Somewhat of a shocker, but blackheads are easier to zap than whiteheads, says Adam Friedman, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at New York-based Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “These widened pores, clogged with bacteria, dead skin cells, and/or oil are open, exposed, and more accessible than closed whiteheads covered by skin overgrowth,” says Dr. Friedman. How many blackheads you get is determined by genetics, not skin-cleansing rituals. If these bad boys cramp your style occasionally, it’s by no fault of your own. Excavate the craters from your life with these steps.

Blackhead Causes:

  •  Increased skin and oil turnover, which clogs pores
  • Using thick, greasy, pore-clogging face and hair products Tip: Use oil free, SPF-containing makeup and moisturizers
  • Overdoing dairy products Tip: Try almond milk, which lacks cow milk’s zit-causing hormones

Overly or harshly popping or picking acne is always a wrong move, says Dr. Friedman, and can lead to permanent discoloration, scarring, even put you at risk of infection. On to what works:


“Comedone extraction is the most effective blackhead-clearing method,” says Dr. Friedman. The procedure uses a small, metal, circular instrument centered on the comedone (small flesh-colored, dark, or white rough-feeling bump). When gentle pressure is applied to surrounding skin, the plug extrudes. Ideally, this is performed by a skilled dermatologist. Extractors can be purchased for home use, but extraction should be done with caution. Applying excessive pressure can cause bruising and scarring. Also, to avoid skin infection from harmful bacteria on subsequent uses, the instrument requires proper cleaning.

OTC Products

Drug-store products containing benzoyl peroxide (an ingredient in products including Clearasil, Neutrogena On-the-Spot, and Zapzyt) have an antibacterial effect and can assist blackhead removal by decreasing the chemical reaction that changes the lining of the hair follicle, thereby reducing blackhead-causing plugging. Benzoyl peroxide may be used for mild cases of comedones, but should be used sparingly as it can be irritating.


Prescription acne meds called retinoids, including Retin-a, Differin, Tazorac, are mainstay blackhead treatments. Retinoids are vitamin-A derivatives that increase cell turnover and reduce sloughed cells’ stickiness. This results in expelling the plugged material and returning pores to normal. These medications may irritate skin, so always review proper usage and potential side effects and drug interactions with your doctor.


An oral medication called Isotretinoin (a kind-of pill form of Retin-a) can effectively treat severe blackheads/whiteheads. This medication is not for run-of-the-mill mild acne and should only be used by patients closely monitored by a dermatologist.

How do You zap blackheads?

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