The little dots that speckle your nose might drive you wild but if you think scrubbing them viciously will get rid of them, think again. Eliminating blackheads requires the right products and a little know how. Here, your 101 primer on everything you need to know to get rid of blackheads for once and for all. “Blackheads are the colloquial term for what dermatologists call open comedones,” says N.Y.C. dermatologist Anthony Rossi. Translation? Basically the pore gets clogged with bacteria and skin debris, like dead cells. Unlike whiteheads (a.k.a. a pimple and a closed comodone), this opening allows the bacteria to be exposed to oxygen. “This process causes oxidation and turns all that gunk black – hence, the term blackhead,” says Rossi.
Oily complexions are more likely to get blackheads but even normal skin can get spotty since the t-zone tends to produce more oil than other areas. First, make sure to double cleanse skin both night and day. Rather than reaching for aggressive scrubs that contain nut shells or manually pressing hard, use a cleanser that contains chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid. “All of these ingredients are keratolytics which will help dissolve the plug and clear it more easily,” says Long Island dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla. Exfoliating your complexion regularly is key to preventing blackheads since it prevents buildup. While pore size is genetic, you can make them appear smaller by keeping them clear. After cleansing, apply a toner (we like Mizon AHA BHA Daily Clean Toner) that helps unclog pores with salicylic acid and glycolic acid. After applying serum, opt for an oil-free lotion to hydrate skin. Twice a week, you can apply a kaolin based mask (try Kaolin Blackhead Steam Pore Pack)to help draw out sebum and impurities. If you tend to have combination or dry skin, spot treat in blackhead prone areas like your nose and chin.
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So right about now, you’re probably thinking about those addicting YouTube video of extractions but before you go and DIY, know that “you should to be careful about overdoing it because they can strip or even damage healthy skin,” says Rossi. Overly aggressive extraction and squeezing can lead to hyperpigmentation. If you’re really inclined to extract, try steaming skin or exfoliating prior so debris is more easily removed, says Mariwalla. Then, gently press a looped extractor tool (try Professional Blackhead and Blemish Remover)over blackheads to help dislodge them. If you’re partial to blackhead strips, make sure to limit use to once a week. We love this 3 step version from Holika Holika Pig Nose Clear Blackhead 3-step Kit which contains an exfoliating pre-serum to help clogs come out more easily and a post-serum to help soothe and tighten pores.