How to get rid of blackheads properly, according to the experts

Learn how to get rid of blackheads and prevent future breakouts with the right products and expert advice

how to get rid of blackheads
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just with all things DIY, learning how to get rid of blackheads or give ourselves lush skincare treatments, all in the comfort of our own homes, has become integrated into our current day-to-day regimens and quest for self-care. And much like maskne, or breakouts associated with wearing a mask for a prolonged amount of time, blackheads are one of those skin concerns that sometimes feels impossible to combat without the help of a trained professional.

While it may be tempting to tackle your blackheads yourself, we recommend holding off until you read what the experts have to say. Learning how to get rid of blackheads isn’t as easy as grabbing a magnifying mirror and going to town, but with the right products and expert advice, you can get rid of blackheads as efficiently and effectively as a pro, and, more importantly, prevent future breakouts and maintain a clean, clear, and healthy complexion.

What are blackheads?

First off, what are blackheads? Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to get rid of blackheads (and even further on in your DIY beauty journey, nabbing the best foundation available for concealing any blemishes), we should first figure out what kind of blemish we're dealing with. A blackhead is a mild form of acne that forms when an opening in a hair follicle becomes clogged from a buildup of excess sebum, oils, and dead skin cells. This creates a comedo, or a bump, that turns black (hence the name) when the skin is opened and it is oxygenated or exposed to air. If the skin over the comedo stays closed, it remains a whitehead.

Common causes of blackhead formation include excess sebum production (especially if you have an oily skin type), underexfoliation, bacteria buildup, and, yes, hormonal fluctuations and even certain medications like corticosteroids and androgens.

How to get rid of blackheads

1. Choose a chemical exfoliant

We spoke to Rachel Liverman, CEO and co-founder of Glowbar, about the most effective way to get rid of troublesome blackheads. “We recommend monthly professional treatments with an aesthetician who can help you clear out those tough-to-get blackheads in a safe, non-scarring way,” Rachel says. “In addition, we recommend a chemical exfoliant to keep dead skin at bay to allow for your pores to remain clear and avoid further breakouts or blackheads.”

Rachel recommends regularly using Environ Revival Masque to specifically target blackheads. This “face lift in a jar” mask will simultaneously enhance the overall look and feel of your skin, while leaving your pores clear and free of future blackheads.

2. Avoid harsh, abrasive scrubs

We also spoke to pro makeup artist Batya Reyz, founder of Sukiru Beauty, about how to curate a skincare routine that targets blackheads and prevents future breakouts. The best solution is prevention, after all, and targeting blackheads at their source is a sure way to get rid of these pesky breakouts once and for all. 

Batya notes that contrary to common misconceptions, blackheads aren’t dirt or debris, but rather oxidized dead skin that clog your pores over time. First and foremost, she warns against using pore cleansing strips, that while oddly satisfying to use, will only rip out the blackheads along with healthy cells too. This can not only make your pores bigger but can cause blackheads to come back with a vengeance and more space to grow in the long run. She also recommends staying away from scrubs with heavy plastic beads that promise to exfoliate and remove the buildup of dead skin, as these products can also tear away at healthy skin (remember those grainy facial scrubs popular in the '90s? Yeah, do away with those).

3. Use a BHA or salicylic acid to tone after cleansing

Batya recommends using a BHA/salicylic acid as a toner, like Some By Mi AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner, once a day or a few times a week depending on how dry your skin type is. Those with oilier skin should use it more often, while those with normal to dry skin should use it less frequently, making sure to target the specific area where the blackheads live. Salicylic acid will go deep down inside your pores and exfoliate dead skin cells, getting rid of blackheads and preventing new ones from forming.

how to get rid of blackheads clear skin

Oil balance is the name of the blackhead prevention game.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Try a weekly purifying mask

Batya also recommends using Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Deep Pore Cleansing Facial & Body Mask once or twice a week. This clay mask acts like a magnet that pulls out impurities from deep down under your skin. Made with 100% natural calcium bentonite clay, this mask helps clear up blackheads and can help with long-term acne scarring as well. 

5. Spot-treat when necessary

Additionally, using a spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide, like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Acne Spot Treatment Cream with Benzoyl Peroxide, can be an effective way to combat blackheads. Batya suggests this treatment as a way to ensure that more dead skin cells won’t continue building up in your pores. 

6. Balance it out with a hydrating moisturizer

Introducing so many new chemicals into your routine, while extremely effective, can also be jarring for those with more sensitive skin. It’s important to balance your routine with a hydrating moisturizer to ensure that your skin stays balanced and healthy. Tatcha The Water Cream Oil-Free Pore Minimizing Moisturizer is an ideal face moisturizer that pulls double-duty and hydrates as it shrinks your pores. Formulated with Japanese wild rose and Japanese leopard lily, this moisturizer supports natural circulation and balances skin.  

While these products can help you create a blackhead-fighting skincare routine, sometimes it’s important to surrender and head to a professional when there are certain exacerbating factors involved, such as in more serious cases of acne. Otherwise, sticking to a consistent blackhead-fighting routine such as this, with a focus on healthy regular exfoliation and toning, could help welcome you to smoother, blackhead-free days ahead. Good luck!

woman&home thanks Rachel Liverman of Glowbar and Batya Reyz of Sukiru Beauty for their time and expertise.

Miriam Herst-Stein
Miriam Herst-Stein

Miriam Herst-Stein specializes in branding, content creation, and storytelling. She brings ten years of experience customizing content to large corporations such as Unilever in her role as Deputy Editor for their publication All Things Hair, as well as to small businesses just beginning to step up their content. She graduated from Stern College with a degree in journalism and is currently pursuing her masters in professional creative writing at The University of Denver. A NYFW reporting veteran, she has written for ByrdieBirchboxLoveStoriesTV, and the Huffington Post, and has interviewed a long roster of celebrity stylists including Ursula Stephen and Justine Marjan. Born and raised in Chicago, she now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their large collection of color-coded books. You can find her on Instagram @miriam.herst.stein.