What Really Works on Blackheads?

examination of the skin

We’ve all experienced them at one point in our lives, and for some of us it’s an everyday battle. A blackhead forms when dead skin cells and oil cling together to create a plug that clogs up a pore and the surface remains open. The key to getting rid of and preventing them is to break up the plugs. Try these four tips to dissolve blackheads and get clearer, smoother skin. 

1. Use salicylic acid. Also known as beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid dives deep into the pores to break up any mischief that the cells and oil can cause. It’s oil soluble, which means that it can easily blend in with other oils like skin’s sebum, making for easy access into the pores. Once inside, salicylic acid continues mingling with the oil and begins to separate the oil and dead skin cells, essentially unclogging the pore.

2. DO NOT rely on willow bark (or willow herb). Some products with these extracts claim to be natural sources of salicylic acid.  Willow bark/herb has similar chemistry to aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid), a potent anti-inflammatory. A mild case of pimples caused by inflammation may respond to willow bark/herb. But this extract is water soluble (it really likes to be in water) so it will not get deep into the pores to dissolve blackheads like salicylic acid can.

3. Benzoyl peroxide and alpha hydroxy acids will help too. Ingredients that promote quick cell turnover, like benzoyl peroxide and alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, just to name a few), can also help prevent blackheads. They remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin before they have a chance to get stuck in the pores.

4. Look for “non-comedogenic.” Many products simply depend on each person’s skin type and how the products are formulated. But your best bet is to only buy products with a “non-comedogenic” claim. That usually means that the product has been tested and proven to not increase the number of “comedones” (fancy word for blackheads and whiteheads).

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