6 Expert-Approved Ways To Get Rid Of Blackheads At Home

We've all seen enough Dr. Pimple Popper videos to know that the most serious of blackheads require the skilled hands of a professional to be extracted. Though the videos might inspire us to do the same with our own open comedones, which oxidize and turn black with exposure to oxygen, Beverly Hills-based dermatologist Ava Shamban, M.D., warns us that the extraction of less Instagram-worthy blackheads is also best left to the professionals. "Beware of home extraction tools: they can do more harm than good," she says.
When it comes to preventing new blackheads from forming, however, we have considerably more control over achieving a clear-skinned state. "Oil, dirt, and environmental debris build up inside the pore channel," Dr. Shamban says. When combined with professional extraction, the best course of action is a kick-ass skin-care regimen that, she says, "helps prevent the formation of new blackheads and treats the underlying cause — which is acne."
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For that, we asked Dr. Shamban and five other top derms exactly which products they reach for in order to keep blackheads from taking shape on their own skin. Ahead, the Holy Grail cleansers, masks, treatments, and toners the pros swear by — and that will hopefully save us from the temptation of playing Dr. Pimple Popper in our own bathrooms.
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"The charcoal in this mask eliminates excess oil that can lead to blackheads and acne," says Debra Jaliman, M.D, a New York-based dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Activated charcoal works like a magnet to attract dirt and oil to clean the skin. You can use this either as an everyday cleanser or as a mask, and you can also use it as an exfoliator."
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This over-the-counter retinoid gets rave reviews from both New York-based dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, M.D., and Melanie Palm, M.D., a dermatologist in the San Diego area. "It is without a doubt the best thing to use for blackheads, bar none," says Dr. Palm, while Dr. Waldorf calls it "the best over-the-counter treatment for blackheads and whiteheads."

As Dr. Waldorf explains, the retinoid acts on a cellular level to change the way cells turn over in the pores, hair follicles, and oil glands. "As the cell turnover is improved, you may think you're getting more blackheads, but you aren't," she says. "It's just that what is underneath is working its way out. After about two months, you see fewer of the old blackheads and fewer new ones, too."
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"If you have blackheads, your go-to skin-care ingredient should be salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that is effective at removing excess oil and exfoliating dead cells from the surface of the skin, and can help dry out pimples and keep your pores clear to treat blackheads," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. "I recommend this scrub to offer both gentle physical and chemical exfoliation."
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"Depending on the other issues at play, regular exfoliation with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) can help prevent blackheads or keep them from returning as quickly," Dr. Shamban says. "I like making a DIY AHA scrub with yogurt, oatmeal, and brown sugar in a little bit of honey. The alpha-hydroxy acid helps loosen black heads and sugar provides gentle physical exfoliation." This raw wildflower honey might cost more than your average bear-shaped bottle, but the naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are worth every penny.
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Rachel Nazarian, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist, assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital, and consultant for the brand, says she loves using Proactiv's Blackhead Dissolving Gel. "It contains 0.5% salicylic acid, which breaks apart blackheads and gently causes them to slough off," she says. "It can be applied for a few minutes in the areas that contain blackheads, and then rinsed off."
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Though Dr. Palm gives a ringing endorsement for using a topical retinoid to sort out blackheads, she also likes this mechanical, temporary solution to kickstart the process. "Bioré strips can give a satisfying removal of blackheads temporarily, although a longer-term solution such as continued topical therapy with a retinoid is necessary to maintain the effect," she says.
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