How to get rid of blackheads (without making them worse in the long run)

Image via Thinkstock

There’s a perverse thrill to be found in gazing deeply into one of those massive magnifying mirrors, finding every clogged pore and having a squeezing party.

Blackheads; they’re a curse, but they’re also hours of fun. Blackheads are technically a form of acne – the dark sister of whiteheads. Both blackheads and whiteheads are the precursor to more severe acne. They’re caused by pores that have become clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells. In whiteheads, the plug sits below the skin’s surface, while for blackheads the blockage is sitting right at the surface of the skin.

Exposure to the elements is what gives blackheads their dark colour – and the fact that they’re right at your skin’s surface is what makes them so easy to squeeze.

But – you’re really better off not squeezing them. Blackheads turn into acne when they become infected, and digging your germy fingernails into them is a great way to make that happen.

Well how do you get rid of blackheads?

If you feel like outsourcing your squeezing (a choice I will never understand), getting a facialist armed with a steamer to do a manual extraction every four to six weeks is a great way to guarantee a face free from sebaceous goo.

But if you’re the kind of perfectly normal, healthy person who enjoys squeezing weird stuff out of their own face (and the faces of extremely tolerant loved ones), then get yourself a manual extraction tool. It’s basically a metal loop that you use to press the skin around the blackhead until the gunk that’s clogging the pore shoots out.

Here’s the least disgusting video explainer we could find:

When using an extractor, disinfect it first. Then either wash your face with warm water or use the extractor straight after you shower. Warm, humid environments help open pores.


If you’d prefer not to manually extract each and every blackhead, Biore blackhead removal strips could work for you. These are particularly good at removing blackheads from the outer folds of your nostrils – which can be hard to press down on. They don’t work for everyone – but there’s a big community of Biore evangelists out there.

If you have no intention of ever buying a blackhead extractor, or pore strips, but you still want to have-at your face, use a pair of thin disposable rubber gloves (more hygienic than fingers) and press, rather that squeezing the blackheads. Even though you might have heard it’s okay to use a pair of tweezers for this sort of thing – don’t. Tweezers have pointy edges and you might end up tearing your skin.

And how do I prevent them?

The best way to fight blackheads is to make sure your face is properly cleansed and exfoliated. Always take your makeup off at the end of the day and make sure you’re using a cleanser that suits your skin’s needs. I’m a fan of Mario Badescu’s Enzyme Cleansing Gel, which has a very mild chemical exfoliant. It’s a good one for occasional blackhead sufferers. If you really need it, use a deep cleansing or exfoliating masque once a week. If your skin is really, really congested, and you’re suffering more severe acne problems too, it might be worth consulting with a dermatologist to see if there could be an underlying cause.

But for the rest of us – happy extracting.

Want more? Try:

The 2-second cheat to getting your lipstick right, every time

5 things every Brazilian waxer wishes you would stop doing

The genius tool for people who can’t paint their nails

MIA: “How I’ve kept exercising while having three kids”

Are you a blackhead squeezer or do you leave it to the experts?