Blackheads are pinhead-like lesions on the skin that can affect the face and the body. They represent oil plugs that contain dead skin cells, bacteria, and other materials.
A person can help clear blackheads by maintaining good cleansing habits and using natural remedies. Keep reading to learn more.
Blackheads form when dead skin cells and oil inside the pore rise and push through the skin’s surface. When these materials interact with the air, they oxidize and turn black, forming a plug.
Doctors also call blackheads open comedones. To treat these, a person needs to use products that break up the oil plug that formed inside the pore. Once they break up the oil plug, preventive methods can help keep blackheads at bay.
Removing blackheads from the face requires a consistent skincare routine that involves using products that can break up the skin-clogging oil inside.
1. Cleanse daily
Daily cleansing is vital to reduce excess oil, dirt, and other materials that can build up, clog pores, and potentially cause blackheads.
One approach to try is double-cleansing. This approach involves first cleansing with an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup and pollutants from the skin. Examples of cleansing oils include rosehip, olive, macadamia, argan, or coconut oil.
Follow this with a gentle cleanser that contains ingredients such as tea tree oil, rosewater, aloe, or vegetable glycerin. These gentle cleansers remove dirt and oils to prepare the skin before treatment.
2. Apply blackhead-clearing topicals
Topical applications can help break up the oil plug that leads to blackheads. These do take time to work, and a person may have to apply them daily for several weeks before the plug breaks up, reducing the blackhead’s appearance.
Topical applications include:
- Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA): These are fruit acids that can help encourage exfoliation. Examples include glycolic, mandolin, and lactic acids. These topical applications promote skin peeling and reduce blackheads.
- Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is an acid derived from the willow tree. It is also a natural peeling agent that can help to peel away pore plugs.
- Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil is an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory topical application. A person can apply tea tree oil directly to several blackheads or mix it in 1 – 2 drops of natural oil, such as jojoba, almond, or olive oil.
Another option is benzoyl peroxide, a topical application that can reduce bacteria and promote peeling.
3. Try a natural blackhead removal scrub or mask
Exfoliating scrubs or masks can help remove dead skin cells that may otherwise clog pores and lead to more blackheads. A person can craft an effective skin treatment using natural ingredients they have at home. Examples include:
- Oatmeal: According to an article in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, colloidal oatmeal has anti-inflammatory, exfoliating, and skin-soothing properties. To use on the skin, mix 2 tablespoons (tbs) of oatmeal, 3 tbs natural yogurt, and 1 tbs olive oil. Apply to cleansed, slightly damp skin, and leave on for 15 minutes.
- Egg whites: Egg whites have skin-tightening properties that can help reduce the appearance of blackheads. To create, mix three egg whites with 2 tbs of lemon juice. Apply the mask (it will be messy) to clean skin using your fingers or a clean, soft paintbrush. Leave on and allow the mask to dry and apply a second layer. Rinse off after 20 minutes.
- Sugar: Sugar is a natural exfoliator. To use for blackhead removal, mix 1 cup of white sugar with 3 tbs of a skin-friendly oil, such as olive, almond, or jojoba oil. Rinse the scrub away with lukewarm water.
For best results, apply a mask or scrub once a week to aid in skin exfoliation and blackhead removal. If you have an oilier skin type, you may be able to use a mask twice weekly without drying out your skin.
Blackheads tend to develop on oily parts of the body, including the chest and back. The skin in these places is thicker and less sensitive to treatments, which means a person might need to change their treatment approach slightly.
4. Cleanse the skin daily
Keeping the skin clean and dry can help reduce excess oil in areas of the body where blackheads might develop. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommend using a body wash that contains benzoyl peroxide.
The AAD recommend purchasing a body wash that contains at least 5.3% benzoyl peroxide. Body washes with up to 10% benzoyl peroxide are available without a prescription. After application, leave on for at least 2 minutes before rinsing off.
If a person has difficulty reaching their back, they can purchase long-handled brushes or loofahs to help deliver the wash.
5. Use a natural brush to exfoliate
Dry brushing your skin is a natural way to remove dead skin cells that can otherwise clog your pores. Use a natural-bristled brush with a long handle to reach the back, an exfoliating back band, or an extra-long loofah with handles.
Because the skin is oilier and thicker in these areas, it is a good idea to use the brush daily. Some people find dry brushing before a shower invigorating in addition to its skin-clearing benefits.
6. Apply topical treatments for the body
More potent natural treatments are available for body acne. Examples include salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. However, allow benzoyl peroxide to dry on the skin before getting dressed as it can stain clothing.
These body-specific preparations are available as sprays or wipes that make them easier to apply to some of the more unreachable areas of the body.
If the blackheads do not respond to these treatments, talk to a doctor about topical prescription retinoid treatments.
7. Practice blackhead-friendly habits
As well as using lotions and creams, there are some other actions a person can take to help prevent blackheads forming. These steps include:
- Changing clothes immediately after engaging in any sweat-producing activity, such as being outside or exercising. Sweat that sticks close to your skin can contribute to bacteria buildup.
- Wearing loose clothing made from natural fibers, such as cotton, that allow the skin to “breathe” and do not create irritating friction.
- Cleansing the skin as soon as possible after sweating.
These efforts can help keep blackheads at bay.
There are some tools and remedies that could damage the skin or simply not work. Avoid the following:
- Blackhead extractors: These metal or plastic tools have an opening on the end that create pressure on the pore to ideally remove blackheads. However, many factors could damage the skin or introduce more bacteria when using these tools — they are better left to the professionals.
- Popping or pressing: Manually pressing on a blackhead is very tempting, but doing so can lead to acne scarring. It also creates an entrance for more oil and bacteria to fill up the pore.
- School glue: There are many “online hack” videos and articles that recommend using school glue, such as Elmer’s glue, to remove blackheads as an alternative to pore strips or manual extractions. This is not a good idea because the glue can cause allergic reactions, plus clog the pore.
Always consider the potential for damage and irritation to the skin before using any force or shortcut products anywhere on the skin. Poking and prodding skin anywhere on the body to remove blackheads can lead to acne scarring.