Many people, especially those who struggle with acne, wonder how to get rid of blackheads. They may be the least noticeable form of pimples, but they’re still completely undesirable.
First off, blackheads are super common, so don’t think you’re alone in your struggle. Also, please don’t believe these tiny, annoying spots represent dirt because they cannot be scrubbed away (too much scrubbing actually makes them worse) and are not necessarily representative of poor hygiene.
Typically, blackheads are much less noticeable to the outside world than we think. However, we all know what we see when we look in the mirror, especially if it’s one of those amazing/terrifying magnifying mirrors, which tend to create a love/hate relationship with its abilities. Maybe those should have just been kept in the hands of dermatologists!
Anyway, how we can do as much as possible to get rid of blackheads without professional help? Turns out a lot… With a special diet, proper personal hygiene and essential oils, you can get rid of blackheads naturally at home, which you’ll learn more about below.
What Are Blackheads?
Blackheads are technically a type of acne known as a comedo. A comedo is a clogged hair follicle (pore) in the skin.
While there are various types of comedones, they all start with the same situation: plugged-up pores. When oil, dead skin cells and bacteria block our pores, this can result in the formation of small comedones called blackheads or whiteheads. If a blocked pore stays open, the oxygen in the air oxidizes the oils, turning them dark brown or black. These tiny dark spots are called blackheads.
This blackhead creation process is similar to how an apple turns brown when exposed to air. On the other hand, if a blocked pore closes up, then the top of the bump looks more white and is called a whitehead. To the eye, blackheads are typically not raised from the skin while whiteheads are clearly raised. (1)
What Are The Different Types of Acne?
There are several different varieties of acne lesions, and you can have one form or a combination of forms at any given time (2):
- Comedones — Comedones are considered non-inflammatory acne lesions that are open or closed. Closed comedones or whiteheads are small plugged follicles, the contents of which are not exposed to the skin. Open comedones or blackheads are small follicles with dilated openings to the skin, allowing oxidation of the debris within the follicle leading to the black color.
- Inflammatory acne — When lesions become red and/or tender bumps, they’re termed papules. These bumps can become pus-filled, and they are then called pustules. Papules and pustules represent inflammatory acne lesions, which originate as comedones.
- Nodular acne — As lesions progress to become larger and more tender, they’re termed nodules.
- Nodulocystic acne — Cysts are deep, fluid-filled lesions, and when these occur along with nodules, the term nodulocystic acne is used.
Blackheads are most common on your face, especially on your nose and, most specifically, on the sides of your nose. Some people also get blackheads in other areas, such as on their ears, shoulders and back. Unfortunately, blackheads (and whiteheads) can form anywhere there is a hair follicle or pore.
What Causes Blackheads?
Blackheads are very common, and sometimes they might just happen with no obvious explanation. However, there are several things that can contribute to the formation of blackhead (3):
- Hormones — A major cause of blackheads is fluctuations in your body’s hormones, which commonly takes place during puberty as well as during premenstrual syndrome for women. Higher concentrations of certain hormones can cause skin to become more oily. That excess flow of oil can get backed up and then mix with built-up dead skin cells that cannot be shed normally, which then results in a blackhead.
- Smoking — Women and men who smoke tend to get non-inflammatory blemishes like blackheads and whiteheads. Cigarette smoke contains many unhealthy particles, like nicotine, that have a direct negative impact on the skin that leads to the formation of blackheads. Smoking also inhibits effective treatment of blackheads, so not only are you causing the problem, but you’re preventing it from ever going away.
- Excess oil production — When skin tends to be on the oily side or overproduces oil for some reason, pores are more likely to become clogged and blackheads are more likely to form in those clogged pores.
- Makeup and skin products — Makeup and skin products with artificial colors, fragrances and mineral oil can clog up pores, causing blackheads to form.
- Poor diet — Fried, sugary and high-carb foods are some of the top culprits when it comes to unwanted blackheads. Too much alcohol or caffeine — particularly caffeine overdose — can also cause problems. Watch for when your blackheads flare up, and think about what you’ve been eating lately.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads with Diet
Now that we know some of the causes of blackheads, let’s look at how to get rid of blackheads — specifically with your diet.
By improving your daily diet, you can greatly improve the quality of your skin, including the decrease or even the elimination of blackheads and other forms of acne. Here are the top foods that reduce internal and external inflammation and increase good bacteria in the gut, which is the main way to heal all forms of undesired skin issues.
- Probiotic foods — Kefir, yogurt and cultured vegetables are foods that help crowd out yeast and bad bacteria, which lead to all forms of acne, including blackheads. (4)
- High-zinc foods — Sprouted pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds are high in zinc. Zinc improves immunity and heal gut issues, which in turn improves skin health. (5)
- Vitamin A foods — Carrots, spinach and beef liver are all high in vitamin A, which supports healthy skin. (6)
- Vitamin C foods — Vitamin C is needed for the repair and growth of all skin tissue in our bodies. It’s also an antioxidant that helps protect our skin from damage. (7) Consume more fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, berries and dark leafy greens like kale.
- High-fiber foods — The fiber in vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds supports the cleansing of the colon and growth of good bacteria in the gut, which can help eliminate blackheads. (8)
- Clean lean protein foods — Organic chicken, grass-fed beef, free-range eggs and wild-caught fish balance blood sugar, which is essential in the fight against blackhead formation. (9)
Top Foods to Remove or Greatly Limit to Eliminate Blackheads
In addition to not overdoing it when it comes to alcohol and caffeine, there are a few other food categories to remove or significantly reduce to help your fight against annoying blackheads.
- Sugar and carbohydrate-rich foods — Consuming excess amounts of sugar and grain products can feed yeast and candida in the body increasing all forms of acne, including blackheads. (10)
- Gluten and wheat — For some people, these foods cause inflammation of the gut, which then negatively affects the skin. Try keeping a food journal to see if gluten/wheat is a trigger for your blackheads.
- Chocolate — Chocolate is high in compounds that can trigger acne for some. For instance, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of males with a history of acne, researchers found that “the consumption of chocolate correlates to an increase in the exacerbation of acne.” (11) Eliminate chocolate completely if it might be a trigger. If you do consume it, then make sure it’s pure dark chocolate, which has less sugar and more beneficial nutrients.
- Fried and fast foods — These foods contain a number of ingredients that cause inflammation, including hydrogenated oils, sodium, chemicals, flavorings and sugar. (12)
- Hydrogenated oils — Hydrogenated oil causes oily skin and is one of the main causes of acne, including blackheads. Hydrogenated oils can be found in foods like pizza and in packaged foods that contain soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil and vegetable oil.
- Conventional dairy — Conventional dairy can cause inflammation of both the gut and the skin, which leads to acne. Even scarier, conventional dairy has been linked to prostate and breast cancer as well. (13)
External Ways to Get Rid of Blackheads
I wholeheartedly encourage you to skip all of the commercial and highly unnatural blackhead removal products on the market and go the natural route, which is always sure to give more gentle, effective and long-lasting results. Plus, once you get on the merry-go-round of all those seemingly perfect but actually super harsh and chemical-laden skin products, it’s really hard (not to mention expensive) to get off because those products often intentionally make your skin dependent on them or even worse — they send your skin in a downward spiral so much worse than what you originally were trying to fix.
Instead, turn to these natural acne treatments if you’re looking for external ways for how to get rid of blackheads starting today!
1. Gentle and Effective Cleansing
Getting rid of stubborn blackheads starts with thorough yet gentle cleansing. Try my recipe for Homemade Honey Face Wash for Clear Skin. Do this at least each evening and, if needed, after workouts. Refrain from cleansing more often than in the morning, evening and after workouts because too much cleansing can irritate and dehydrate the skin, causing an overproduction of oil and more blackheads.
2. Regular Exfoliation
Regularly exfoliating the skin is key to keeping blackheads in check since exfoliation scrubs away dead skin cells that could clog pores. Try using a gentle face scrub at least one to two times per week. When it comes to exfoliation, more is not better, and overdoing it can easily result in more skin issues, especially for those with sensitive skin. Baking soda is a cheap and effective exfoliant. Simply combine one teaspoon of baking soda with half a cup of water and rub it on your face in a circular motion, then rinse.
3. Pore Strips
Whether store bought or homemade, pore strips are quick, thorough and a very visible way to see blackheads go bye-bye. For some, the results really can be quite incredible and satisfying, but don’t get addicted because they’re not meant for daily use. Whether you use the strips for your nose (most common), forehead or chin, don’t use them more often than once every three days, with once a week as a good frequency.
4. Clay and Charcoal Masks
Done weekly, a mask containing a good quality clay (like bentonite clay) or charcoal can work wonders to clean out the pores, pulling out blackheads and leaving skin smoother and less oily than it was before.
Start with a clean face. Next, fill a large bowl with boiling hot water, and then let it cool a bit before covering your head with a towel and leaning over the bowl of water for five to 10 minutes. The steam from the hot water helps loosen the blackheads in your pores. When time is up (or you just can’t take the heat anymore), wash your face with cleanser and warm water and gently pat skin dry. Remember not to get too close to the hot water or you could burn yourself. You can repeat this once a week or as needed.
6. Witch Hazel
As a natural home remedy for acne, applying witch hazel to blackhead-prone skin can help decrease inflammation and excessive oil production. As a natural cleanser and toner, witch hazel is capable of reducing bacteria growth on the skin, and it also speeds up the time needed to heal infections or scabs. (14) Another benefit is that it reduces the look of pores (although no product can actually shrink pores) and helps stop the development of blackheads and whiteheads. (15) I love using witch hazel as a toner after washing my face each night and definitely have seen it decrease blackheads and other breakouts.
7. Skin Brushes
Mechanical skin brushes can be a very effective daily method for reducing blackheads. They act as powerful, deep-cleansing exfoliators that help cleansers do a better job as well. If you use a skin brush, just make sure you keep it very clean and replace the heads often (so it doesn’t harbor bacteria and cause more issues).
8. Nightly Makeup Removal (Always!)
This is probably the 8,965th time you’ve heard this, but please don’t go to sleep with your makeup still on! Not only is your face not clean, but it doesn’t breathe while you’re sleeping. And during sleep is when your skin can do some of its best and brightest work at detoxification and renewal, which directly helps reduce blackhead formation. So wash your face before bed, and let your skin do its thing!
9. Keep Your Hands to Yourself
Another simple no-no that can be oh so hard for so many. Unfortunately, the more you touch your face (especially with unclean hands), intentionally or accidentally, the more prone you are to transfer bacteria and dirt to your pores. This easily triggers blackheads and other breakouts.
Picking and popping blackheads, even with clean hands, is another action to refrain from since ultimately you will cause more harm than good (even if you did manage to see some of those blackheads pop out). Not only can you cause more blackheads and breakouts, but you can also cause permanent damage to your skin and permanent enlargement of your pores. You so don’t want any of that! Picking and popping blackheads is the ultimate skin runaway train. Better to have a blackhead that no one really notices than what you might create with your own two hands.
10. Moisturize Properly
Contrary to popular belief, blackhead-prone or oily skin still needs to be moisturized daily. Using topical products that focus on drying out the skin only makes the skin produce more oil, which just increases blackheads.
Look for moisturizers from natural brands that are non-comedogenic (specially formulated so as not to cause blocked pores). The fewer the ingredients the better too since more ingredients can often mean more opportunities for irritation. While it can be too heavy for some skin, use coconut oil for skin; it’s an excellent moisturizer. A study published in Biomaterials found that the lauric acid found in coconut oil demonstrates the strongest bacterial activity against acne caused by bacteria. (16)
11. Essential Oil Spot Treatment
Essential oils are excellent for your skin. A few drops of lavender essential oil and/or tea tree essential oil can be applied undiluted directly onto blackheads as an overnight treatment that will kill bacteria and help dissolve blackheads. If your skin is ultra-sensitive, you can combine a few drops of essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba. Tea tree oil has been found to work as well as benzoyl peroxide, a common over-the-counter acne treatment. (17)
If you try my internal and external suggestions together and stick to them, you are sure to see those small yet annoying blackheads clear up in no time!
Read Next: Top 10 Home Remedies for Acne
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