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how to get rid of blackheads

How to (and how not to) get rid of your blackheads

Blackheads are total bummer. I understand how frustrating stubborn blackheads can be. The golden age of my blackhead-infested face was during my high school years. Even if back then I could afford an expensive full-coverage foundation, it still cannot hide those tiny facial potholes.  It covered the whole surface of my nose – almost like a strawberry. My blackheads and my frequent acne breakouts was then the beginning of my mild obsession to skin care products (that later on got to its peak during college).

strawberry blackheads

Yeah, my nose once reminded me of strawberries…upclose

As my college professor says “a well-defined problem is a problem half solved”. If you have completely understand what’s causing your blackheads, the road to clear skin is just a stone’s throw away.

So, What’s really causing my blackheads?

Contrary to common belief, the appearance of blackheads is not a sign of dirty skin. Blackhead is a type of open comedone. It is the result of over accumulation of sebum and keratin in your pores. Normally, sebum and keratin is removed naturally from our skin through a process called desquamation. Accumulation happens when the rate of production (keratin and sebum) is greater than the rate of desquamation.

How to get rid of blackheads?

  1. Physical Exfoliation

Physical exfoliation is method of using tools or scrubs to mechanically assist your skin in getting rid of dead skin cells. How “gentle” the exfoliation is depends on the product used and the manner you apply it on your face (pressure and frequency).

Recommended Products:


2. Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation makes use of chemicals to assist your skin’s desquamation. It has an advantage of being more specific and uniform, compared to physical exfoliation. You do not need to choose one over the other since you can incorporate both physical and chemical exfoliation in your skin care routine. Just make sure you don’t do it at the same time as it is more likely to irritate your skin.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is your best friend when in dealing with blackheads. It dissolves trapped sebum and keratin from deep within your pores, making it a very effective treatment for blackheads.

Recommended Products:

Stridex Salicylic Acid PadsStridex Salicylic Acid Pads


Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is another thing to consider when you have blackheads. Besides its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it is also keratolytic. It prevents build up of dead skin cells that can potentially block pores that may result to blackheads.

Recommended Product:


For example, for blemish prone skin it is generally recommended to exfoliate 3 to 4 times a week. You can use chemical exfoliants 3 times a week and use facial scrub once a week. This depends on personal preferences and the types of products used.


3.Use oil-free foaming cleansers

Yes, I specified foaming cleanser because they are generally more effective in removing excess sebum than other cleansing products (non-foaming cleansers, cleansing milk,  cleansing oils, etc.) A gentle foaming cleanser effectively removes excess oil but leaves moisturizing agents to keep skin from drying.

Recommended Products

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash

CosRx Salicylic Acid Gentle CleanserCosRx Salicylic Acid Gentle Cleanser

4. Invest on a good make up remover

Though I initially said that blackheads are not caused by dirty skin, it is still important to keep your face clean. Make up products can also clog your pores and may worsen blackheads. Also, active products penetrate poorly on dirty skin. When using make up remover, make sure to follow it up with your gentle cleanser.

5.  Moisturize!

Because most blackhead-prone skin are oily, we mistakenly make an assumption that it doesn’t need moisturizer. Skin can be oily and dry at the same time. Perhaps the most appropriate term is dehydrated. A dehydrated skin can be oily on the surface but lacks moisture within. Proper moisture is important for skin to perform its biological functions, including the turnover of old cells to healthy new ones.  This prevents dead skin cells, sebum and excess keratin from accumulating within your pores.  Moisturizers are also important to tolerate drying substances like salicylic acid and azelaic acid.  For starters, choose oil-free and non-comedogenic moisturizers. Note though, that not all oil-containing moisturizer can trigger or worsen blackheads.

Recommended Products:Nature Republic Aloe Vera Soothing GelNature Republic Aloe Vera Soothing Gel


6. “Cleaner Diet”

healthy Diet

healthy Diet

Yeah, I  know you were not expecting this. This is actually a very broad topic to discuss under this section. “Clean Diet” is difficult to define and there are no written rules on what’s clean and what’s not. A cleaner diet to improve skin health (or health in general) is a personal journey and never underestimate the length of this process. For some, it can be a trial and error method and you do not expect results to appear overnight.

Certainly, we can’t treat blackheads (or acne) with pure diet but we can aid its treatment. It is impossible to pin point a single food that causes blackheads or treat it but it can be a means to lessen its severity. For starters, we can oversimplify this section by avoiding too much sugar, trans-fats and processed fats.

A high-sugar diet increases your insulin, a hormone that can cause drier and flakier skin. Dry skin has poor cell turnover which can lead to accumulation of keratin and sebum. Moreover, insulin can also trigger the increase of Androgens (male hormones) in both males and females. This makes the skin produce more sebum which increases your likelihood of developing blackheads.


Now let’s explore some habits or methods that you should consider to stop doing in your attempts to get rid of those blackheads…

How not to get rid of your blackheads

1.Lemon mask

DIY lemon maks has been spreading around the internet. Flavonoids found in lemons have anti bacterial properties, and has been shown to be effective against propionibacterium, bacterial found inflamed acne. But this bacteria is not a major concern in getting rid of blackheads. Black heads are just open comedones that have not inflamed yet.

2. Scrubbing like crazy

Scrubbing face too harshly does not help in removing blackheads

Scrubbing face too harshly does not help in removing blackheads

Blackheads are not dirt, so stop scrubbing too harshly and too frequently.

3. Natural Magic Oils

Natural is not always safe and is not always what’s good for you.  Blackheads are caused by excessive production of oil leading to clogging of pores. So you would want to avoid adding up to this problem by adding more oil that may clog your pores. Not all oils are enemies but you would want to avoid comedogenic oils like linseed oil, wheatgerm oil, coconut oil, coconut butter, cocoa butter and flax seed oil.

4. Bar Soaps

Bar soaps

Bar soaps

This can be quite tricky because for some, using bar soap for face is a hard habit to break. You should keep in mind though that most bar soaps has very high pH. Our skin has a thin, protective layer on its surface, referred to as the acid mantle with a pH of about 5.5. This pH is optimum for the skin to perform its biological functions, including keeping moisture in, and healthy turnover of skin cells. When we use products that are too alkaline (very high pH) it may disturb this protective mantle which can result to undesirable skin conditions like blackheads.

Understanding pH of skin

Understanding pH of skin

The skin’s ability to tolerate change in pH vary from person to person. Some people can tolerate high pH in bar soaps while other don’t. Hence, it is important to consider the possibility that your kojic-papaya-gluta-carrot-and-whatever-stuff-is-in-it soap may be causing or aggravating your blackheads.

5. Pore strips

Pore strips

Pore strips

Unless you have other means of intervention like physical or chemical exfoliation, pore strips can do little in treating your blackheads. Initially it can get rid of blackheads in superficial levels. But if conditions of the skin remains unchanged, blackheads will still reappear after a few days.




So that’s all it. Have you tried any of these methods? What did it do to your skin? I’ll be very glad to hear your blackheads journey 🙂





Article written by:

Anne Porter

Hi! I’m Anne. I am a chemical engineer from Cebu, Philippines. I created Zarins Beautylab because of my love for cosmetics, skin care products and all other stuff that makes me (and you) look and feel beautiful. My semesters of chemistry courses come in handy as I explain the science behind different beauty products: which works and how it works. Well, Sometimes its science and sometimes its just good ol’ common sense.

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