If you’ve never had to deal with annoying little black dots on your nose, then you’re truly #blessed. The rest of us have spent our lives resisting the urge to pick or pop our blackheads, which appear when oils and skin cells clog our hair follicles. Though banishing blackheads can be a challenge, there are ways to do it without destroying your skin. Whitney Bowe, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist, reveals seven safe blackhead treatments that will clear up your skin for good.
Clear skin starts with a thorough cleanse, so be sure to scrub away any makeup and grime before attempting to fight those stubborn blackheads. You might find it most effective to double cleanse: First, wash as you normally would, and then follow with a cleanser that contains salicylic acid. Dr. Bowe’s pick: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($8; drugstore.com), which treats and prevents breakouts without being too harsh.
Exfoliate a few times a week
Getting into an exfoliation routine will is another crucial step to beating blackheads, says Dr. Bowe. Do it twice a week if your skin’s sensitive, and three times a week if you tend to be oily. Exfoliating will help slough away the dead skin cells that would otherwise clog your pores bring on the blackheads. Try Clinique’s Exfoliating Scrub ($21; macys.com).
Use a skin brush
Take your beauty routine one step further by using a mechanical cleansing brush, which helps to deep clean pores and purge oil and dirt buildup. A good scrub around the nose, on the chin, and over the forehead works wonders at fighting blackheads, says Dr. Bowe. She recommends any brush by Clarisonic, such as the Mia Fit ($189; sephora.com). We love this one for its portable design—use it after a sweaty cardio class or while you’re traveling to keep skin looking its best.
Try a mask
Clay and charcoal masks are like glue to blackheads. They draw out impurities and leave skin feeling smoother and pores looking smaller. Use one two times a week or whenever you feel that skin could use some clarifying. Try Herbivore’s Blue Tansy Mask ($48; amazon.com). It packs powerful natural ingredients including fruit enzymes, blue tansy, and white willow bark, which together work to unclog pores and prevent new blackheads from popping up.
Add tea tree oil to your regimen
Strengthen your mask’s blackhead-vanishing power with a drop of tea tree oil, suggests Dr. Bowe. Tea tree oil has antibacterial benefits that will help clarify skin and prevent blackheads from forming. This alternative remedy helps restore hydration in the skin that might otherwise end up dry and peeling from using other treatments to combat breakouts. Try the Body Shop Tea Tree Oil ($10; amazon.com).
Steam, then extract
Using a steamer to open your pores is like a DIY mini facial that will clear away blockages. Try Conair’s Facial Steamer ($30; walmart.com). After a few minutes, pores should be opened up and impurities loosened.
Now is the time to try to extract any gunk that’s built up inside. Extractions are only safe to do in a sterile environment using fingertips or an extractor tool like Tweezerman’s Blackhead/Whitehead Remover ($12; amazon.com). And if you apply gentle pressure and nothing pops out, stop, Dr. Bowe warns. Leave it until it’s ready, and keep using the salicylic cleanser and other treatments to keep blackheads at bay.
Apply a retinoid treatment
Typically known for its anti-aging properties, retinol also works wonders to help you attain a flawless complexion, devoid of blocked pores, Dr. Bowe says. After steaming, if you don’t want to do your own extractions or if nothing comes out, apply the retinoid to your open pores. Use Philosophy’s Help Me Retinol Night Treatment ($49; drugstore.com), specifically in places where you have congested pores. Over time you will notice smaller pores and fewer blackheads.