Blackheads driving you crazy? The freckle-like clogged pores that often pop up on the nose are notoriously difficult to ditch, and skincare enthusiasts are always coming up with the latest and greatest method to eliminate them. Blackhead removal videos are experiencing a surge of popularity on YouTube, but when it comes to your skin, doing things the right way (and with the advice of a dermatologist) is key.
That said, there are plenty of at-home methods for preventing and removing blackheads. We spoke to dermatologist Joyce Davis, MD, about the dos and don'ts of at-home blackhead prevention and removal.
Do: Always Read Makeup Labels
Love makeup? Join the club — but your favorite foundation could be giving you blackheads. Many makeups contain oil that blocks pores and leads to breakouts, which is why oil-free products are usually the way to go.
"Also avoid products with shea butter," Dr. Davis says. "Makeup that is oil-free is generally labeled as such, and mineral makeup is oil-free unless it indicates otherwise. Sunblock should also be oil-free." In other words, reading the fine print is worth it.
Don't: Use Oil-Based Shampoo
Just like makeup, oil from shampoo could be affecting your skin. "Oil on your hair can create a pomade acne and deposit oil on your forehead, side of the face, and chest / back where your hair touches," Davis explains. "Unfortunately, many hair products contain oil to give hair shine." One more reason to pay attention to product ingredients!
Do: Wash Your Face Frequently
People with oily skin are more likely to get clogged pores, but frequent skin washing could eliminate current blackheads and prevent new ones from forming. Davis recommends washing your face up to three times daily to remove excess oils — and don't worry about buying a fancy product. Any simple soap will do the trick. "Just use any restroom soap to clean your face at work," she says. "If not to your liking, you can carry astringent wipes in a ziplock bag. Most wipes contain either glycolic or salicylic acid and are wonderful blackhead removers."
Don't: Use Metal Instruments to Push Out Blackheads
While it might be tempting to run the dull edge of a tweezer across your blackheads as a way to push them out, this is a major beauty no-no: "I don't like the idea of using any metal instrument (such as a tweezer) on the face," Davis says. "You can damage the skin and lead to scarring."
Instead, visit a dermatologist for professional blackhead removal when you feel your skin needs a little extra help. Davis uses an autoclave-sterilized comedone extractor, which uses suction to eliminate blackheads, performs microdermabrasion, which removes dead skin, and finishes it with a chemical infusion to treat the problem.
Do: Get Creative
While some at-home blackhead removal methods can damage the skin, there are plenty of alternatives for when you run out of pore strips. "The tape strips that you pat down on your skin and lift off are helpful at removing comedones," Davis says. "You can even try tape that you have at home, like duct tape or packing tape. Just do so gently. Some people make scrubs with oatmeal or coarse sea salt because of their abrasive qualities."
As tempting as it is to squeeze blackheads, this can lead to scarring — not to mention other skin problems. "Squeezing can also inflame a blackhead and cause a cyst to erupt," Davis warns. When you do touch your skin, make sure your hands are clean to prevent irritation and infection.
Do: Use Creams
Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid do a great job removing blackheads, as do over-the-counter retinols. "To prevent blackheads from recurring, you should apply the medication all over the face," Davis says. "If your skin becomes too dry then you can skip it for a night or two." And if all of this just isn't cutting it, visit a dermatologist who can provide stronger retinoids, which Davis says are "wonderful" at both eliminating and preventing blackheads.