5 Blackhead Removal Tips You Should Know

June 23, 2021

Woman with acne seeks blackhead removal

Blackheads, also called open comedones, can impact your skin’s appearance, but removing them isn’t always easy. According to Dr. Natalie Yin of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Lakewood, Arvada, and Denver, Colorado, “From using pore strips to standing in front of the mirror for hours squeezing each individual pore, people will put themselves through a lot of pain and frustration to get rid of blackheads. As a dermatologist, I understand the desire. We all want our skin to have a smooth, even tone and texture, but aggressively popping out each blackhead is more likely to irritate your skin and lead to infection or inflammation than it is to improve the overall appearance.” Take a breath. Step away from the pore strips, and consider these five blackhead removal tips you should know to improve the appearance of your skin without causing more irritation and inflammation.

Tip 1) Try a Salicylic Acid Cleanser to Remove Mild Blackheads

Blackheads occur, in part, due to oil, skin cells, and other debris clogging your pores or hair follicles. A whitehead occurs when this clog is closed, and a blackhead forms when the clogged pore is open, allowing oxygen to initiate a reaction with the skin’s sebum that causes the clogged pore to turn black. If you have numerous, small blackheads, salicylic acid may be a good option. Rather than pulling the whole clog out, which can be irritating and increase your risk for skin infection, salicylic acid dissolves the oil, dirt, makeup, dead skin cells, and all the debris from your day that builds up leading to blackheads.

Dr. Yin recommends, “There are many face washes, gels, and serums that contain salicylic acid. For mild blackheads, I recommend using a facial cleanser with salicylic acid once a day. Start by using your salicylic acid cleanser in the evening before bed and continue using a gentle cleanser for your morning routine. If you don’t see the improvement you’re looking for after about a week, start using the salicylic acid cleanser in both the mornings and evenings. If you notice your skin is peeling or looking red, you may be sensitive to salicylic acid, so try using it every other day. Discontinue use if your skin continues to look irritated.”

Tip 2) Use a Retinoid Cream for Stubborn Blackheads

Retinoids are naturally derived from vitamin A, and they are often recommended to treat acne. While salicylic acid is gentle and typically recommended for mild blackheads, retinoids can be a great option to treat those larger, more stubborn blackheads. As retinoids help prevent the development of the buildup that clogs pores, they allow other skincare products to more easily be absorbed into the skin, making them more effective. By promoting cell turnover, retinoids can also improve skin tone and texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Retinoids are available in both over-the-counter and prescription-strength formulations.

If you have sensitive skin, you may want to start with a retinol, a milder type of retinoid. This will give you the opportunity to see how your skin is likely to respond before beginning treatment with higher-strength retinoids. In many cases, people with sensitive skin experience “retinization” after first using retinols or retinoids. This is the process that occurs as the skin gets used to the effects of retinoids. During this time, the skin may become irritated, resulting in dryness, scaling, redness, or a burning or stinging sensation. In many cases, this retinization effect lasts up to a month.  Retinization tends to occur more often with prescription-strength retinoids as compared to the over-the-counter retinols and retinoids. Your board-certified dermatologist should walk you through what to expect when you begin using prescription-strength retinoids.

Tip 3) Consult a Dermatologist for Severe Blackheads

If you’re struggling with severe blackheads that don’t respond to salicylic acid or retinoid treatments, it’s time to talk to a dermatologist. Your dermatologist can help you safely and comfortably remove large blackheads using a comedone extractor, and recommend other treatments, like dermabrasion or facial peels, to jumpstart your blackhead treatment plan. They will also partner with you to create an ongoing skin care routine to prevent the development of future blackheads. If topical treatments aren’t effective, your dermatologist may recommend oral medications that can help decrease oil production and help prevent clogged pores.

Tip 4) Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize!

According to Dr. Yin, “Many people who struggle with oily skin, blackheads, and acne think that moisturizing will exacerbate the problem. In reality, however, your skin will benefit from moisturization in order to maintain hydration and the overall integrity of the outermost layer.

A moisturizer will also be beneficial as you’ll likely be using products, like salicylic acid and retinoids, that can dry out the skin.” Use a light, non-comedogenic (that means the moisturizer’s formula is designed not to clog pores) moisturizer in the morning and evening. If your skin is having trouble adjusting to retinoids, try applying them over your moisturizer. This gives your skin an added layer of protection against potential dryness and irritation that can occur when you’re using retinoids.

Tip 5) Schedule Regular Facials with a Licensed Skincare Professional

In addition to working with a knowledgeable dermatologist to create an effective skincare plan, you may also want to schedule regular facials to promote healthier skin and prevent blackheads from developing. Specifically, HydraFacials offer exceptional benefits for people who have stubborn blackheads and other forms of acne. This innovative facial treatment uses a custom tool to gently glide across the surface of the skin, removing oil and unclogging pores before infusing the skin with moisturizer for improved moisture balance, increased cell turnover, and generally healthier skin.

Visit U.S. Dermatology Partners to Learn More

If you’re interested in creating a personalized blackhead treatment plan or partnering with a dermatologist to create an at-home skincare routine to keep your skin looking and feeling great, we hope you’ll reach out to the U.S. Dermatology Partners team near you to get started. Our knowledgeable, board-certified dermatologists and trusted dermatology teams can help you tackle blackheads and achieve clearer, healthy skin. To get started, simply complete our online request form. Once we receive your information, a member of our team will be in touch to finalize the details of your next visit.

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