How to get rid of blackheads

Blackheads are those tiny black dots that appear on the nose, forehead and chin. We’re breaking down the ins & outs of removing blackheads in this article, so you can make sure they don't come back.

Products to get rid of blackheads

What is the best way to remove blackheads?

Begin by making sure your cleanser is gentle and water-soluble. You might see benefits with double cleansing, which ensures make-up and other debris is removed entirely. Just don’t go overboard – cleansers should never strip your skin or make your skin feel dry after use.

Then, make sure you have a well-formulated, non-abrasive BHA exfoliant in your routine. This works to shed built-up dead skin that can otherwise mix with oil in the pore and form a blackhead. A liquid exfoliant for blackheads will target those you have now as well as preventing blackheads from forming in the future.

Of course, adding a dedicated blackhead treatment into your skincare routine will help, so long as it claims to minimise & absorb excess oil and re-establish the flow of oil out of the pore lining.

What to avoid

Blackheads often get worse because we're using the wrong skincare formulas, so make sure your routine is free of the following:

  • Skin-aggravating ingredients – such as alcohol, peppermint, menthol, lemon, lime and eucalyptus, which all cause sensitisation that can trigger more oil production (and future blackheads)
  • Bar soaps – the ingredients that keep bar cleansers in their solid form can clog your pores
  • Pore strips – they remove only the surface of a blackhead, so they have no effect on the pore itself
  • Face scrubs – they also only work on the surface, plus they most often contain hard particles that can irritate & damage the skin which then triggers increased oil production

Now we've established best practices, let's break blackheads down further.

blackheads prevention

What we'll discuss:

What are blackheads?

Blackheads are a type of clogged pore that forms when dead skin cells combine with excess sebum and other debris in the pore lining. Once this mixture reaches the opening of the pore at the skin’s surface, it oxidises and turns a blackish colour. Blackheads on the face tend to show in areas prone to more oil production, such as the T-zone (forehead, nose & chin). They can occur on their own or sometimes alongside whiteheads.

Though both can be tricky to deal with, the similarities between blackheads and whiteheads stop there. With comedones being clogged pores, blackheads are known as “open comedones” while whiteheads are “closed comedones".

Unlike blackheads, whiteheads are covered by a thin layer of skin, so the trapped substances can't oxidise and turn black. Instead, they accumulate as a white bump on skin.

What causes blackheads?

Blackheads form deep inside the lining of the pore, just as weeds root in the ground before surfacing:

  1. When too much oil is produced inside the pore, it has difficulty flowing freely to the surface
  2. As the flow of oil gets backed up, it mixes with the built-up dead skin that isn’t shedding as efficiently as it should
  3. Once the oil & dead skin at the top of the clogged pore are exposed to air, they oxidise and form a blackhead

Is it bad to leave blackheads in?

It's not necessarily bad, but really an aesthetic issue that can lead to further concerns. It's simply better to remove them and prevent future ones from occurring. We know that caring for blackhead-prone skin does take consistency and dedication, just try to remember that the frequency of blackheads can diminish as we get older, since oil production often decreases with age.

Do blackheads enlarge pores?

No, blackheads don’t enlarge pores. They do share the same root cause as enlarged pores (too much oil production) so they happen to show up at the same time.

Blackheads on the nose

For this, your blackhead removal routine needs a stronger BHA percentage which you can apply as a spot treatment 2-3 times a week. You can also try experimenting with a higher strength AHA + BHA peel once a week for more advanced exfoliation.

Blackheads in the ears

Is it a good idea to remove blackheads in our ears? Well, yes. It is a more delicate area, so we advise cleaning with a soft flannel and then applying a BHA liquid exfoliant with a cotton pad or Q-tip. Make sure you're careful to steer clear of the eardrum itself to avoid damage to that area.

Tips to prevent blackheads

  • Stop using any rich or greasy moisturisers on your blackhead-prone areas
  • Replace those formulas with liquids, gels or light lotions
  • Incorporate a non-irritating blackhead removal mask to help absorb any excess oil

Prevent blackheads with a consistent skincare routine

How do you get rid of blackheads that won't come out at home?

Manually extracting blackheads at home should be viewed as a last resort. Aggressive squeezing, poking & prodding can aggravate the skin and make matters worse. Alternatively, a well-trained aesthetician or dermatologist can extract blackheads without hurting your skin – though we recognise this isn't accessible for everyone. Don't forget, a consistent pore-controlling routine can show you results.

The best skincare routine for blackheads

There is no single best blackhead remover – only an effective routine. The best way to get rid of blackheads is to cater your routine to your skin type and follow pore-controlling best practices.

Instead of a harsh scrub, you can choose one with dissolvable particles. This would be an extra cleansing step (part of a double cleanse) to fully remove your makeup, SPF and other debris. It won’t be a blackhead cure, but it can complement your routine.

Use a clay mask to get rid of blackheads

Mythbusting blackheads

MYTH You can't have blackheads if you have dry skin

The TRUTH is this skin type can also experience blackheads as the nose has more oil glands than any other part of the face. Plus, the pore lining also plays a role in blackhead formation so if your dry skin has damaged or misshapen pores, blackheads can form more easily.

MYTH You have blackheads because your skin is dirty

The TRUTH is the cause of the issue is much more deeply rooted than that. People can also be genetically predispositioned to blackheads based on their skin type.

References for this information:

1. Pediatric Dermatology, November 2015, pages 316-317
2. American Family Physician, January 2000, pages 357-365
3. JAMA, February 2015, page 640
4. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, July 2019, pages 17-45
5. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, December 2015, ePublication
6. Indo American Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, July 2015, pages 2,512-2,522
7. Research & Reviews: Journal of Pharmacology, 2014, pages 1-12

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Essential routine

1. Cleanse

CLEAR Cleanser
Tough on breakouts, soft on your skin

2. Exfoliate

SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
The iconic exfoliant, delivering proven results

3. Moisturise

RESIST Anti-Ageing Moisturiser SPF 50
A weightless moisturiser, minimising the appearance of pores

3. Moisturise

CLEAR Oil-Free Moisturiser
Lightweight hydration, without clogging pores


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