Updated 07/25/22. Of all the questions I’m asked, “How do I get rid of my blackheads?” ranks near the top of the list. Blackheads are a fact of life. It doesn’t matter what your age is; if your skin has produced oil at any point during your life, you can get blackheads. There are so many products on the market that claim to get rid of blackheads, but sadly, they never do. (Trust me, if those pore strips truly worked, we would all be using them, myself included.)
In this post, I’ll share the three-step plan I created for effectively reducing blackheads. While it’s definitely possible to minimize their appearance and prevent them from ever showing up in the first place, it’s going to take some work and ongoing dedication.
What Is a Blackhead?
For starters, blackheads are large, open pores containing oxidized oil. So, contrary to what most people believe, blackheads don’t happen when dirt becomes trapped in your pores—just oxidized oil from air exposure. It’s this oxidation that causes them to appear black.
You can remove a blackhead by extracting it, but once the pore fills up with oil again (and it will), the air will cause the oil to oxidize again. It sounds like a vicious cycle, right? Keep reading to learn how to break it!
My 3-Step Plan to Reduce Blackheads
1. Remove Them Manually
Whether you remove blackheads yourself (gently, of course) or have an esthetician do it, manually extracting them is the only way to truly remove them. There is simply no magic mask or pore strip that will easily lift them out, despite what some brands claim.
Professional Facial with Extractions
If you get a professional facial with extractions, an esthetician will start by raising the temperature of the skin. This is usually done by applying warm steam to the skin and performing a facial massage to “melt” the hardened oil within the pores. This makes extractions easier; the esthetician won’t have to press your skin so hard and risk damage.
If the skin is properly prepared by an experienced esthetician, extractions shouldn’t leave the skin with significant red marks. However, most estheticians will apply a soothing mask afterward to help calm the skin and reduce any visible redness.
DIY Blackhead Extractions
If you can’t schedule a facial, you can try removing blackheads yourself. It’s best to perform extractions after a shower since the skin temperature has been raised and the hardened oil will be softened. You should also be sure to work gently. Don’t risk skin damage by pressing too hard in an effort to lift out blackheads.
If this is the route you choose to go, read my guide to removing blackheads at home.
2. Keeps Pores Clean With Exfoliating Acids
Once blackheads have been manually removed, it’s important to keep pores clean to prevent further oil build-up. The best way to do this is to incorporate products with exfoliating acids into your routine, like AHAs, BHAs, or both. I often recommend the Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum. It contains a blend of lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acids to exfoliate the skin and keep pores clean.
Whatever you use, just make sure the products are gentle and do not contain SD Alcohol 40 or Denatured Alcohol.
Note: Don’t use any exfoliating acid products for at least 24 hours after manual extractions.
3. Prevent Oil From Oxidizing
This part is crucial for reducing the appearance of blackheads. As I mentioned, a blackhead is oil that has oxidized and turned black, so if you can prevent the oil from oxidizing, the oil will not turn black (or at least not as quickly).
How do you do this? It’s simple. Use antioxidants in your skincare products. They have many benefits, including encouraging collagen production, lightening discoloration, and slowing down the production of skin-damaging free radicals. But one surprising benefit is their ability to prevent oil from oxidizing, hence the name “anti-oxidant.”
Here’s an example of how antioxidants prevent oxidation: You know when you cut an apple, and after a while, it turns brown (oxidizes)? Yet, if you squeeze some lemon juice on it, which is high in vitamin C, it won’t turn brown as quickly.
Surprisingly, the same rules apply to the skin. I can’t speak for all antioxidant products, but I can tell you for certain that the Vitamin C & E Treatment uses three forms of stable vitamin C that can effectively prevent blackheads. Skeptical? I did my own little science experiment by applying Vitamin C&E Treatment to half of an apple, and you can definitely see the difference!
Avoid Vitamin C Products that Worsen Blackheads
Did you know that certain vitamin C products can actually make blackheads worse? When formulas use high concentrations of pure l-ascorbic acid or ascorbic acid, it causes rapid oxidation. The result? A darkening of the pore’s surface.
Avoid using vitamin C products that have turned brown, as this is an indication of instability. It won’t offer effective antioxidant protection, and it will only make blackheads worse. At the very worst, it could even cause dryness and irritation.
The Bottom Line
The only way to truly get rid of blackheads is to manually extract them. From there, it’s all about keeping your pores clean to prevent future blackheads from forming. I realize that these steps require time and effort and we all want a simple, fast solution. But with patience and dedication, you’ll reduce blackheads in no time!
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”