Quick Tips: Are certain face washes better at fighting blackheads?

Blackheads can be tricky to get rid of, no matter what type of products you use.
Blackheads can be tricky to get rid of, no matter what type of products you use.
©Robert Kneschke/veer

When it comes to acne, blackheads can be even more frustrating than pimples since they tend to cluster in hard-to-reach areas like the sides of your nose. You may be tempted to slap on a pore strip and call it a day, but there is a more effective way to clear up blackheads – washing your face!

To understand how to treat blackheads, you have to understand what caused them. While they may look like dark, tiny specs, they are actually the result of an overproduction of oil. Blackheads are really open hair follicles clogged with dirt and oil, which give them their dark color. Considered the first stage of acne, they form before bacteria enter your pores and can eventually develop into a pimple [Source: Medical News Today].

Topical oils and makeup can contribute to blackheads, so to control and banish them, using the right face wash is key, says Francesca Fusco, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai School in New York City "Choose one with keratolytics—ingredients that unclog pores by melting or dissolving the accumulation of dead skin cells," she says. These ingredients include salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

"Salicylic acid loosens the excess buildup of cells on skin and in pores that lead to blackheads," says Fusco. In fact, its loosening ability is so powerful that when used in higher concentrations it can soften calloused areas such as those found on feet. Benzoyl peroxide also releases dirt from clogged pores but it has an additional power not found in salicylic acid: It kills bacteria that can lead to blackheads, whiteheads and pimples, says Fusco. Just keep in mind that it can be slightly more irritating than salicylic acid, causing drying, peeling, or redness (talk to your doctor if you experience any of these issues).

Other ingredients to look for include retinol and glycolic acid. "Retinol regulates cell turnover so that cells shed at a regular rate and don't clog up pores," says Fusco. Revving up cell turnover makes skin look smoother, bleaches brown spots over time and diminishes fine lines and wrinkles. "Glycolic acid sloughs dead skin cells, creating a smooth surface, fading brown spots and mildly unclogging pores," explains Fusco.

You can simply look for all of these ingredients on the back of your face wash bottle. Fusco also recommends pore strips and clay masks, which can soften blackheads over time. Say it with us now: Blackheads, begone!

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  • Medical News Today. "What are blackheads? How to get rid of blackheads." (January 25, 2012). http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/71615.php
  • Fusco, Francesca, M.D. Personal correspondence.