7 Ways to Get Rid of Blackheads on Your Cheeks, According to Derms

profile view of woman's face showing natural skin texture in sunlight

Blackheads normally like to plant a seat on your nose, but that doesn't mean they don't wander. If you're getting blackheads on your cheeks, you're not alone—it's a problem area that gathers a lot of dirt and debris over time and causes clogged pores, which can turn into blackheads. But fortunately, there are plenty of ways to deal with cheek blackheads at home. Ahead, board-certified dermatologists Dr. Kenneth Howe, Dr. Michael Wiederkehr, and Dr. Ava Shamban explain everything you need to know about the causes of—and treatments for—blackheads on your cheeks.

get rid of blackheads on cheeks
Michela Buttignol / Byrdie

Common Causes of Blackheads

"Blackheads are simply pimples in which the plug is close to the skin surface—so close, in fact, that the tip of the plug is exposed to air," says Howe. "This exposure leads to oxidation of the plug, which turns it dark—the same chemical process that makes a ripe banana turn brown."

If you're specifically wondering if there's a reason they're on your cheeks, Michael Wiederkehr, MD, contributing medical advisor for Zwivel.com, has an answer for you. "Blackheads on the cheeks, also called open comedones, can be specifically caused by sun damage and smoking as well as by the typical causes of blackheads which include excess sebum production, clogging of pores with oil from moisturizer or makeup," says Wiederkehr.

How to Get Rid of Blackheads on Cheeks

01 of 07

Try Salicylic Acid or Retinoids

Ava Shambam, MD, of Beverly Hills, recommends two critical ingredients and a crucial step. "At-home topicals such as products containing salicylic acid or retinoids, or both, are the only ingredients that will really work," says Shambam. "The skin needs to be exfoliated well enough for the contents of the blackhead to be expelled before they even form."

When using any form of retinol, make sure you are using sunscreen daily due to the increase of skin fragility.

02 of 07

Try Physical Extractions

"Try extractions performed by a medical professional or licensed esthetician," says Wiederkehr. "If one is going to try removing blackheads on the cheeks at home, use two cotton-tip applicators (Q-tips) after lightly steaming the face."

Meet the Expert

  • Kenneth Howe, MD, is a dermatologist based at Wexler Dermatology in New York.
  • Michael Wiederkehr is a board-certified dermatologist and a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, based at the Center for Dermatology NJ.
  • Ava Shamban, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Beverly Hills,
03 of 07

Visit a Dermatologist for Tretinoin Cream

According to Howe, "the strongest and most effective treatment for the prevention of blackheads is tretinoin, or Retin-A. This prescription retinoid regulates the shedding of dead skin cells from the follicular walls, thus keeping blackheads from developing in the first place. Tretinoin is a bit irritating to some sensitive-skinned patients. These patients may do better with milder alternatives such as retinol."

"My favorites are tretinoin cream 0.025% or Epiduo gel," suggests Howe. "These prescription creams do the best job of preventing blackheads. They actually get into the follicle and get its cells to shed properly without forming plugs." "Adapalene (Differin), another cream similar to tretinoin, is available over the counter," Wiederkehr suggests. 

04 of 07

Use a Cleanser With Benzoyl Peroxide

"Creams and cleansers that contain benzoyl peroxide, including Clearasil, Proactiv, and PanOxyl, may also be helpful in reducing pore size and treating blackheads," explains Wiederkehr. "Strips that are designed for use on the nose may not offer the same results on the cheeks. Finally, avoid oily makeup and moisturizers to reduce the likelihood of developing new clogged pores."

05 of 07

Avoid Touching Your Face

Your fingers typically harbor plenty of dirt and bacteria at any given moment, which is the primary fuel of blackheads. Avoid touching your face as much as possible to avoid contaminating your skin.

06 of 07

Keep Your Phone Clean

According to Shamban, if you're dealing with blackheads and breakouts on your cheeks, typically your cell phone should be a primary suspect. Because you often hold your phone against your cheek to take phone calls, keep your phone as clean as possible (or use speakerphone) to avoid transferring dirt and oil from your fingertips to your cheeks.

07 of 07

Wash Your Face Twice a Day

Thoroughly washing your face can help eliminate the dirt and oil that contribute to blackheads. Be sure to wash your face morning and night if you're dealing with blackheads on the cheeks. There's no need to use excess force, either—you can't scrub away blackheads. Instead, use gentle circular motions for about a minute.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to treat different types of acne.

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The sun and your medicine. Updated September 25, 2015.

Related Stories