Blackheads, otherwise known as open comedomes, are small bumps that appear on the skin when widened hair follicles clog up. These bumps are the first stage of acne. They’re named after their dark appearance but contrary to popular belief, the black color of blackheads do not comprise of dirt. It’s actually a mass of sebum (oil), dead skin, bacteria and melanin, all of which react with air and turn black due to oxidation.
Despite their name, some blackheads actually appear yellowish in color too. And if a skin pore doesn’t widen, the clogged hair follicle forms a whitehead.
What Causes Blackheads
Sebum plays the key role of lubricating the skin and hair. Since it naturally drains out through skin pores on to the surface, it can sometimes get trapped inside hair follicles. If too much of it has been produced, a blockage will occur in the sebaceous gland duct. In addition, dead skin cells that fail to shed on a regular basis can block sebum and irritate hair follicles. A blackhead or open comedo only forms when the opening of a hair follicle widens and allows air to enter.
- Numerous myths abound about what actually causes blackheads. Although most people believe that make-up clogs up skin pores and leads to blackheads, that’s not exactly true since cosmetic applications only make the condition worse – it doesn’t cause the condition.
- Another common myth about blackheads is that they’re caused by dirt. But the truth is dirt has nothing to do with this skin condition. Open comedomes occur when the skin produces too much oil. This tends to take place mostly during puberty, when DHT (dihydrotestosterone) hormone levels spike and over stimulate the sebaceous glands.
- Other people say that what you eat can affect acne, while a few anecdotal studies suggest that dairy and processed food products may play a part in triggering acne. However, existing evidence shows no conclusive connection to these theories.
Best Home Remedies to Get Rid of Blackheads
Although blackheads are not life threatening, it can be quite an embarrassing condition. For people who are conscious about their looks, these dark facial bumps are a cosmetic nuisance. Fortunately, there are many ways to control them even without seeking medical help.
Generally, you can treat blackheads at home with natural or artificial products that are probably already available in your kitchen pantry. The list of possible solutions you can try is long, but the following are some of the best home remedies to get rid of blackheads.
- Nutmeg and Milk
Nutmeg and milk are two ingredients often found in many natural cosmetic products. These ingredients also make a great combination for tackling blackheads.
While milk contains lactic acid that breaks down dead skin cells, you can opt for buttermilk instead for a higher concentration of lactic acid. Nutmeg, on the other hand, offers the scrubbing power that’s required to loosen plugs in clogged hair follicles, thus leaving behind soft and supple skin.
How to Apply This Mixture:
- Add 1 tablespoon of nutmeg powder to 8 ounces of milk. Mix the ingredients until you have a thin paste.
- Before applying the solution, wash your face with clean water.
- Once the face is clean and dried, apply your exfoliator lightly in circular motions. Pay close attention to the blackheads but don’t be too rough to avoid irritating your skin.
- Keep massaging the face for about 3 to 5 minutes and then rinse off with clean water.
- Apple Cider Vinegar and Mint Toner
While apple cider vinegar and mint toner might sound like a commercial cosmetic product, it’s actually a simple homemade remedy for blackheads. All you need is 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 3 finely chopped mint leaves, and some water.
The only downside is that this toner takes almost 2 weeks to formulate. However, the wait will be worthwhile because of the strong therapeutic properties of the ingredients.
The apple cider vinegar in this remedy helps to break down bacteria and dead dermal cells that clog hair follicles. On the other hand, mint leaves contain menthol, which creates a cooling or tightening sensation on the skin to sooth inflamed blackheads.
How to Make and Apply:
- Mix the apple cider vinegar with chopped mint leaves in a bottle and allow the mixture to sit in a cool dark place for 7 days. Once this period ends, pour the earlier made toner through a strainer to sieve the mint leaves.
- Add a cup of water to the solution and store again in a refrigerator for 6 days.
- Dip a clean cloth into the tonner and dab it onto your skin. Leave it overnight before rinsing your face in the morning.
- Lemmon Juice
Since widened and clogged pores cause blackheads, shrinking your skin pores can help to prevent the condition from spreading. Lemon juice is an astringent compound that causes dermal tissue to contract and here are the steps to use it as a remedy for blackheads:
- Squeeze 1 lemon and collect the juice in a small dish.
- Rinse your face and pat it dry with a clean towel.
- Use a cotton ball to apply lemon juice on the affected area.
- Repeat above steps 3 to 4times a week at bedtime. Wash your face in the morning and apply moisturizer.
Caution: Lemon juice can be harsh and it stings sensitive skin. So, make sure to dilute it with water if you have delicate skin. If you choose to use this remedy, keep sunscreen at hand since lemon juice makes your skin sensitive to the sun too. You may also want to try this remedy if you have a dark complexion because lemon juice can lighten skin temporarily.
Honey is a great choice when you want to make a natural blackhead removal paste. It contains antibacterial and antiseptic properties, so any sebum remnants left in your pores will not oxidize easily.
The best part about honey is its sticky nature. This helps it to loosen up blackhead plugs and possibly remove them. If you want to take things up a notch, then combine honey with milk. Lactic acid in milk will shed off dead cells, leaving your skin feeling smooth.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads with Honey:
- Mix 2 tablespoons of raw honey with 1 tablespoon of milk. Heat the mixture slightly in a microwave for about 10 seconds.
- Once the honey and milk paste is at a safe temperature, apply it to your face with clean fingers. Concentrate on the blackheads and ensure to rapidly pat the affected areas.
- Cover the blackheads with a strip of dry clean cotton and pat the area gently for 10 seconds.
- Let it dry for 20 minutes and remove the cotton strip carefully. Rinse your face off with clear water when done and moisturize as usual.
- Egg White Mask
Dried egg whites make the skin feel tout. When you wash out the egg mask, it will come off with any loose blackheads. To use this remedy, you’ll need at least 1 egg, a clean towel, small bowl and tissue paper (optional).
How to Apply This Mask:
- Break the egg then separate the yolk from the whites.
- Wash your face with clear water and pat it dry.
- You can choose to carry out this step in one of two ways. For the first method, apply one layer of egg whites on your entire face and allow it to dry. Carefully add up to 5 more layers but make sure to allow the egg white to dry in between applications. Alternatively, you may choose to apply a strip of tissue paper on the egg white then press it gently onto your face. Just like the first method, allow the tissue paper to dry before adding two more strips laced with egg whites.
- Once the mask dries, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Your face will feel tightened with the mask on, which is normal. If you applied tissue layers, peel them off gently.
- Finally, wash your face to remove any egg white residue and pat it dry.
- Water and Baking Soda Solution
Baking soda is not just good for preparing homemade cleaning agents, but also useful for getting rid of blackheads. Its fine granules mix well with water to create a natural facial scrub for dislodging particles of dead skin that clog your pores. However, this compound can dry out the skin because of its alkaline nature. Consider mixing it with apple cider vinegar to bring the skin’s pH back to normal.
How to Apply this Solution:
- Mix apple cider vinegar and water in equal proportions and add just enough baking soda to make a fine paste. A small bowl or cup should be sufficient to make the exfoliate solution.
- Before application, make sure to wash your face and dry it with a clean towel.
- Scrub the baking soda, apple cider vinegar and water mixture on areas where blackheads have formed. Ensure to scrub in gentle circular motions to avoid irritating the skin.
- Leave the baking soda paste on for about 15 minutes then wash your face with warm water.
As an added bonus, baking soda will brighten up your skin because of its bleaching properties. However, don’t overdo it because baking soda can be harsh on the skin. Two applications per week should be more than enough. It’s also important to perform a patch test on your arm before applying baking soda to your face. This will help you find out how your skin reacts to it.
- Solution of Epsom Salt with Iodine
Epsom salt and iodine make great exfoliators. They draw out impurities from pores and moisturize the skin. A little Epsom salt and iodine go a long way too. All you need is 1 teaspoon of the salt and 4 drops of iodine. Here are the steps for making this blackhead removal exfoliator:
- Combine Epsom salts with iodine and then add half a cup of hot water. Keep stirring until all salts dissolve completely.
- Wait for temperature to drop slightly and apply the solution to your face with a cotton ball. Allow it to dry then remove with a damp cloth and rinse your face.
- Clay Mask
It may seem like a bad idea to apply dirt on your face when you have blackheads, but this is perhaps one of the most therapeutic remedies you can try.
For centuries, beauty experts have used bentonite clay as a cosmetic application because of its rich mineral healing properties. A clay mask will also soak up excess sebum and blackhead impurities while at the same time nourish your skin with minerals. Bentonite clay provides the added benefit of improving circulation and skin tone.
You can use apple cider vinegar or water to make the clay mask. The latter choice is suitable if you have sensitive or dry skin.
How to Apply:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of Bentonite clay with water or apple cider vinegar. Stir thoroughly until you form a thick paste without lumps.
- Wash your hands and use your fingertips to spread a thin layer of paste on the entire face.
- Let the mask sit for 10 to 25 minutes, depending on how long you can handle the tightening sensation of skin as the clay dries.
- Wash off the clay under running water. Alternatively, rinse your face as usual with lukewarm water.
- Diluted Boric Acid
Boric acid is often used to treat scars. Although blackheads do not usually leave behind scars, in this case, boric acid will neutralize bacteria trapped inside blackhead plugs. You can buy this mild acid from any pharmacy. Usually, it comes in powder form and sometimes goes by the name Borax.
How to Apply Boric Acid:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of boric acid powder with 1.5 cups of water
- Soak a cotton ball with the solution and apply it on the affected area.
- Let the diluted boric acid settle for 15 to 20 minutes and rinse off your face.
Given that skin types vary, it’s important to note that the home remedies mentioned above are not guaranteed to work for everyone. Therefore, be prepared to experiment with several remedies before finding one that works for you. If your skin is sensitive, use diluted versions of these solutions. In addition, stop using any remedy that causes irritation.
- Vigorous Exercise
When it comes to suggesting remedies for treating blackheads, exercise is often left out. But then again, it’s still one of the most effective solutions. Vigorous exercise allows the skin to cleanse itself naturally through sweat. A good sweaty workout will also allow the liquid flowing from your skin to soften and flush out anything that is clogging your pores. You’ll of course need to be properly hydrated in order to make the most of this remedy.
Just remember that it’s important to wash your face immediately after every workout if you want to sweat out your blackheads. Dried sweat leaves behind salt that can clog pores, thus making blackheads even more difficult to remove.
Over the Counter Products and Medical Treatments
Over the counter products and medical treatments are the next best options to consider if the abovementioned home remedies prove ineffective. Here are some of the options you have:
- Topical Creams
Many pharmaceutical-grade topical creams for banishing blackheads exist and it may be a bit difficult to make up your mind about which product to use because of the many available options. To help you narrow down your list, here are some of the best topical creams to combat open comedomes.
- Facial Creams with Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl Peroxide is a great blackhead remedy if your skin is not prone to drying out. This chemical loosens waxy plugs that form blackheads, allowing them to break free from the pore. It’s a fast acting solution for people who want quick results too. Just be sure though to follow directions on the label carefully because Benzoyl Peroxide can be harsh on the skin if not used correctly.
- Topical Applications Containing Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is a mild compound, making it aptly suitable for people who have delicate skin. The results won’t come as quick as those of Benzoyl Peroxide, but Salicylic acid is nonetheless still very effective. Furthermore, it will keep your pores clear to prevent further blackhead breakouts.
- Apply a Treatment Cream with Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)
Using a facial cream or topical ointment that contains Alpha Hydroxy Acids will help to shed off dead skin that accumulates inside blackhead plugs. While AHAs are effective exfoliants, keep in mind that they tend to increase sunlight sensitivity. So, if you’re going to use products that contain AHAs, some sunscreen will come in handy when going out during the day.
- Clay Masks
Over-the-counter clay masks make fantastic blackhead remedies because of their oil absorbing properties. When applied once every fortnight for 10 to 15 minutes, clay masks will help to control the amount of oil on your skin. There are many types of cosmetic clays on the market, and some of the best include Bentonite, Dead Sea, Rhassoul, Red Moroccan, Green French, While Kaolin and Pink Kaolin clay.
- Pore Strips
Pore strips can pluck out blackheads from the skin. However, only use them after loosening up wax clogs inside skin pores. For the best results, loosen up blackheads by using Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic acid several nights in a row first before applying pore strips.
When using pore strips, it may be a good idea to also steam your face first. While steam may not open up your pores, it will soften trapped sebum and dead skin cells. An excellent way to do this is to place your face over a bowl of just-boiled hot water. Be careful not to get too close because steam burns are worse than burns from boiling water. Placing a towel over your head will allow most of the smoldering steam to hit your face before it escapes into the surrounding.
Seek Medical Advice
If you’ve tried all over-the-counter products and home remedies to get rid of blackheads and nothing seems to be working, then it’s perhaps time to seek medical help.
A dermatologist will examine your skin type and recommend the best treatment for you. Specialized tools can also be used to de-plug stubborn blackheads. Alternatively, your doctor can prescribe stronger medications like Retin A cream or Differen gel to treat blackheads and prevent them from recurring. Severe cases of blackheads may require the use of antibiotics alongside topical treatments.
Remember that you shouldn’t pop, squeeze, or pick on stubborn blackheads on your own. This will cause inflammation and infection, which in turn makes treatment even more difficult.
Tips to Prevent Blackheads
Although people with oily skin are more susceptible to having blackheads, the truth is that open comedomes can form on just about anyone after puberty. However, there are also plenty of effective ways to prevent blackheads. Here are some helpful preventative measures you can take:
- Wash your face only twice daily, preferably just before bedtime and in the morning.
- Never sleep with make-up on and try to wear as little of it as possible.
- Keep away from harsh cleansers since your skin will overreact and secrete more oil.
- Don’t use oily moisturizers to avoid clogging your pores even more.
- Consider steaming your face or applying a clay mask once every two weeks to clear up skin pores
- Keep your nails short and avoid touching your face too much to prevent the transfer of oils from your hands to your face.
- Clean and change pillowcases every week to keep dead skin cells and oils that fall from your face from seeping back into pores.
- Bangs tend to irritate sensitive skin, so have them trimmed or try a different hairstyle to keep hair from the face.
- Pat your face throughout the day with tissue paper or oil absorbing sheets to soak up excess sebum before it can build up and clog pores.
- Exfoliate your face once a week with a natural facial scrub.
- Avoid foods that are high in glycemic index like soft drinks, chocolate and other processed foods as they are known to increase sebum production.