Blackheads are one of the most common features of acne. They look like tiny black dots on the skin and most often occur on the nose and chin.
Anyone can get blackheads, but they are most common in adolescents and people with oily skin. Blackheads form in the skin’s hair follicles, which are visible on the skin as pores.
Pores can become clogged with sebum — the skin’s natural oil — and dead skin cells. If the pore is open, the plug of oil and cells oxidizes and turns black, appearing as a blackhead. A whitehead forms when a thin layer of skin cells closes the pore at the top.
Many products and techniques claim to prevent or remove blackheads, but not all of them have undergone scientific testing. Also, what works for one person’s skin may not work for someone else’s.
Finding the right skin care routine and habits that work for a person’s skin type is the best long-term solution for preventing blackheads.
To prevent blackheads, a person can:
Cleanse the skin
Dirt on the skin does not cause blackheads, but it is important to clean the skin twice a day with a gentle cleanser before applying a moisturizer.
Washing the skin more often than this is usually unnecessary and could cause irritation and redness.
It is best to avoid products that are oily or heavy, as they will clog pores and make blackheads worse.
Try a salicylic acid cleanser
Salicylic acid is an ingredient in some cleansers that helps break down oil in the pores. Chemical peels may contain it as an ingredient to remove dead skin cells and stimulate new cell growth.
Daily use of cleansers containing salicylic acid might irritate the skin, so people should use them only a few times a week.
Exfoliate once a week
An exfoliating scrub can help remove dead skin cells that contribute to blackheads.
A person can use a gentle scrub on wet skin once a week, although they should avoid using it if the skin feels irritated or sore. After applying the scrub with the fingertips in a gentle, circular motion, a person can rinse it off and then apply moisturizer.
Use topical retinoids
Topical retinoids are creams that people apply directly to the skin to help decrease the amount of oil that it produces. They have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help improve the overall appearance of the skin.
A pharmacist or doctor can prescribe a topical retinoid cream, and they are also available over the counter.
Use a skin brush
A skin brush is an alternative to an exfoliating scrub. These brushes range from electronic models with different settings to more affordable handheld versions.
A person can use them alongside cleansers to remove dead skin cells and prevent pores from becoming blocked.
Apply a weekly mineral mask
Applying a mineral-rich mask to the skin with a little warm water can help draw out impurities from the skin and reduce oiliness.
Using a mask once a week may be beneficial, as long as it does not cause the skin to become irritated or very sensitive. It is important to rinse the mask off thoroughly before applying moisturizer.
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet can benefit overall health, including skin health. Although the link between diet and skin health remains unproven, many professionals believe that this relationship is important.
Certain foods may trigger breakouts in some people and not others. Research suggests that high glycemic load, low zinc levels, and dairy may contribute to acne, but, so far, no studies have confirmed a link.
Avoid cigarette smoke
Some experts have suggested a link between the chemicals in cigarette smoke and the development of blackheads and other features of acne.
Cutting down or quitting smoking may help improve the appearance and health of the skin.
Blackheads are usually treatable at home. It is important to avoid squeezing blackheads, as this can damage the skin and increase the chances of bacteria entering the open pore and causing inflammation.
Pore removal strips are popular, but they may increase oil production, which can cause more blackheads in the future.
Only a professional should use blackhead remover tools. These tools, which come in the form of a metal implement with a loop at one end, can cause scarring with improper use.
Finding the best home remedies for treating blackheads requires some trial and error. The same tips for preventing blackheads are also applicable to treating them at home.
It is not necessary to see a doctor about blackheads unless a person also has more severe forms of acne.
A doctor may recommend certain skin care practices and prescribe formulations — washes, creams, gels, or ointments — that the manufacturers have designed for specific skin complaints.
For persistent and severe acne, doctors might advise a course of antibiotics to bring the skin under control. It is usually effective to use treatments alongside good skin hygiene and lifestyle habits.
Blackheads are a result of excess oil in the skin’s pores. Preventing blackheads usually involves unclogging the pores and reducing oiliness.
A person may need to try different techniques and products before noticing results. A dermatologist can offer advice when blackheads occur alongside other skin conditions, such as acne.