Blackheads, much like cockroaches, are the worst for this very reason: Every time you squeeze one of them away, you find dozens more to tackle. (How’s that for a fun visual?) As satisfying as that squeeze may be in the moment, the peskiness of blackheads can wear on anyone. They just keep. Coming. Back. In search of answers, we turned to top dermatologists to find out how to get rid of them — for good.


First things first, what exactly are blackheads?

Before you go about trying to rid your skin of blackheads, it helps to first understand what they actually are. “Blackheads are just an oxidized mix of oil and dead skin cells that are sitting in pores, the exposure to air is what causes them to oxidize and turn black,” explains Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.

The technical name for a blackhead is an open comedone (and comedone is the scientific term for an acne lesion). There are two different types of comedones: Open (blackheads) and closed (whiteheads). As Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University, explains: ” are characterized by a dilated opening of a hair follicle, caused by the build-up of sebum, which is oil, P. Acnes bacteria, the primary bacteria responsible for causing acne, and inflammation.”

In other words: A blackhead is essentially a hair follicle that’s so blocked up with dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria that it becomes a wide opening at the surface of the skin. When all of this gunk hits the open air (because of the wide opening), it oxidizes and turns the color black.

Despite their off-putting color, blackheads have nothing to do with dirt. “Having is not a sign that you’re too dirty,” Nazarian says. So, at least that’s good news. The bad news, for some, is that there is a genetic component to blackheads, meaning that certain people are more prone to developing them, although the underlying reason for this isn’t yet fully understood.

How do you treat blackheads?

When it comes to getting rid of blackheads, or any type of acne for that matter, there are two ways you can go: You can DIY at home, or, for more severe or persistent cases of acne, you can see a dermatologist. The best plan of action for you will depend on a lot of different factors, of course, but here are the best over-the-counter and prescription treatments to look out for, per top dermatologists.

1. For mild blackheads, try a salicylic acid scrub

“If you have blackheads, your go-to ingredient should be salicylic acid,” explains Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “This beta hydroxy acid helps remove excess oil and exfoliate the cells from the surface of the skin.”

The best way to utilize salicylic acid? Try a gentle face scrub, which acts as a sort of one-two punch for combatting blackheads, providing double the exfoliation powers. “The combination of physical exfoliation from the scrub, along with chemical exfoliation from the salicylic acid, can help keep the pores clear,” Zeichner says.

A couple of our favorite salicylic acid scrubs include the St. Ives Blackhead Clearing Green Tea Scrub and Clinique’s Blackhead Solutions 7 Day Deep Pore Cleanse & Scrub.

However, you won’t want to exfoliate with a scrub every day. The general rule of thumb is three times per week for oily or combination skin, and just once weekly for sensitive skin, Marchbein says. On the days you don’t use a scrub, swap in a gentle salicylic acid-containing cleanser, like Neutrogena’s Acne Proofing Gel Cleanser, which contains 2 percent of the ingredient, or Murad’s Clarifying Cleanser, which is formulated with 1.5 percent salicylic acid.

2. Try a Clarisonic brush

Electronic skin-care devices, like the beloved Clarisonic brush, aren’t just hype — they really do cleanse your skin much more thoroughly than your fingers alone. “Just be sure not to overdo it because irritation from the cleansing brush can flare up other acne,” explains Jeremy Fenton, a dermatologist in New York City.

Let’s face it, blackheads are the worst. We poke, and prod, and try to remove them, but they always come back. It’s easy to get discouraged and succumb the idea that these dark, pesky pores have set up shop on our faces. But remember, ladies: Never settle!

Turns out, there are some things you may not know about blackheads and the proper ways to treat them, things that could potentially prevent them from reoccurring. All hope is not lost! Below are 10 little known facts and tips about blackheads. Equipped with the right knowledge and products, those annoying clogged pores could be a thing of the past!

MORE: How to Get Rid of Blackheads: 6 Tricks for Clear Skin

1. What they actually are: Blackheads, or open comedomes, are essentially widened hair follicles that are filled with skin debris, bacteria, and sebum oil.

2. The reason they’re black: The sebum in the pore contains melanin and when the sebum hits the surface of the pore, it oxidizes. When the melanin oxidizes it turns dark, which is how blackheads get their unpleasant dark color.

3. What’s causing them: Blackheads are predominantly caused by the overproduction of oil, so those with oil-prone skin should stick to oil-free makeup, lotions and sunscreen to stay on the safe side.

4. Nose strips aren’t enough: Pore strips are fun to use and a quick way to remove blackheads, but if you do not follow up with a sufficient skin care routine, the blackheads are bound to come back.

5. Retinoids are your friend: Retinoids and products containing salicylic-acid are terrific at clearing clogged pores and preventing blackheads. There are many over-the-counter retinoids and salicylic-acid treatments that are very effective and will leave your skin clear and radiant!

MORE: How to Get Rid of Pimples: Dermatologist Tips for Clear Skin

6. Hands off: As tempting as it may be, do not squeeze or try to pop your blackheads! Squeezing will only make it worse.

7. Head to the dermatologist: Although microdermabrasion and chemical peels can be expensive, they will help to get rid of blackheads and improve your skin’s overall appearance.

8. DIY a removal: Luckily, there are cheaper alternatives and treatments you can do to improve your skin. One alternative is exfoliating with baking soda. Mix the baking soda with either water or apple cider vinegar to create a paste, and gently scrub away the look of blackheads.

9. Don’t over-wash: Yes, washing your face regularly is the best way to maintain clear and clean skin, but try not to go overboard. A good cleaning session twice a day will do the trick. Cleansing your skin more often than necessary will only dry out and irritate your skin. This can lead to an over-production of oil and ultimately more blackheads and acne.

10. Be gentle: Last but not least, the most important thing is to remember to be gentle with your skin! Of course blackheads are frustrating and undesirable and we want to get rid of them right away, but using strong, irritating products can make matters worse. Try sticking to gentle products on your skin and avoid overstimulating your face with a load of products and rough exfoliation. Be patient and you will see results!

Image via Istock

How to prevent and remove blackheads

This is what you shouldn’t do

If you’re looking for a safe way to remove blackheads, be careful with what you see on the internet – some of the advice can actually make the problem worse. You should never do these things:

  • Squeezing spots and blackheads: when you squeeze spots and blackheads, you can actually damage your skin. Sometimes this damage is permanent, causing ‘squeezing’ scars. Not to mention the bacteria on your hands. When this comes into contact with your skin, it can make spots and blackheads a lot worse.
  • Removing blackheads with a needle: many websites recommend using a needle (sometimes in combination with a comedone extractor), but this can cause serious (and permanent) damage to your skin. Furthermore, a needle can cause additional problems if it is not sterile. Always visit a beautician or dermatologist who will safely remove your blackheads.

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Which Paula’s Choice products should I use if I suffer from blackheads?

Whatever skin issues you have: there is no single product that can solve them for you. It is important to have a good routine to keep skin clean and healthy. Once you’ve got the basics you can then add in products that are aimed at reducing and preventing spots and blackheads.

The basics:

  • Facial cleanser: choose a mild facial cleanser that suits your skin type. If your skin is clean, dirt has no chance of causing problems. Clean skin can also absorb other products better.
  • Exfoliant: a BHA exfoliant contains salicylic acid. Salicylic acid removes dead skin cells and also cleans pores inside. This helps to reduce existing blackheads and to prevent new ones
  • Day and night cream: a good day and night cream will hydrate skin and restore balance, preventing excess sebum. Always use a day cream with SPF 30 to protect against sun damage as the sun can aggravate spots and inflammation.

Blackhead-reducing products that you can add to your routine:

  • Toner: use a toner with niacinamide helps improve the structure of pores.
  • Mask: use a mask regularly to help absorb excess sebum and clean and visibly reduce pores. Both our Skin Balancing Mask and our Pore Clarifying Charcoal Gel Mask are ideal if you suffer from blackheads.
  • Skin Balancing Serum: our Skin Balancing Serum keeps skin balanced, helping to prevent blackheads and visibly reduce pores.
  • Defense Antioxidant Pore Purifier: Defense Antioxidant Pore Purifier penetrates into the pores and contains a mix of effective antioxidants specially formulated to combat the damage caused by pollution and blue light exposure.

To top

The right way to remove blackheads at home, according to a dermatologist

  • Here’s how to remove blackheads, according to dermatologist Dr. Julia Tzu.
  • The bad news is that there is no permanent method for blackhead removal.
  • Pore strips are actually your best at-home option.

Blackheads can be incredibly frustrating. They congest our noses, chins, and can even appear on our backs and legs. But what are these pesky blemishes and how do we get rid of them?

In its most basic term — blackheads are clogged hair follicles. According to Healthline, blackheads (also called closed comedones) occur when dead skin cells and oils collect and clog the opening of a hair follicle.

The collection of skin and oil is then exposed to the air, which causes it to look black. It’s frustrating that something so simple is so difficult to tame, so INSIDER consulted with Dr. Julia Tzu, Founder and Medical Director of Wall Street Dermatology, to learn how to extract blackheads and keep our complexions clear.

So how do you extract blackheads?

According to Dr. Tzu, there isn’t one way to remove these pesky blemishes. “There are many ways to remove blackheads,” she told INSIDER. “You just have to be careful to avoid irritating or damaging the surrounding skin while removing them.”

The only at-home method for blackhead removal Dr. Tzu recommends is pore strips.

“I’ve tried many different brands of pore strips throughout my life, and liked the Ponds pore strips the best, though they are no longer available,” Dr. Tzu lamented.

Read more: Watch a woman use 16 pore strips to extract hundreds of blackheads from her boyfriend’s back

She recommends Bioré Deep Cleansing Pore Strips and said that “if applied properly, does a decent job of removing 15-20% of blackheads,” but cautions that “it’s important not to overdo the pore strips though, as that can lead to skin irritation.”

Dr. Tzu recommends in-office microdermabrasion for the most effective results.

Microdermabrasion is non-invasive and can help remove blackheads. VS MedSpa Laser Clinic/Youtube

“If you wanted a more sophisticated skin cleanup,” Dr. Tzu told INSIDER, “you can visit your dermatologist for a vacuum-based microdermabrasion.” According to Tzu, microdermabrasion is an “elegant, non-invasive, and efficient way to remove both blackheads and dirt in the pores,” or in layperson’s terms, it “sucks the dead skin cells and blackheads out.”

This is especially great if you have dozens of blackheads dotting an area like your nose. Tzu documents this “lunchtime” procedure on her Instagram, where you can see the blackheads literally being vacuumed out of their pores.

The average cost of a microdermabrasion treatment, when done by a dermatologist or licensed plastic surgeon, is around $137 a session. There is no downtime and besides the effect it has on your pores, it’s also great for “light scarring, discoloration, sun damage, and stretch marks,” according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

So, what’s the catch?

Unfortunately, Dr. Tzu says that “none of the removal methods are permanent or 100% satisfactory.” As long as dead skin cells and oils continue to accumulate in your pores, you will continue to have blackheads.

What about those viral blackhead extraction videos online?

Sorry, those blackhead-removal videos shouldn’t be counted on. ThamKC/

While some find blackhead extraction videos online to be an oddly satisfying viewing experience, that doesn’t mean you should start squeezing your own face.

“Most dermatologists do not squeeze every single blackhead out one by one,” Dr. Tzu told INSIDER. She says this is for two reasons: 1) it would not be covered by insurance and 2) it would damage the skin.

Read more: These are the best pimple popping videos of 2018

“Videos demonstrating this are probably more for viral properties instead of reflecting what is actually routinely performed in practice,” Dr. Tzu clarified.

Besides extractions, Dr. Tzu recommends blackhead prevention.

“Chemical exfoliants such as topical retinoids can be used to help decrease the rate of blackhead formation, so can be helpful, it does not eliminate blackheads,” Tzu told INSIDER.

You can get a prescription from your doctor for a topical cream like tretinoin, or you can buy over-the-counter beauty products that contain retinol. Both work, though a prescription for tretinoin is typically cheaper with insurance.

Salicylic acid is also helpful in warding off blackheads. A facial cleanser with a low percentage of salicylic acid is helpful in clearing out pores, though don’t expect to wash your face once and step out of the shower with brand new pores.

However, stay away from scrubs or physical exfoliants that claim to remove blackheads.

Exfoliating scrubs aren’t effective for removing blackheads. India Picture/

Some physical exfoliants, like Clean & Clear Blackhead Eraser Facial Scrub tout “microbeads” to scrub away the blackheads, though Dr. Tzu says manual and physical exfoliators like these ones are not useful.

She also cautions against facials or aestheticians who claim to manually remove blackheads in their practice.

At the end of the day, Dr. Tzu calls blackheads an “extremely common, cosmetic nuisance.”

Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

Everything you need to know about blackheads

Underlying conditions: Any other skin problems, such as eczema or rosacea, can make treating blackheads a little harder. The condition should be treated before the acne, as successful treatment may lead to improvements in the blackheads.

Rest and relaxation: Getting enough rest and avoiding stress can also help, as stress can trigger sebum production. Exercise can help reduce stress.

Food: Research has not confirmed that cutting out fries or chocolate either will or will not reduce acne, but a healthful, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is beneficial for overall health. It may reduce the risk of skin lesions becoming infected.

Don’ts for blackheads

Hormonal triggers can make blackheads unavoidable, but some factors can increase the risk or make them worse.

Squeezing: Avoid squeezing blackheads, even with a metal blackhead remover, as this can irritate the skin and make the problem worse.

Steaming: A steam bath has long been recommended as a treatment for blackheads, on the basis that it “opens the pores.” However, this has not been confirmed by research. Some people find it makes the problem worse.

Scrubbing: This can worsen the problem. Scrubbing removes sebum. The sebaceous glands then work harder to replace the sebum, leading to more blockages and the risk of inflammatory acne.

Removers: Removal strips, masks, and vacuums should be used with caution, as these can irritate and damage the skin if misused.

Makeup and cosmetics: Avoid oil-based makeups and skin care products.

Other environmental triggers to avoid are:

  • humid environments
  • tight clothes that close off the skin
  • skin products with alcohol, as these can also tighten and dry out the skin

Hydrogen peroxide: This has been recommended for acne. It can reduce the severity of outbreaks, but it is also a harsh product that can dry and irritate the skin. Researchers remain undecided about whether it should be used or not, because of its adverse effects.

Plant-based treatments

Plant-based treatments are often recommended for acne, and some research is under way. Tea tree, thyme, aloe vera, and rose oils all appear to offer antibacterial benefits to prevent acne from becoming infected. Further research is needed.

As a form of mild acne, blackheads tend to resolve on their own when the body more successfully regulates hormones after puberty. It can take a long time for blackheads to self-resolve, and they may persist for many years.

A patient who is experiencing psychological difficulties with the appearance of blackheads may find it helpful to see a counselor.

Blackhead Removal: Treatment, Skincare, and DIY Remedies

  • If proper skin care and home treatment fail to remove the blackheads
  • If the blackheads keep recurring
  • If the blackheads cause a lot of itchiness
  • If the blackheads are so noticeable that they make you extremely conscious of your appearance and negatively impact your confidence

Questions your dermatologist may ask you:

  1. Can you identify any triggers that may lead to the outbreak of blackheads in your case?
  2. What is your skin care regimen and how often do you follow it?
  3. How often do you wear makeup?
  4. Are you currently using any OTC topical treatment for blackheads, or have you used one in the recent past?

Questions you may ask your dermatologist:

  1. Is the appearance of blackheads linked to any specific cause?
  2. Can blackheads be removed surgically?
  3. How safe are these surgical procedures for my skin type?
  4. What should I do to keep my skin free of blackheads?
  5. Do I have to take any precautionary measures before a surgical procedure?

Expert Answers (Q&A)

Answered by Dr. Niyati Sharma, MBBS (Dermatology)

Is it advisable to squeeze out a blackhead?

You can do that. However, I would advise that it is best to use a topical retinoid to help in the long term. It aids in the reduction of the overall amount of blackheads.

Does squeezing blackheads make the pores to get bigger?

No, you cannot do that physically.

Is applying a paste of baking soda and water helpful in getting rid of blackheads?

Baking soda is a great ingredient to help with exfoliation (I mix it with coconut oil), but it will not get rid of blackheads. Once again, I advocate topical retinoids.

Can lemon juice and green tea help dissolve blackheads?

I have not heard of this, but I would advise against applying lemon juice. If you go out in the sun, you may get a photosensitive reaction on your skin.

Does the frequency of getting blackheads increase with age?

It should reduce because our skin becomes less oily as we get older. Older people get more giant ones, though (frequently on the back).

How to get rid of blackheads?

As mentioned earlier, go and get yourself some vitamin A, retinoid cream. Your dermatologist can prescribe you the strongest ones but start first with adapalene.

About Dr. Niyati Sharma, MBBS: Dr. Sharma completed her MBBS from the University of Adelaide, Australia, in 2007. She completed her Pediatrics Dermatology Fellowship in 2018 from Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital, USA.
Dr. Sharma currently sees patients at Monash Health, Victoria, Australia.

References 1. Kim SJ, Baek JH, Koh JS, Bae MI, Lee SJ, Shin MK. The effect of physically applied alpha hydroxyl acids on the skin pore and comedone. International journal of cosmetic science. Published October 2015.

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  • How To Get Rid of Blackheads Naturally

    1. Here are some things you can do to get rid of blackheads
    2. Home remedies for blackheads
    3. How to avoid blackheads
    Our skin accumulates all kinds of grime like dirt, sebum, oil and dead skin cells on a daily basis. This can result in clogged pores and hair follicles, leading to skin-related concerns like blackheads, whiteheads, acne etc. Blackheads look like tiny, raised bumps on the surface of the skin, mostly black in colour. They are caused when oil and sebum block the pores on your skin. This happens when the skin is not cleansed properly and the oil settles in the pores over time. And when it’s exposed to air, it oxidises and turns black, forming blackheads. A is a problem faced by many individuals. It’s common and very annoying and most people get them at some point in their life. The most common area where the blackheads appear is the face. In fact, they can be classified as a mild type of acne. In medical terms, blackheads are open comedones. Blackheads are frequently seen on the nose, corner of the nose, cheeks, forehead and the chin area. But these can appear on other parts of the body as well. Read on as we tell you in detail how to get rid of blackheads naturally.

    Here are some things you can do to get rid of blackheads

    Tackling blackheads can be very painful. The first of firsts for getting rid of blackheads is moisturising the skin with the right cream or moisturiser. A salicylic acid is a great option for dissolving blackheads away and it can be found in over-the-counter products available in the market. Retinoid skin creams are also a useful way to get rid of blackheads. Drinking a lot of water can help in hydrating the skin surface by keeping the potent oil blocks away.

    1. Exfoliate

    If you have not started yet, it’s time to include exfoliation in your skincare regimen. Use a natural or cosmetic scrub, suitable for your skin type to slough off grime and dead skin cell from your skin. Concentrate on the blackhead-infested area while you are at it. Exfoliate at least once a week.

    2. Facials

    Getting facials regularly can help curb blackheads to an extent. Facials are a refreshing way to rid the skin of impurities, deep-seated debris and restore the glow.

    3. Invest in the right products

    If you have acne or blackhead-prone skin, it’s time you reconsidered your skincare products. Buy non-comedogenic products which are specially formulated to not clog the pores.

    4. Keep skin clean at all times

    Every time you step out of the house, your skin attracts dirt. If not cleaned well, it may lead to blocked pores increasing the chances of blackheads. Makeup can have the same effect on the skin and if not cleaned out completely, might result in blackheads and even breakouts. Always remember to remove makeup and wash your face before calling it a day.

    5. Use clean laundry

    As you sleep in your bed, oil and dirt from your face get rubbed on pillowcases and bedsheets. Not washing them regularly can lead to accumulation of grime which can get transferred to your face and clog pores, encouraging blackheads. It’s best to sleep on fresh pillowcases and bed sheets as often as you can.

    Home remedies for blackheads

    Blackheads can be minimised and even eliminated with the use of right ingredients. Here are some natural ways and home remedies for getting rid of those pesky blackheads.

    1. Baking soda

    Baking soda is a natural exfoliator. Create a paste using baking soda and water and apply on the blackhead affected area. Use your fingers to gently scrub the skin for a few minutes and then wash off with water. This should be done twice a week.

    2. Clay

    The oil-absorbing properties of clay make it ideal for clearing extra grease from the skin along with other impurities. Masks made from fuller’s earth and kaolin clay, when used regularly on the face can help clear out the pores. This will eventually get rid of blackheads and make the skin smooth.

    3. Steaming

    Subjecting your face to steam is an effective way to soften the stubborn blackheads and then eventually clearing them away. Steaming the face makes the skin sweat, which in turn helps to clear out toxins from within. It also softens the pores, making the stubborn blackheads easier to work upon and remove.

    4. Lemon, salt and honey

    The astringent quality of lemon will cut grease while the fine granules of salt will act as a non-abrasive scrub for your skin. Honey will leave your skin moisturised and help keep the germs away. Make a paste with these three ingredients and apply on the blackheads. After five minutes, gently scrub in circular motions for a minute and let it stay for another five minutes. Wash away with warm water. Do this thrice a week.

    5. Egg white mask

    Known for their skin tightening abilities, egg whites make an effective ingredient for blackhead removal. When applied directly on the skin or as a mask, egg whites shrink the pores, hence forcing blackheads out. Being rich in nutrients, egg whites also improve skin texture and remove extra oil from the skin.

    6. Tomato

    Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and A, and have skin brightening, oil-absorbing and pore shrinking properties. This is especially good for people with oily skin as tomato pulp effectively clears out the extra grease without being harsh. Cut a few round slices from a tomato. Rub a slice on your skin, focusing on the blackhead infested areas. Alternatively, you can apply tomato pulp on your skin and wash it off with water once it dries.

    How to avoid blackheads

    While trying to get rid of blackheads, there are certain things you should take care to not do as this may worsen the situation.
    1. Picking or trying to pop blackheads is a complete no-no since it will do nothing to uproot the blackhead from deep within. Picking may lead to the spread of bacteria and even scar your skin.
    2. At any cost, never try to remove blackheads using tweezers or pointed tools. Even the blackhead removal tools must be left to be used by professionals. You might end up injuring yourself while trying to poke at a blackhead.
    3. Exfoliation is recommended to get rid of blackheads but using harsh or abrasive ingredients on the skin can cause damage instead of clearing out the blackheads. Also, it can dry out your skin and irritate it further. The best way is to opt for gentle scrubs. If possible go for natural exfoliators like oatmeal, sugar, salt, coffee etc.
    4. Keeping your skin clean goes a long way in not only preventing the formation of blackheads but also acne and pimples. Wash your face daily with a gentle face wash, at the beginning and at the end of the day. Apart from that, keeping it free from grease is important so that oil doesn’t accumulate in the pores. This can be done by using a facial scrub once or twice a week, depending on your skin type.
    5. Replenish your skin’s moisture after each wash by applying a suitable moisturiser. Use non-comedogenic moisturisers so that will not block the pores.
    6. Using skin creams or gels with salicylic acid can help prevent blackheads too. Salicylic acid is a kind of chemical that is often used in pimple and acne eliminating creams. It also finds use in medication to help remove the outer layer of the skin and is often used to treat warts, psoriasis, dandruff, acne, ringworm, and ichthyosis. Using salicylic-based creams can keep your skin fresh and grime-free by exfoliating the top layer, thus avoiding blackheads.
    You can also read on top 11 simple and effective natural remedies for blackheads removal. Subscribe to our YouTube channel

    The blackheads on your nose are actually a form of acne — here’s how to get rid of them for good

    • Blackheads can appear on the nose because of bacteria.
    • They’re clogged pores and technically a type of acne.
    • Exfoliating can get rid of them.

    There’s no doubt about it: Blackheads can be a pain. They’re dark little spots that are seemingly impossible to get rid of, and they always seem to crop up in the middle of your face — on your nose, more specifically. But what are they? Turns out, blackheads (also known as open comedones) are a type of acne, Papri Sarkar, a dermatologist in Massachusetts, told INSIDER.

    “They’re clogged pores or hair follicles that collect sebum (the natural oil that the glands on our face make), dirt, skin cells and bacteria.” When the gunk in your pores are open to the air, they oxidize and the surface turns black — resulting in a blackhead. But why do they always seem to be on your nose and not the rest of your face? It all has to do with oil, Sarkar said. ” are more likely to form on the nose because the nose has lots of glands,” she said. “It has more than the rest of the face, which already has more oil glands than the rest of the body.”

    Sarkar noted that not every black spot on your nose is a blackhead, though. Some may be sebaceous filaments, which look like blackheads, she said.

    “Sebaceous filaments are in the lining of your pores and help sebum get out of the pore and lubricate your skin,” she said. “Sebaceous filaments can become visible if they fill with fats and oils and appear dark. They’re more linear and easier to extract than blackheads.”

    Not all black spots are actually blackheads. ThamKC/

    Blackheads, on the other hand, are difficult to extract because they’re underneath the skin on your nose. “Because blackheads are hard and trapped inside pores they can’t be ‘scrubbed away’ or washed off,” Sarkar said. “Most often, they need extraction.”

    But even if they’re extracted, they could keep coming back because your nose — with all of its oil glands — will continue to excrete oil.

    So is it possible to get rid of blackheads for good? Yes, Sarkar said. But it will take patience.

    “If you have true blackheads keeping your pores from getting clogged will help to prevent them,” she said. “The simplest way to do this is to make sure you wash your face once a day, especially if you’re sweaty.”

    She also recommended trying a few at-home remedies to keep blackheads at bay. Exfoliating can help clear away grime and buildup and clear out clogged pores. Sarkar said using a chemical exfoliant or a physical one (like a washcloth or even brown sugar) will work just fine.

    She added that using a topical acid, like glycolic acid or salicylic acid. Looking for another option? Sarkar said retinoids work well. “These are vitamin A derivatives and cause cell turnover (or exfoliate) so you’re less likely to get dead skin cells clogging your pores,” she said. If none of those treatments speak to you, Sarkar said that benzoyl peroxide is always an option. “It goes a bit deeper and has antibacterial properties, too.”

    Exfoliating is a good at-home remedy. /Maridav

    If you’re going to try any of these treatments to clear up your blackheads, Sarkar said to keep in mind that they can be drying or irritating. “Make sure you tailor your cleansing and moisturizing to account for that,” she said. “If skin gets too dry, it is thought to produce more oil which can put you in a cycle of dry and oily patchy skin with acne to boot.”

    But if you’re tired of seeing blackheads on your nose and want to get rid of them ASAP, go see a dermatologist to get them removed.

    “Because blackheads are like little cysts, they can be extracted,” Sarkar said. “The safest way to do this is at your dermatologist’s office so it’s clean, and produces less inflammation when you’re treating them. Whenever you have lots of inflammation you’re more likely to get a recurrence of a blackhead, acne, or a scar.”

    Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

    It seems truly unfair that after dealing with an especially aggressive zit, diligently spot-treating it and handling it with the care of a surgeon for days and days on end, that another zit should pop back up in the same exact spot, just months, or even weeks, later. Like, why? What cruel force of nature allows pimples to keep resurfacing like a bad Tinder date that can’t take a hint? And how the hell do you prevent it from coming back?

    MORE: Meet Retinol Oil: The Coolest Anti-Aging Product That Actually Works

    These aren’t rhetorical questions, mind you. I genuinely wanted—no, needed—to know, seeing as the hormonal zit on my jaw had gone from a four-day visitor to a permanent squatter over the last few months. So I asked Yale dermatologist and VPP (Very Patient Person) Mona Gohara, who I have on speed-dial for skin “emergencies” like these. Her answer? It’s only partially your fault, and there’s definitely ways to fix it. YAY!

    Photo: ImaxTree

    “If we’re talking about your classic, raised pimple with a visible whitehead, then chances are, it was spread by you picking at your skin or popping a nearby pimple at some point,” says Gohara. (Don’t even try to tell me that you never pop your pimples or touch your face, OK?) “Each time you pop your zits or try to squeeze them at all, you transmit bacteria into your other pores, while also causing inflammation in the surrounding tissue,” she says. Doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but when you consider the fact that inflammation is already a big cause of acne, you’re essentially throwing fuel onto the fire.

    And, says Gohara, the inflammation and bacteria spreading is made a billion times worse if you’ve already been using acne-killing products on the area. “When someone has a pimple, they tend to douse it with a ton of irritating, drying spot treatments, which weakens their skin’s barrier and compromises their good, healthy cells,” she notes. “And when you irritate an already-compromised skin barrier and throw a bunch of bacteria into it from picking and squeezing, you’re pretty much asking for re-occurring breakouts.”

    But let’s pretend that you’ve never once touched your face, and you never put any zit creams on your pimples, and you also exist in an ethereal cloud of perfection, and your zits still come back in the same spot—then what? “There’s a theory that some sebaceous glands on certain parts of your face are simply more susceptible to hormonal changes and fluctuations in oil productions,” says Gohara, adding that people with recurrent cystic pimples on their jaw and chin may fall into this category. “If your cystic acne seems especially tied to your hormones, then the only way to fix the issue is to eliminate the hormonal cause, which means working with your doctor to try Accutane or oral hormone stabilizers.”

    Photo: ImaxTree

    OK—cool. But you already knew that you should be talking about your acne with your derm, right? You just want to know what you can do right now, at home, to fix this shit from happening again. We’re going to be really honest, though, and say that nothing you apply topically will be as effective as what your derm will prescribe you. As long as you’re cool with those odds, you can still try to mitigate re-occurring zits by treating the area nightly with a lightweight salicylic acid (which gently exfoliates and unclogs pores), like Clinique’s Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel, then dabbing a sheer, sheer layer of benzoyl peroxide (which kills acne-causing bacteria), like Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment, every other day on the exact spot you last had a zit.

    If your skin gets irritated, though, stop using them for at least four days, or you’ll cause a compromised skin barrier, extra inflammation, and, of course, more acne. Fun, right? But at least you can stop feeling like a crazy person the next time you see a zit appear in literally the exact same spot as before, and that’s almost as satisfying as having clear skin. OK, it’s not at all, but it’s still something.

    What are blackheads?

    Blackheads appear as tiny black marks on the nose, forehead and other areas of the face and – although they look different to your average pimple – they are actually classed as a form of acne.

    ‘Acne is characterised by comedones, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts,’ says Dr Mahto. ‘Open comedones, also known as blackheads, are small follicles with dilated openings to the skin. The black colour results from oxidation of the debris within the follicle.’

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    Should you squeeze blackheads?

    It can be tempting and even satisfying to squeeze blackheads but – despite the amount of ‘gunk’ this can release from the follicles – Dr Mahto recommends you resist the urge.

    ‘You should absolutely not squeeze blackheads. Squeezing a spot can push the inflammation deeper and this can cause scarring of the skin,’ she says.

    Squeezing a spot can push the inflammation deeper and this can cause scarring of the skin.

    ‘There are procedural treatments where blackheads can be extracted but these need to be carried out by someone trained appropriately,’ adds Dr Mahto. ‘A tool called an extractor can be used but care needs to be taken as if done incorrectly, it can result in pushing inflammation deeper into the skin or even scarring.’

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    How to prevent blackheads

    Blackheads are notoriously hard to get rid of entirely, but there are some things you can do to keep them at bay.

    ‘These include regular facials with steam extraction, light chemical peels such as mandelic acid, using pore strips, exfoliation once a week, use of face washes that contain salicylic acid and topical treatments containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or retinoids,’ says Dr Mahto.

    Dr Mahto recommends the following skincare routine to minimise blackheads:

    ✔️ Cleanse your face twice a day with a face wash designed for acne-prone skin. Products that contain salicylic acid and zinc may be beneficial.

    ✔️ Exfoliate your skin weekly – this will remove the upper layer of skin cells, resulting in a brighter complexion and help reduce blackheads.

    ✔️ Try over-the-counter acne treatments such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to apply directly onto spots.

    ✔️ Avoid heavy cosmetics and products that will block pores and choose items that are oil-free and non-comedogenic.

    ✔️ See your GP or a dermatologist if your acne fails to respond to these measures, if you notice scarring, or it is starting to affect your self-esteem.

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    Blackhead myths and facts

    There are a number of old wives’ tales floating around about blackheads. Dr Mahto distinguishes the fact from fiction:

    ★ MYTH: You ‘grow out’ of blackheads

    Blackheads can occur at any age. They are more common in teenage years but can persist or recur well into adulthood.

    ★ FACT: Makeup makes it worse

    Certain make-ups can block pores resulting in acne. Always choose make up that is marked as non-comedogenic.

    ★ MYTH: Blackheads can be ‘scrubbed away’

    It is quite hard to scrub blackheads out of the skin, especially if they are deep-seated. Scrubbing excessively at the skin will cause damage to the skin’s surface and disrupt the skin’s barrier function.

    ★ FACT: You can minimise your pores

    Although pores cannot be shrunk (they do not have muscles surrounding them allowing them to be open or closed), their appearance can be reduced or minimised.

    ★ MYTH: Blackheads are caused by dirt

    Blackheads look black because of oxidised material within the pore, not because of dirt.

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    Last updated: 19-11-19

    Dr Juliet McGrattan (MBChB) Dr Juliet McGrattan Dr Juliet McGrattan spent 16 years as a GP, two years as a Clinical Champion for Physical Activity for Public Health England and is the Women’s Health Lead for the 261 Fearless global running network. Her award winning book, Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health was published by Bloomsbury in 2017.

    How to keep blackheads from coming back

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