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 seven products I've tried recently and ranked their efficacy. Stay tuned for the number one blackhead treatment.
You've probably seen many of those viral peel-off mask videos and, if you're like me, been tempted to try them. Who doesn’t love a picture of a freshly removed mask with little peaks of sebum sticking up, proving their vacuum power? So in an attempt to irrigate my nose pores, I slathered on the thick black mask, waited for it to dry, and excitedly peeled back the edges. The result? Only a few bits of pus—nothing at all like the images I'd googled. They also rip off the outer layer of your skin along with the blackheads (if any), making it one of the harshest remedies you can use.
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.
At just $4, I was desperate for this wash to be the blackhead treatment of my dreams. 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 issue 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.
I love Proactiv's spot blackhead treatments. In high school, I didn't have success with it's 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.
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.
I've raved about these "Korean Bioré strips" before, but let me be clear once again: You'll need to extract the blackheads to see results. They don't rip out the clogged pores, nor do they dissolve the sebum before your eyes. Instead, the two-step patches first lift the blackheads to better extract on your own (which I've found is best done with tissue-wrapped fingers) and finally soothe and calm inflammation. An added tube of essence helps prevent sebum from filling up in the pores thereafter. I've found them to work much better than regular pore strips because the manual extraction process is more effective (made easier by the lifting patch), and the essence quite magically seals the pores off.
I'm in love with this cleanser. The warming effect is soothing, and it stimulates my pores by softening them and allowing for the salicylic acid to penetrate and do its thing. The skin-softening effect allows me to do a little post-cleansing extraction followed by another light cleansing of the area. The results speak for themselves—my nose has never looked or stayed clearer.
A few more editor favorites:
"Similar to Lindsey's love for Bioré's warming cleanser, I'm partial to Ole Henriksen's Pore-Balance Facial Sauna Scrub ($28). Doesn't it sound steamy and detoxifying? And it delivers. It warms up as you apply to open your pores, delivers glycolic and lactic acids to lift and loosen dead skin cells, and cools with eucalyptus and peppermint to tighten. Using this scrub it a decadent spa-like experience and it gets rid of blackheads too. So, win-win." — Hallie Gould, senior editor
Eucalyptus is full of antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It neutralizes free radicals, balances sebum production, and soothes irritated skin.
"I truly can't stop kicking myself for not using this sooner. (The 'woes' of being a beauty editor—an epic overstock of products.) I've been using it twice a week immediately after cleansing, and I notice my blackheads have significantly decreased. (I get lots of little tiny ones on the sides and tip of my nose.) The formula is incredibly lightweight and clear and, thus, fuss-free, and you only need to leave it on one to five minutes for it to work its tingly magic." — Erin Jahns, assistant editor
"First Aid Beauty's Facial Radiance Pads are my secret weapon for keeping blackheads at bay. After cleansing, I take a single pad and swipe it around my face, concentrating most of the exfoliating acid on my nose and chin, which is where I'm most prone to breaking out. I let it sit for two to three minutes while the glycolic and lactic acids dissolve pore-clogging gunk, and then I follow up with a moisturizer. After I'm done, I see a real and visible difference to the clarity and radiance of my skin. It's my go-to product, and it has been for years." — Kaitlyn McLintock, news writer