5 blackhead treatments that won't actually work, and 2 that might

ThamKC/ShutterstockMany products that claim to remove blackheads actually don’t.

It turns out, most at-home treatments won’t actually do much when it comes to getting rid of blackheads. This is because most treatments won’t penetrate the skin deep enough to remove blackheads, Papri Sarkar, a dermatologist based in Massachusetts, told INSIDER.

“Because blackheads are hard and trapped inside pores, they can’t be scrubbed away or washed off,” she said.

Rather than continue to try treatments that won’t actually work, here are five treatments that won’t get rid of blackheads, and two that might.


Nose strips might prevent blackheads, but they won’t get rid of them.

Todja/ShutterstockIt’s OK to use them occasionally.

Sarkar said that ripping off a nose strip works well to remove sebaceous filaments, which are in the lining of your pores, but often doesn’t remove blackheads. She did, however, say that, if used properly, nose strips could be a great preventative measure for blackheads.

“Although they won’t get rid of your current blackheads, using nose strips once a week or twice a week maximum can help to prevent blackheads because it will help clear your pores, thus preventing blackheads from forming,” she said.


Clay masks don’t go deep enough to get rid of blackheads.

Skeyndor/Flickr/Generic 2.0Clay masks can also dry your skin.

Although putting on a clay mask may feel like it’s dissolving your blackheads, Sarkar told INSIDER that it’s most likely not.

“Clay masks absorb oil, so they can temporarily improve oily skin and help to clear out excess oil from pores, but they generally don’t go deep enough to get rid of blackheads,” she said.

Plus, overdoing the clay masks could end up drying your skin out if you’re not careful, which could cause your skin to produce even more oil to compensate for the dryness.


Peel-off masks won’t make a difference.

Anna Webber/Stringer/Getty ImagesThey can sometimes do more harm than good.

“These will definitely help with sebaceous filaments, but it’s hit or miss as to whether they will remove blackheads,” she said. As with the nose strips and clay masks, peel-off masks just don’t reach deep enough into the skin to get rid of those spots.

Sarkar also said that they can be harmful if you don’t take them off properly.

“I personally hate when patients use peel-off masks because you have to have a very good technique when you remove them,” she said. “Otherwise, you can take pieces of your skin and hair with it.”


Popping blackheads with your hands won’t do the trick.

ShutterstockYou might wreak havoc on your skin.

Sarkar’s least favourite method for getting rid of blackheads is squeezing them with your hands.

“People are inevitably too zealous with their pimple popping technique and either cause more inflammation (like a larger pimple), break the skin (which causes a scar or dark spot), or cause a lot of trauma to the skin (which creates a red or brown spot),” she said. “You should definitely avoid this.”

But if you really can’t resist the urge to pop the blackhead, Sarkar recommended washing your hands in order to prevent infection.


DIY extractions might do more harm than good.

ShutterstockBe careful when doing at-home extractions.

Although using a tool to extract blackheads can work, Sarkar said it’s not very safe.

“Because patients often don’t know what depth to go to or pressure to use, I prefer that they come to my office to have it done,” she said. “I find that I can remove many of them very quickly if the patient desires, and this way they are less likely to scar or worsen their condition.”

If performed incorrectly, Sarkar said that using an extraction tool at home could get you into more trouble and irritate your skin.


Professionals are able to remove blackheads.

Focus and Blur/ShutterstockIt might be best to let a professional handle your blackheads.

“Because blackheads are like little cysts, they can be extracted,” she said.

“The safest way to do this is at your dermatologist’s office so it’s clean and produces less inflammation when you’re treating them. Whenever you have lots of inflammation, you’re more likely to get a recurrence of a blackhead, acne, or a scar,” she added.


Retinoids are one good option when trying to get rid of blackheads.

Sarah Schmalbruch/INSIDERBe careful because they can be drying.

According to Sarkar, retinoids can help lessen the appearance of blackheads.

“These [retinoids] are vitamin A derivatives and cause cell turnover, so you’re less likely to get dead skin cells clogging your pores,” she said. “Products like Retin A, a prescription topical treatment, or Differin gel work well in this category. They can both be drying though, so make sure to moisturize if you add that to your routine.”

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