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Let's cut to the chase: A sexy topic, blackheads are not. However, they're a fact of life and the majority of the human population has probably had one (or 10) at some point in time. Like most skin concerns, blackheads also range in both stubbornness and ferocity. First, there are the larger, more noticeable species (i.e., that big black abyss that causes you to swear off all public outings), and then there are the sneakier ones: the pin-size pariahs that go virtually undetected.
Despite their differences in size and severity, blackheads are all caused by the same thing: pores plugged with dead skin cells and an oily, protective substance called sebum. According to Medical News Today, blackheads have nothing to do with trapped dirt or the cleanliness of the skin: In reality, "the dead skin cells in the open pore react with oxygen in the air and turn black, forming a blackhead."
How do you get rid of them? Routinely exfoliating with a face wash that includes strategic ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, witch hazel, clay, and charcoal is key to sloughing off dead skin and clearing pores of all the gunk. So we curated a list of some of the best face washes for blackheads to incorporate into your routine.
Keep reading to see which best-of-the-best face washes we'd take into battle.
Best Overall: Tata Harper Regenerating Exfoliating Cleanser
This 100% natural cult-favorite face wash from Tata Harper cleanses and purifies pores (while also brightening and evening out tone) in one fell swoop. It's loved for its quadruple-action four-in-one formula that features rose clay, willow bark extract, noncomedogenic essential oils, and teensy exfoliating beads to reduce the appearance of blackheads.
Best Budget: Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel
It's no secret that Mario Badescu's infamous Enzyme Cleansing Gel makes practically every face wash roundup. And there's a good reason for that: It works. You can count on the natural fruit enzymes and a side order of alpha-hydroxy acids (from papaya and grapefruit extracts) to wash away impurities every time.
Best With Benzoyl Peroxide: Kate Somerville Anti Bac Clearing Lotion
Benzoyl peroxide is an organic acid in the peroxide family that has been used to treat acne because of its keratolytic, moderate comedolytic, and antibacterial properties, which include the reduction of P. acnes and Staph. aureus on the skin.
Containing 5% benzoyl peroxide (bye, blackheads), this still-gentle acne treatment from Kate Sommerville specifically targets congested pores to reduce existing breakouts and keep excess oil and sebum at bay. It'll do more than just banish your blackheads—it'll also prevent them from coming back.
Best With Charcoal: Boscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser
Activated charcoal is created from carbon-rich materials burned at high temperatures, like coal, coconut shells, and wood. In skincare, there are claims that it binds to and removes impurities from the skin, but more research is needed.
Typically we steer clear of products that promise too much of a good thing. So although this cleanser talks a big game, it also walks the walk. Since it warms on contact, congested pores are able to open, while purifying and radiance-boosting agents like charcoal, vitamin P, and C, and artichoke leaf perfect the skin.
Best Gel: SkinCeuticals LHA Cleanser Gel
As one the most highly regarded brands in the skincare universe (it's loved by celebrities, dermatologists, and beauty editors alike), it’s no wonder SkinCeuticals has a solution that promises to control, treat, and prevent blackheads. Surprisingly, it gentle enough to use twice daily and combines supercharged cleansing agents with blackhead-busting LHA, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid.
Best Foam: Murad Daily Cleansing Foam
Murad is a beauty-editor favorite thanks to its effective, gentle formulas, so it's not surprising that this face wash for blackheads and congested skin is a game-changer. Witch hazel (a natural astringent) and copper gluconate nix oil while maintaining the skin's natural moisture stores. Plus, pomegranate and Japanese alder flower extracts add a hit of antioxidants.
Best Powerful: DermaDoctor Ain't Misbehavin' Medicated AHA/BHA Acne Cleanser
Allantoin, also known as aluminum dihydroxy allantoinate, is an extract from the comfrey plant (which is native to temperate climates of Asia and Europe). It has potent healing and soothing properties, and may also help exfoliate the skin.
Cruelty-free, dermatologist-tested, pH-balanced, and noncomedogenic, this face wash is a great pick for both acne and blackheads. (Believe it or not, the two are technically not synonymous.) Enriched with basically every single ingredient blackheads hate most—among them, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, witch hazel, allantoin, and the brand's patented sebum-squashing polymer—this formula's so good at getting the job done.