrance Light Hydrating Cream, $32, Amazon
- Paula's Choice Probiotic Nutrient Moisturizer, $42, Dermstore
- SkinCeuticals Face Cream, $142, Dermstore
13. Try an over-the-counter retinoid product.
Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A that will speed up the cell turnover process in your skin, which is helpful for managing acne, reducing and preventing signs of aging, treating hyperpigmentation, and many other conditions.
You can start exploring the world of retinoids on your own by checking out an over-the-counter retinoid, like retinol serums or adapalene gels. Retinol is a less intense form of retinoic acid (tretinoin), which can be prescribed by a dermatologist for more severe cases. And adapalene is a synthetic form of retinoid acid that is now available over the counter as Differin or in a gel by La Roche-Posay.
There are some drawbacks with retinoids, however. The first one is that, because they are known to cause birth defects, you should not use retinoids while pregnant. The second issue is that they can also cause serious skin side effects, including dryness, redness, irritation, flaking, and sensitivity. So itâ€™s best to start slow with a lower concentration and just use them a few days a week at firstâ€”and to always, always, always moisturize.
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