It can be tempting to squeeze the skin to try to remove blackheads, but this can damage the skin and cause redness.
Blackheads are one of the most common features of acne, a common skin complaint. They appear as tiny black dots on the skin. Blackheads often form on and around the nose, but they can also occur elsewhere on the body.
Blackheads, and acne in general, can cause distress and low self-esteem in some people.
Many products claim to be effective in removing and preventing blackheads, but not all of them have scientific research to support their use.
Here we look at which products and home remedies may be most effective in removing and preventing blackheads.
Squeezing blackheads to remove them might be satisfying in the short term, but doing this increases the risk of damaging the skin. Any bacteria on the hands are more likely to pass into the pores, where they could worsen or create more blemishes.
Pore removal strips offer a fast way of extracting oily plugs from the pores, but the effect is short-lived. These strips may trigger a survival response in the sebaceous glands, causing them to produce more oil. Increased oil production can cause more blackheads.
Blackhead remover tools are usually small metal devices with a loop at one end. Unless people have training in how to use them properly, it is best to avoid them. Remover tools may cause more damage to the skin and potentially even lead to scarring.
Some cleansers contain salicylic acid, which helps clear clogged pores. These cleansers tend to be gentler on the skin than benzoyl peroxide, which doctors may prescribe for more severe acne.
Salicylic acid can still irritate the skin, though. Depending on how sensitive the skin is, people may be best limiting their use of salicylic acid products to once every few days.
Finding the right skin care products takes some trial and error. It may be helpful to get recommendations from people who have a similar skin type.
People can apply topical treatments directly to the skin. Retinoids can reduce the number of blackheads that people have and decrease the amount of oil that the skin produces. They can also improve the overall appearance of the skin, as they have anti-inflammatory properties.
A pharmacist or doctor can recommend suitable retinoid creams, which are available over the counter or on prescription.
Chemical peels involve covering the skin with a type of acid for a few minutes. The choice of acid will depend on the person’s skin type and the results they hope to achieve.
Chemical peels work by removing dead skin cells and stimulating new cell growth.
After a chemical peel, people might initially experience mild discomfort, irritation, or a burning sensation. After a few days, the overall appearance of the skin should improve, and blackheads should become less noticeable.
Although blackheads are common on the face, they can appear wherever there are hair follicles on the body.
People can treat blackheads on the body in the same way as those on the face. The following practices may also help minimize blackheads on the body:
- showering regularly with a mild shower gel
- using a nonoily body cream a few times a week to avoid drying out the skin
- changing clothes after sweating
- wearing loose, natural fiber clothing, which allows air to circulate the skin
Understanding what blackheads are and how they form can help people decide on the best way to treat and prevent them.
A blackhead forms when a plug of oil, or sebum, and dead skin cells partially blocks a hair follicle, or pore, in the skin.
When a pore remains open, the oil combines with oxygen and turns black. In a closed pore, the plug of oil appears as a whitehead.
Most people will get blackheads at some point during their life. People may find that they have more blackheads in their adolescent years or during menstruation and menopause. People with oily skin tend to experience blackheads more often.
Understanding what causes blackheads in the first place is a good starting point for knowing how to prevent them. People may find the following tips helpful in keeping blackheads at bay:
Wash the skin carefully
Dirt on the skin does not cause blackheads. However, it is important to clean the skin twice a day with a mild cleanser before applying a moisturizer. Choose products that are not oily to avoid clogging the pores even more.
Avoid cleaning the skin more than twice a day, as this may cause irritation and redness.
Use an exfoliating scrub on the skin once a week to help remove the dead skin cells that contribute to blackheads. A scrub may also improve the overall appearance of the skin.
Avoid exfoliating if it irritates the skin, and stop using a scrub if it makes the skin feel dry or sore.
Always rinse scrubs off thoroughly, and moisturize the skin afterward to prevent dryness.
Eat a balanced diet
The link between diet and skin complaints is controversial, but many healthcare professionals believe that the two factors have an important relationship.
Specific foods may trigger acne, including blackheads, in some people, but not in others.
Keeping a food and skin journal may help people identify any foods that tend to trigger breakouts. Reducing the consumption of these foods or eliminating them from the diet may lead to improvements in the skin’s appearance.
Avoid cigarette smoke
There may be a link between chemicals in cigarette smoke and the development of blackheads and other features of acne.
People who smoke may find that cutting down or quitting altogether has beneficial effects on the skin.
Blackheads are a common feature of acne. Many people, particularly adolescents, may find that blackheads go away in time and do not need much treatment.
Finding the right skin care regimen and lifestyle habits to reduce blackheads might take some trial and error. Taking time to research and experiment with different products is likely to give the best results.
Avoiding self-removal techniques and using gentle methods should help prevent the skin from becoming red and sustaining damage or scarring.