Ultimate Guide to Blackhead Removal

Blackheads are a very common type of acne. They’re so common that even people who aren’t prone to breakouts find themselves looking for solutions to blackheads. 

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. 

In this Guide, we’ll get into what a blackhead is, exactly, 10 steps to prevent them, how to remove them with your fingers, how to remove them with an extractor tool, and give you some DIY recipes on how to make blackhead remover at home. You can use ingredients from the grocery store or essential oils. 

What is a Blackhead

We know one when we see one. It looks like a little piece of dirt or mascara flake that won’t rub off. But really, it’s dirt and grime from pollution, makeup residue, or some other irritant mixed with excess oil in pores or hair follicles that clogs a pore or follicle that isn’t covered by skin. It’s “open,” if you will.  

When it comes into contact with oxygen, all the “goo” turns black when it oxidizes. 

Blackheads, or open comedones (as opposed to closed comedones aka whiteheads), usually crop up in the T-zone (forehead, nose, chin) because there are simply more oil glands in that part of the face. As the “goo” sits in the clogged pore, it grows bacteria and gets worse. 

Blackheads can live quite happily right where they are, without changing, for long periods of time. Studies have shown  that they basically just stayed static for 3 months or more without getting better or worse. But after a while, if left untreated, they will get inflamed and start looking worse. Compare this to whiteheads which your body vanquishes after about 7-10 days even if you do nothing.

Some are as big as a grain of rice or as small as a grain of sand. It just depends how much goo is stuck in the pore, how big the pore is, and whether it’s superficial or deep.

It’s not just an oily skin-person problem. People with oily and acne prone skin can get them, but also everyone else. And even when you get rid of ones you have, they’ll just keep coming back if you’re daily skincare routine it’s up to snuff.  

How to Prevent Blackheads 

Since blackheads are trapped dirt and grime mixed with excess oil, it stands to reason that doing a better job of routine skin care will help. 

10 Best Skin Care Tips to Prevent Blackheads

  1. Double cleanse. This is not just about washing your face and it’s definitely not about stripping your face of everything good and holy. A good double cleanse is gentle and requires a washcloth for exfoliation (or a Foreo if you have one), oil based cleanser, and a little more time than what you might be used to. It needs to happen every single night before bed, not just to prevent blackheads, but for your skin’s overall health and allowing those expensive serums and creams to work the way they’re meant to. 
  2. Exfoliate. You can tie this in with the double cleanse and it needs to happen at least 4 times a week, if not daily. It doesn’t necessarily mean using an exfoliator product, in fact, using these too often can actually irritate skin if it’s not super fine and gentle. But it’s more about a daily gentle exfoliation with a soft brushed exfoliator device (i.e. Foreo or you’re old Clairsonic). This gets rid of dead skin cells and helps unclog pores. You can even get some exfoliation power with a cleanser-laden warm washcloth. 
  3. Give yourself a luxurious home facial. This should really happen every week, preferably with a glass of wine, on Sundays. It’s a great mental recharge, yes, but improves skin healthy by being sure you’re ticking all the skin care boxes. Every week you’ll have a facial massage for healing blood flow, steam for opening pores and hydration, exfoliation, plus a 6 step skin care routine designed for optimal skin health.  
  4. Pin down your skin type. Once you understand what kind of skin you have, you can find the right skin care products targeted for you. For example, some of us have oily T zones prone to blackheads and breakouts but dry cheeks. Skin will be happiest with a clarifying masque on the T zone and a hydrating mask on cheeks. 
  5. Don’t skip the Hydroxy Acids. It’s so important, especially to prevent blackheads and acne, to routinely use AHAs if you don’t have oily skin and BHAs if you do. They are gentle (Especially lactic acid) chemical exfoliators that help skin slough off the dead and broken cells. This makes room for new, healthy cells, unclogs pores, and helps fade acne scars. There are a bunch of other great things about AHAs and BHAs, too. 
  6. Use Retinol. Retinol has so many wonderful benefits, but for blackhead treatment and prevention it can help unclog pores, exfoliate, and decrease oily skin.  
  7. Stop touching your face. So important but sometimes really hard to fix. We don’t always realize we’re touching our faces. Some people wear gloves (especially during COVID pandemics) to remind them not to. For the rest of us, we’ll wash our hands more often. 
  8. Use clean products. This includes makeup and sunscreen as well as skin care products. Of course, here on Organic Mentor, we encourage using totally organic or at least all natural skin care products without toxins which can irritate and damage skin cells making them more prone to blackheads, breakouts, and other problems. 
  9. Take care of your whole body. This means eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and veggies. Skip the processed and fried foods (what I tell my kids are ‘garbage foods’), and fit some cardio into your day. Even just a brisk walk will get your cardiovascular system pumping blood and oxygen to your skin while simultaneously removing toxins. It can help you get that healthy glow everyone is after.  
  10. Clean your house and wash linens. It’s so overlooked, but really important for skin (and overall) health to clean and disinfect your surfaces a few times a week (I do it every night after cleaning up the dishes) and wash your towels and pillowcases in hot water at least weekly. Clean and wash more if you are prone to acne or get a lot of blackheads. You could be doing a great job of taking care of your skin, but sabotaging it by putting all that goo right back on your skin with dirty towels and pillowcases. The surfaces around your house get pretty gross when you don’t clean and the bacteria on your kitchen counter can find it’s way to your face when you touch it. All this is a recipe for blackheads and acne!

How to Remove a Blackhead

For the purposes of this article, we’re only talking about superficial blackheads. Going after the deep ones can cause scarring, infection, and damage to your skin, so we definitely don’t recommend trying it at home. 

“Superficial [blackheads] can be easily addressed through proper skin care and home treatments,” says Dermatologist Vindhya Veerula, “but a dermatologist or skin specialist is best equipped to remove deep-rooted blackheads.” Superficial blackheads are close to the surface of skin. If it’s too deep or the pore hardens around it, then stop and book a facial (preferably a medical facial with that amazing blackhead vacuum). 

8 Easy Steps to Removing Blackheads at Home

Step 1: Double cleanse, exfoliate, and pat dry. Use a headband and ponytail holder to get your gorgeous hair out of the way. 

Step 2: Steam. An often overlooked but totally necessary blackhead remover. It opens pores and prepares skin for the more targeted blackhead removal methods in Step 3. You can take a steamy shower, use a fancy home facial steamer, or do the towel and bowl trick.

blackhead removal

If you have a facial steamer, then fire it up. If you don’t, you can boil about 2 cups of filtered water and pour into a glass bowl. Using glass instead of plastic eliminates the risk of chemicals from hot plastic seeping into the water you’ll soon be deeply breathing. Let the water cool off a little. Then use a bath towel to trap the steam around your face. I like to put my face about 3 inches above the water and drape the towel around us both. If the water is still too hot, you’ll know it because you won’t be able to breath it in, so abort the mission and wait a few minutes. You should be somewhat comfortable breathing it in and it should make condensation on your face and drip into the bowl. Sit like this for about 10-15 mins, or until the water cools off and isn’t doing anything anymore. 

Step 3: Apply pore strips. These are truly a blast from the past and they work for most blackheads. They’re basically sticky tape you put on clean skin and when you pull it off it’s covered in goo. These are not really a permanent solution to blackheads, though.

Step 4: Apply a blackhead removal mask. You can either use a natural DIY one or a clarifying mask or BHA mask. Whichever you choose, it should have antibacterial properties and be able to penetrate deep into pores. If they’re still there after these steps, move cautiously ahead to Step 5.

Step 5: Blackhead Extraction. The key to a safe extraction is to be GENTLE! Never use your nails or something sharp to extract blackheads. Breaking this rule can cause hyperpigmentation and scarring (yelp!). A blackhead extractor or blackhead vacuum when used properly is a better idea, but if you don’t have one, you can use your fingers. 

Instructions: Using freshly washed hands, place 2 fingers on either side of the blackhead making sure they’re not too close together. Then squeeze. Then move in a clockwise position around the blackhead in a full circle, squeezing as you move into each position. The goal here is to make the layers of skin below lift the goo up and out. 

Step 6: Use a gentle toner. Toner will help deeply cleanse pores, prevent infection, and control oil. 

Step 7: Apply your usual AHA/BHA or Retinols. These will help stave off future blackheads.

Step 8: Moisturize. Moisturizer will hydrate and build up skin’s protective barrier. This makes skin less prone to breakouts. 

How to use Blackhead Extractor

These are lovely little tools used in dermatologist and aesthetician offices to extract blackheads. They’re a little trickier than using your fingers but once you get the hang of it you’ll never look back. 

Step 1: Wash your hands and only use a clean blackhead extractor tool 

Step 2: Place the open tips on either side of the blackhead

Step 3: Gently press on each side of the blackhead until the goo oozes out

Step 4: Squeeze the extractor and pull the goo out with the tool 

Step 5: Apply toner to the blackhead when done

If it’s not budging or seems like the pore is hard and closing up, you need a professional. You probably have a deep blackhead. 

How to Make A Blackhead Remover

For great natural DIY blackhead removers opt for homemade masks with organic food from the grocery store or essential oils. We recommend using organic ingredients whenever possible so you’re not adding chemical irritants to skin that’s already irritated.   

Some natural ingredients you can buy at the grocery store :

  • Honey
    • Potent antimicrobial and antibacterial agent plus it soothes inflammation and irritated skin
  • Cinnamon
    • Huge antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties 
  • Turmeric
  • Aspirin
    • Natural BHA (salicylic acid) to exfoliate, unclog pores, and control oil
  • Lemon Juice
    • Natural acid for exfoliation and high in vitamin C for antioxidants, oil control and skin brightening
  • Milk
    • Rich in lactic acid, a gentle AHA, to exfoliate, unclog pores, and control oil 
  • Brown Sugar
    • Natural source of glycolic acid, a powerful AHA, as well as an exfoliator
  • Black Tea
    • Rich in polyphenols and catechins which are potent antioxidants

Best Essential Oils for Blackhead Removal

  • Tea Tree Oil
    • Antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiinflammatory 
  • Rosemary Oil
    • Antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiinflammatory
  • Melaleuca Oil
    • Antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiinflammatory

Best Recipes for All Natural DIY Blackhead Remover Masks 

blackhead removal

Milk and Honey Mask

Milk naturally has lactic acid and lactic acid is a gentle AHA. It helps exfoliate skin, getting rid of dead skin cells and unclogging pores. When combined with the antibacterial effects of honey, it’s a home run. 

Instructions: Mix ¼ cup milk (any kind) with 2 Tablespoons organic raw honey and use cotton balls to apply to entire face.Leave on about 15 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Repeat up to 3 times a week.  

Organic All Natural Honey and Cinnamon Blackhead Mask

Great for soothing and eliminating blackheads with it’s powerful antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Instructions: Mix 2 teaspoons of organic cinnamon with 2 Tablespoons organic honey. Mix into a smooth paste and apply to your just washed and freshly exfoliated face. Leave on for at least 20 minutes and no more than 30. Rinse off and pat dry. Repeat up to 3 times a week. 

Aspirin Mask 

Aspirin is made mostly of salicylic acid and it’s derived from a plant. Salicylic acid is a BHA and works better than AHAs to penetrate clogged pores. Once inside the pore, it dissolves the goo inside blackhead and helps shrink the pore. Poof, problem solved, and for a fraction of the cost of expensive BHA masks. 

Instructions: Drop a 325mg Aspirin tablet into about 2 teaspoons warm water and let it dissolve. It should make a paste. Then apply freshly washed and exfoliated areas of your face with the blackheads. Leave on for about 15 mins. Rinse off and pat dry.  

Organic Black Tea and Brown Sugar Blackhead Mask

Brown sugar is a natural AHA, plus, it doubles as an exfoliator. Black tea adds in antioxidants which heal and protect skin.

Instructions: Brew 1 cup of black tea and allow to reach room temperature. In a small bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons brown sugar with 1-2 Tablespoons tea until mixture is the right consistency to stay put on your face. Leave on for 15 minutes and use small circular motions to gentle exfoliate skin just prior to rinsing off with warm water.

Turmeric Mask

Turmeric not only has antibacterial and antiseptic properties but it also adds in some antioxidants. Antioxidants are great for treating all types of acne.  

Instructions: Mix 2 teaspoons organic turmeric with 2 Tablespoons of your favorite carrier oil (coconut, almond, and argan oils are great) or, 2 Tablespoons organic raw honey. Leave on at least 20 minutes but no more than 30. Rinse off and pat dry. Repeat up to 3 times a week.

Lemon Juice and Honey Mask

The natural acids in lemon juice mixed with the anti-inflammatory properties of honey make a great combination. Lemon is a natural chemical exfoliant, acting like a hydroxy acid (AHA/BHA) plus it’s rich in vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant, skin brightener, and anti aging ingredient. 

Instructions: Mix 1 teaspoon organic lemon juice with 1 Tablespoon organic raw honey. Apply to blackheads. Leave on for about 10 minutes. Rinse off and pat dry. Repeat up to 3 times a week.   

Essential Oils for Blackhead Removal

Tea tree oil, rosemary, and melaleuca oils have fantastic benefits for blackhead removal. They all have antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties to treat the blackhead itself and soothe irritated skin. 

The easiest way to use them is by applying a few drops of the essential oil into a bit of your regular moisturizer. I would recommend using it at night on double cleansed and prepped skin.  If your skin gets irritated at all, use a carrier oil instead of your moisturizer, like coconut, argan, or almond oil. 

Blackhead Removal Videos

Blackhead removal videos are definitely worth watching, just don’t eat your lunch while searching for them!

If you love that gross stuff (no judgement!) then just hop on YouTube and look up “Blackhead Removal.” When you get bored with that, give “Giant Blackhead” a whirl and prepare for your mind to be blown. Dr Pimple Popper, especially, has some really juicy videos.

We prefer the more medical side of things. We truly want people to learn the right and wrong ways of blackhead popping. You can do some real harm to your skin and end up creating scars and infections.

These are the best blackhead removal videos we could find.

Beitehead Blackhead Vacuum

Blackhead Vacuum

Blackhead vacuums are an amazing miracle of modern skin care. They do exactly what it sounds like, vacuum skin and suck the gunk out of pores. Added bonus, many of them come with a little attachment that sucks fine lines and wrinkles out too. Over time, this can help lessen the severity of wrinkles.

A few things to look out for when buying a blackhead vacuum are:

Amount of suction

Not too much, not too little. You want the gunk sucked out but you don’t want a bunch of little face hickies.

Suction Probes

Use the right sized probe for your skin type. Larger probes for oily (less sensitive) skin and smaller probes for dry, mature, and sensitive skin.

Extras

Things you don’t even know you need can come in super handy. We’re talking about built-in cameras that link to your phone, blackhead removal tool, hot compresses in the handle of the vacuum.

Prepping skin properly is probably THE most important thing you can do before you use a blackhead vacuum. Double cleanse and steam your face then immediately apply the vacuum. The wetter skin is, the better it will work without causing bruising or redness that lasts for more than a couple hours.

Remember not to linger over any certain spot. It’s so tempting to apply all that glorious suction to one mean giant blackhead and just have at it. But this makes most people have a nasty bruise or super annoying long lasting redness.

These are the best top rated blackhead vacuum reviews.

Blackhead Remover

Buying a skin care product that will target blackheads can be a little tricky. There’s so many ingredients on product labels these days! We narrowed it down to a few ingredients that should do the job.

Best Blackhead Remover

These are the best blackhead remover ingredients in skin care products: AHAs, BHAs, plus a gentle exfoliator.

The most common skin care products for blackhead removal are an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) peel, usually Glycolic Acid, a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) peel, usually salicylic acid or Willow Bark, and mechanical exfoliators, like gentle scrubs.

AHAs are great if you have not-so-oily or acne-prone skin (blackheads crop up on all skin types!). They help the dead cells slough off making way for new cells. AHAs also help treat and prevent blackheads since dead cells clog up those pores.

BHA’s penetrate deep into hair follicles and oily skin. If you have oily skin AHAs don’t really do as good of a job penetrating the pore. It softens or even breaks down the gunk in your blackhead making them easier to extract with a tool or vacuum or the gunk just goes away. Pair it with an exfoliator and you’ll get blackhead remover magic.

Exfoliators should be gentle. You never want to scrub skin, an exfoliator should just gently remove dead skin cells, excess oil, dirt and whatever else is hanging out in your pores. This will clear out pores and prevent blackheads from forming.

Dr Pimple Popper Blackhead Removal Videos

Sandra Lee, MD, or “Dr Pimple Popper,” is an experienced Dermatologist in California who gained a lot of notoriety on You Tube by extracting pimples, cysts, abscesses, even “elf ear bumps” on camera. Her videos were such a hit, she now has a TV show. Viewers can’t get enough of her super satisfying extractions. Some of these skin afflictions are really, really juicy.

What we love about Dr Lee is not the juicy gunk. We love that she gives good medical information about safe ways to remove blackheads, and whiteheads, not just the goo and gore. She talks about aseptic technique and being gentle to avoid damage.

Blackhead in Ear

Blackheads can pop up anywhere on skin that has oil producing pores. We usually see them in the T-zone of the face (forehead, nose, chin), but ears are surprisingly common places for blackheads. This is largely due to the earwax and oil producing glands in your ears. And, where there is excess oil, there can be pores clogged with it and the dirt and grime in our environments creating blackheads.

There are some things you can do to prevent getting a blackhead in your ear. Since there’s not a whole lot you can do to stop those glands from producing earwax and oil (nor should you try!) the focus needs to be on eliminating or reducing the dirt getting in there.

4 Ways to Prevent Blackhead in Ear

  1. Keep your ears clean. This seems simple, but it’s one place we don’t always wash and scrub in the shower. Use a washcloth and an acne-fighting body wash to get the ears squeaky clean. Just don’t get a bunch of water in your ear canal or you risk an ear infection!
  2. Clean your cell phone. Dirt and bacteria just love cell phones. It’s something we touch all day long and don’t think to wash our hands before or after. We like to use an alcohol prep pad with 70% isopropyl alcohol, but a cotton ball with alcohol will do fine. Don’t make it too wet to protect the touch screen, so use a clean tissue to wipe it off afterwards, if needed.
  3. Clean your headphones. Just like our cell phones, headphones are also a mecca of bacteria and dirt. Since these go directly into the ear canal, they’re also a wonderful place to collect oil and ear wax. Gross! Simple solution is to give them a once over with a 70% isopropyl alcohol prep pad or cotton ball.
  4. Wash pillowcases more often. A good rule of thumb is to wash all of your bedding weekly, but if you’re trying to get blackheads in ears under control then wash them every other day.

Here’s the best blackhead in ear removal video by Dr. Pimple Popper

Blackhead Removal Tool

Blackhead removal tools, or Extractor Tools, are small metal instruments that have a little pore-sized oval on the end. You simply place the tool on the blackhead, with the blackhead in the middle of the oval, and press. The gunk should pop up and out of the open pore.

Tips for Using a Blackhead Extractor

Never ever ever ever use a sharp tool to cut open the pore. Many kits come with these little knife-like tools but Experts recommend having this type of procedure done in the office with strict aseptic technique. This will help avoid infection and prevent damage to skin which can make a scar or dark spot.

Pressing too hard on the skin can cause blood vessels around the area to burst, especially in skin that’s more fragile. You can get left with a little bruised area. So, gentle pressure is enough, if the gunk doesn’t come out easy, be sure you steam and double cleanse your face to soften pores before using a blackhead removal tool and try using a AHA, BHA, and exfoliator.

Blackhead Popping

Blackhead popping, or blackhead extraction, is easier with an extractor tool, but can definitely be done with fingers or Q-tips.

The idea is to press, not squeeze, and be very gentle so you don’t cause damage. Using clean hands on a freshly double cleansed and steamed face, use either fingers or a Q-tip in each hand to GENTLY press around the blackhead. Move in a clockwise motion. This should lift the gunk out.

Blackhead Mask

Blackhead masks should have a potent AHA like glycolic acid or lactic acid for more sensitive skin. You can make your own using brown sugar blackhead mask with its natural source of glycolic acid or buy one.

The best blackhead masks, or peels, will have the right blackhead-fighting Ingredients. These are mainly AHAs and BHAs.

AHAs

AHAs are mainly glycolic acid and lactic acid. Glycolic acid is a bit stronger than lactic acid so it’s great if you don’t have fragile, mature, dry, or sensitive skin. If you do, start with lactic acid and see if this does the trick. We’ve given some great DIY recipes (above), one of our favorites is the milk and honey blackhead mask.

BHAs

BHAs for blackheads and acne are salicylic acid. It penetrates hair follicles to get deep into the pore and bust up the blackhead. Our DIY Aspirin Mask is a great way to try it at home without breaking the bank.

Giant Blackhead

Giant blackheads are usually a blackhead with skin over the top trapping in the gunk. These types of blackheads make the job harder for blackhead removal tools. Remember how we said to never, ever use the knife-looking tool to cut open a blackhead?? Well, getting rid of the giant blackhead probably requires it to get through that layer of skin covering it.

To get rid of a giant blackhead, you really need to see a dermatologist or aesthetician so they can properly get into the pore and get the gunk out. They’ll make sure you don’t cause an infection or hyperpigmentation which will make your blackhead seem like a walk in the park.

If you‘ve tried all of the other interventions we’ve suggested, and your gorgeous giant blackhead is still in there, run, don’t walk, to your local skincare professional.

Final Thoughts

Blackheads are super annoying and totally preventable. With a great skin care routine using organic or natural (non-toxic!) skin care products you won’t need to step it up to extraction and other methods of removal. But if you find yourself with blackheads, be gentle and use a tool if you can so you don’t cause a bigger problem. There are so many natural DIY blackhead masks you can make at home that you really don’t need to buy expensive products. With this Guide, you’re all set for clean skin.