Blackheads are just clogged pores. Once the mix of dry cells and oil that clog the pores get exposed to the air, they darken appear black (hence the name!. Manual extraction of blackheads (i.e. using metal tools or your hands) is not the best, safest, or the most effective way to get rid of blackheads. Manually extracting blackheads—except when done by a licensed aesthetician or dermatologist— often results in trauma to the skin, more red pimples, and higher risk of scarring. So unless you're a fan of long-term scars and more breakouts (I didn't think so...) here are five ways to remove blackheads without hurting your skin.
Blackheads Removal Strips:
Pore cleansing/blackhead removal strips are essential, better versions of scotch tape (ha!)...but they work! Using a non-irritating adhesive, these strips bind to your blackheads and when removed, pull out the blackheads with them. Voila! The easiest and fastest way to remove blackheads. (Check out MDacne's blackhead removal strips)
Salicylic Acid Cleansers & Treatment Creams
Salicylic acid is an FDA-approved anti-acne ingredient. It dissolves and softens the "plug" clogging the pores. You can check out MDacne's medicated cleansers and treatment creams or look for OTC options with 2% Salicylic Acid.
Retinoid Acid Gels
These gels have been prescribed by dermatologists for more than 30 years to reduce blackheads and whiteheads. Fortunately, retinoid creams (Differin Gel) are now available over the counter without a prescription to help reduce both blackheads and active, inflamed pimples. Be mindful that some dryness can be expected and sensitivity to the sun is increased. Thus, it's important to always apply an oil-free sunscreen in the morning when you use this type of product.
Papaya Enzymatic Mask
The papaya fruit contains enzymes that can loosen and dissolve blackheads, making papaya extract a great ingredient to fight blackheads. You can try a papaya-based mask but keep it to once/week.
Steam and warm water help open the pores and loosen blackheads, enhancing the efficacy of everything else you’re doing. Take a steam shower before you use blackhead removal strips or the Salicylic Acid treatment for best results.
And boom — blackheads are gone, just like that!