Blackheads: We’ve all cringed over them. You know, those unsightly little black or brown specks hiding deep down in our pores that peek through just enough to make our face feel “unclean?” Contrary to popular belief, that’s not grime you’re seeing, but “comedomes.” A comedo bump is a visible pile up of skin impurities in an open pore that surrounding air has oxidized to turn an icky black hue. The best treatments for blackheads will not only work to clear pores out, they’ll help prevent them from clogging up again.
What is a blackhead?
A blackhead is nothing more than a pesky form of acne in which a pore or hair follicle becomes clogged with gunk. As New York City-based dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, derm, told Allure earlier this year, “Blackheads are just an oxidized mix of oil and dead skin cells that are sitting in pores, [and] the exposure to air is what causes them to oxidize and turn black.”
Comedomes most commonly appear on the face, back, neck, chest, arms, and shoulders, where hair follicles tend to be more prevalent.
What Causes Blackheads?
Even if you wash your face religiously, you might still be at risk of developing blackheads. According to Medical News Today, blackhead-causing oils and impurities can be due to factors such as spikes in sebum production — a waxy, oily substance that is meant to lubricate hair and skin — caused by hormonal changes, heavy sweating, shaving (which can open hair follicles further), health conditions, and certain medications, to name a few.
The Best Products for Blackheads
Since pore size is genetic, you can’t do much to minimize these porous spaces where blackheads collect, but you can regularly exfoliate and keep oil production to a minimum to lessen the opportunity for oil and buildup to work its way down into them.
Peeling agents, such as glycolic acid, work to dissolve this buildup at the source, ultimately unclogging pores, while cleansing devices, like the Clarisonic ($119, Clarisonic), work to get deep down into the skin’s surface to throughly wash away debris. Other treatments, like retinoid creams, speed up the rate of skin’s cell turnover to keep dead cells, which can quickly fill pores up, at a minimum. We’ve rounded up a selection of various treatments that will work double time to give you your clearest, most blackhead-free complexion yet. Keep scrolling for Woman’s World’s picks for the best products for blackheads around.
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Clarisonic Mia Prima
Best Cleansing Brush for Blackheads — Clarisonic Mia Prima
Where to buy: $119, Clarisonic
Try as we might, we can only get rid of so much of the cumulative makeup, oil, and debris that’s accruing as we go about our day with our hands. What’s more, the more we touch our face, the more opportunities there are for bacteria to be introduced to the area. Many dermatologists recommend using a skin-cleaning brush, like Clarisonic’s Mia Prima, to get the job done hygienically and effectively. In a recent clinical study, 96 percent of women saw healthier-looking skin after using the brand's Mia Prima, while 98 percent “agree the brush head feels gentle and comfortable." A 60-second treatment two times a day is all it takes.
Best Retinoid Cream for Blackheads — Differin Adapalene Gel
Where to buy: $10.96 (Originally $14.99), Amazon
Retinoid creams are one of dermatologists’ best defense tools against blackheads, as they speed up the renewal rate of skin, leaving little room for blackheads as they push new cells to the surface — and Differin is one of the best. This over-the-counter formula uses a retinoid called adapalene, which is gentler than many other irritating, drying types, so you get all of the “wow” of these handy skin-savers without the typical “ow.”
Bestope Pore Extractor
Best Blackhead Extractor — Bestope Blackhead Remover Tool
Where to buy: $7.99 (Originally $9.99), Amazon
While doctors typically don’t recommend performing pore extractions at home, as it can push inflammation deeper and cause follicles to rupture, blackhead sufferers that can’t seem to help themselves would do well to opt for a proper set of tools — i.e. this five-piece Bestope set — over dirty, bacteria-ridden hands. This device has an ergonomic handle to avoid any slippage and an electroplated, stainless steel coating that won’t irritate sensitive skin.
Mario Badescu Silver Powder
Best Budget Product for Blackheads — Mario Badescu Silver Powder
Where to buy: $12, Sephora
This insanely affordable skincare gem from Mario Badescu may come in the form of a powder, but it isn’t meant for covering up your skin — rather, uncovering it. It’s got pore-purifying kaolin clay and zinc oxide to absorb excess oil that would otherwise get trapped in skin follicles, bringing blackheads to light.
Sephora reviewers say this powder works like a charm for clearing away comedomes. “[I’ve] been using this for years and does the trick every single time,” one woman wrote. “I use it as a spot treatment every time I have a stubborn blackhead or clogged pore.”
Best Ultrasonic Device for Blackheads — Dermaflash Dermapore Extractor
Where to buy: $84.15 (Originally $99), Nordstrom
If you’re not the type to mess around with an extractor, give this ultrasonic device from Dermaflash a go — it basically does the work for you! Launched earlier this year, this innovative device first deep cleans oil, dirt, and blackheads from beneath the skin’s surface with its attached “spatula” and ultrasonic vibration technique. From there, it gently vibrates to push your favorite products deeper into the epidermis.
Take it from this reviewer, who wrote, “After using the product, I was shook by how much gunk was left in my skin after cleansing and using masks! This product definitely works to get out all of that residue, which left my skin looking super clear and smooth.”
Best Glycolic Acid for Blackheads — MedPeel Glycolic 10% Daily Exfoliator
Where to buy: $29.99, Amazon
Since blackheads are essentially oils and dead skin cells that have gotten trapped in your pores, it makes sense that treatment would include a good exfoliator, which work to gently dissolve and slough off those icky impurities. We like this chemical version from MedPeel, which relies on glycolic acid (a type of acid derived from sugar cane) and has super small molecules that can penetrate deeply into pores to cleanse and exfoliate.
Best Vibration Tool for Blackheads — FOREO Luna Play Plus
Where to buy: $49, Sephora
This handy little waterproof gadget vibrates against your skin to unclog pores of impurities (it also targets fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven texture). It’s portable, safe for all skin types, and can be used up to 400 times before you’ll need to replace its AAA battery.
“The blackheads that I've had for my entire life on my nose are gone. I REPEAT! GONE!” raved one happy Sephora shopper. “I never thought this was something that could even be possible, but they have disappeared. My texture has dissipated and I feel like my other products work better. … I would have never guessed that a simple, relatively inexpensive product could change the whole game. But it did! It really, really did!
La Roche Posay Effaclar
Best Salicylic Acid for Blackheads — La Roche-Posay Effaclar
Where to buy: $14.99, Amazon
Considering that blackheads are a type of acne, it's no surprise to see salicylic acid — acne’s greatest nemesis — find a place on this list. This powerful beta hydroxy acid is found in willow bark and can dissolve some of the sticky substance holding skin cells together in order to clear out blackhead-causing pores. La Roche-Posay’s medicated face scrub, Effaclar, boasts a whopping two percent of the grime-busting ingredient and is recommended for use two times daily for maximum results.
Glamglow Supermud Mask
Best Activated Charcoal for Blackheads — GLAMGLOW Supermud Mask
Where to buy: $59, Sephora
Another good blackhead buster comes in the form of activated charcoal. As New York City-based doctor Kavita Mariwalla explained to Byrdie in 2019, “activated charcoal bonds to oils and helps pull them out from the skin.” This GLAMGLOW mask has this exact ingredient as its base to attract dirt and other toxins within pores, plus eucalyptus leaf to reduce inflammation and kaolin clay to purify.
Proactiv Blackhead Dissolving Gel
Best Lactic Acid Treatment for Blackheads — Proactiv Blackhead Dissolving Gel
Where to buy: $35, Sephora
For a blackhead treatment you can see, try Proactiv’s Blackhead Dissolving Gel, which can be massaged onto skin and left for five minutes — about the time it takes for its blackhead-fighting blend of green tea extract (which prevents free-radical damage), rich shea butter (to calm any would-be irritation), salicylic acid and lactic acid (a slightly more gentle acid than glycolic that will rid impurities at the skin’s surface) to bring acne-causing substances up to the top of your pores.
Explained one purchaser: “I get blackheads on my nose all the time! I have never been able to get rid of them. It didn't dry out my skin the way I thought it would. After letting it sit and washing it off you can notice the blackheads are pulled up.”