The worst thing about a blackhead, I would argue, is their persistence — just when you think you’ve gotten rid of one, a whole army tends to pop up in its place.
To find out the best way to eliminate blackheads for good, I called Taylor Worden, one of my favorite estheticians in New York. The reason blackheads are particularly difficult to eradicate, Taylor said, is because they tend to nestle into the skin. And when they’re left too long, they can stretch the pore and become even larger. A horror.
When it comes to treating blackheads, Worden said that no one should be using any of those silver, clinical-looking pore extraction tools: They put you at risk of broken capillaries, which can lead to even more damage. Instead, she says, you can both treat and prevent your blackheads with products that incorporate salicylic acid and retinoids, which can help unclog pores, remove excess oil, and increase your skin’s cell turnover. A list of her favorites below.
Retinoids can help prevent the kind of pore clogging that ultimately lead to blackheads and speed up your skin’s cell turnover, which can help shorten the lifespan of any kind of acne that’s already on your face. For severe cases of blackheads, prescription retinoids might be your best bet (they’re stronger,) but there are tons of excellent over-the-counter retinol remedies as well. This budget friendly retinol serum from The Inkey List uses squalane and glycerin to ensure minimal irritation. Apply a pea-size amount in the evenings.
BHAs work to remove dead cells on the surface of your skin and exfoliate the pore’s lining, which helps prevent and treat clogged pores. This can help diminish preexisting blackheads as well as prevent them from forming in the first place. This salicylic-acid-based exfoliating toner (beloved by skin-care gurus such as Hyram, Sacheu, and Gothamista) should be applied on clean skin in areas with congestion or breakouts (most often the T-zone), avoiding any sensitive areas of your skin. Since retinoids and BHAs are both intensive treatments, I would choose between one of the two, rather than using them both in your routine.
Worden says that if it was up to her, everyone would leave extractions to the professionals. However, if you’re gonna take care of a blackhead at home, she wants to make sure you’re not picking, prodding, and further injuring your skin. Worden recommends using this Ultra Sonic Scrubber — a gadget that helps clean and exfoliate your skin. After seeing so many clients come in with damaged skin due to excessive picking (your nails can puncture your skin), she believes this tool is a much safer way to remove a blackhead at home — it applies gentle pressure to the area and helps the blackhead organically pop out. After cleansing and moisturizing the skin, roll it over the affected area. As one reviewer says, “Your blackheads practically jump out!”
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