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Before we get started, let's get a better understanding of what a blackhead is: when your hair follicle becomes clogged with excess sebum, which is an oily, waxy material that your sebaceous glands produce. The melanin (a natural pigment) in the sebum oxidizes at the surface of the skin, resulting in a black color that, as many of us know, can stick out like a sore thumb. As overtly obvious as blackheads are on our noses and T-zones, attempting to get rid of them can be extremely difficult. The key? Breaking down or extracting the clog and keeping the pore clean.
Since extracting isn't always the easiest (or safest) method, finding a good product that will exfoliate and remove dead skin and sebum is a must. I've tried dozens of formulas over the years that claim to do just that—some have worked incredibly well while others ended up in the product graveyard (aka the back of my bathroom shelf).
Below, I've rounded up the best blackhead treatments I've tried recently.
Best Overall: Bioré Charcoal Instant Warming Clay Mask
I'm in love with this face mask. The warming effect is soothing, and it stimulates my pores by softening them and drawing out impurities. Prefer more heat? As you massage the mask into your skin, mix it with more water to increase the heat sensation twofold. Upon removal, you'll notice a subtle cooling sensation that leaves your skin feeling refreshed. Oh, and the results speak for themselves—my nose has never looked or stayed clearer.
Best With Salicylic Acid: Proactiv Blackhead Dissolving Gel
I love Proactiv's spot blackhead treatments. In high school, I didn't have success with its universally-adored three-step system, but the Blemish Relief Cream and this particular blackhead gel work wonders. Salicylic acid helps to exfoliate and absorb excess oil, and each morning after using it, I notice a marked difference in the size and amount of blackheads.
Best Gel Mask: Volition Detoxifying Silt Gelee
Truth be told, when this mask made its way to my desk, I likened it to other formulas I'd recently received, chalking it up to just another product claiming to give me the perfect complexion. Skeptical, I gave it a test-drive, and I couldn't believe how well it worked! My pores looked smaller and the dreaded black specks on my nose were less noticeable.
Best Scrub: St. Ives Blackhead Clearing Green Tea Scrub
Fortified with salicylic acid and antioxidants from green tea, it has the potential to break down and prevent the blackheads from turning black. I’m pleased to report it succeeded on my first try! The only downside was that the results didn't last long, even after repeated use.
Green Tea is rich in antioxidants and nutrients. It fights premature aging, reduces facial redness, protects against sun damage, and treats puffy eyes.
Best With Charcoal: GlamGlow Supermud Clearing Treatment
GlamGlow Supermud is what I call my "skin SOS." Whenever my complexion is looking dull or on the verge of a breakout, I'll apply the charcoal exfoliating mask, wash it off, and wake up with brighter, smoother skin every time. Sadly, as far as blackhead removal goes, the results never last as long as I'd like.