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What you can do

Blackheads are one of the most common forms of acne. Although people who have oily skin are more vulnerable to blackheads, anyone can get them.

They form when pores become clogged with a combination of dead skin cells and excess oil (sebum) from your sebaceous glands.

Unlike whiteheads, which creates closed pores, blackheads have open surfaces, which creates oxidation that’s dark in color.

It may be tempting to try to pinch or push the black plug out, but this can cause unnecessary scarring and other damage to your skin.

“The good news is that there is a cornucopia of over-the-counter products that contain effective ingredients to exfoliate, soften, and even remove blackheads,” says Allison Britt Kimmins, MD, MPH.

Keep reading to learn how to:

1. Cleanse with salicylic acid

Instead of benzoyl peroxide, look for over-the-counter (OTC) products that contain salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is the preferred ingredient for treating blackheads and whiteheads because it breaks down the materials that clog pores:

  • excess oil
  • dead skin cells

By choosing a daily cleanser with salicylic acid, you can remove these elements in addition to:

  • daily dirt
  • oil
  • makeup

Although you still need to wash your face twice a day, try using a cleanser that has salicylic acid in it just once a day to start. Britt Kimmins notes that salicylic acid is especially good for those with dry skin.

You may consider using it at night only and then using your regular cleanser in the morning. As your skin gets used to the product, you may choose to use it both morning and night.

Many people are sensitive to salicylic acid. You may not be able to use it more than once every few days. If you continue to react to it, discontinue use.

Find cleansers online:

Murad Time Release Active Cleanser

  • Details: Murad helps clear blemishes and purify skin without overdrying. It provides a sustained release of salicylic acid for continuous acne treatment, even after it’s been rinsed off.
  • Cost: $$

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser

  • Details: This medicated gel cleanser contains 2 percent salicylic acid. The formula helps target excess oil and helps clear up acne breakouts.
  • Cost: $

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash

  • Details: Dermalogica helps clear skin and reduce visible signs of skin aging. The formula contains extracts of balm mint, eucalyptus, and tea tree, while menthol and camphor help cool the skin.
  • Cost: $$