Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Mahek Chawla (Dietician & Nutritionist)  on 13th Aug 2020

How To Remove Blackheads Safely Without Painful Tools Using Exfoliation, Serums or Peels?

How to remove blackheads safely without painful tools using exfoliation, serums, or peels?

Nasty icky spots, comedones, or blackheads call what you want; they don’t seem to disappear, right? Worry not. You’re not alone in this battle of blackheads. Be it on the nose, back, armpits, chin, or cheeks, we are all tired of these gluey bumps!

Often, they have a reputation for not leaving you once and for all, but we all know prevention is better than cure.

That being said, today, let's delve into the pores where they originate. Technically, blackheads are called comedones, which are either hair follicles clogged with keratin and oil combined or our dermal pores clogged with sebum and dirt.

As mentioned above, the accumulation is exposed to air and turns black due to oxidation; this action originates from the so-called blackheads. Now that we know how these stubborn creatures grow, we can find a solution to eliminate and prevent them. 

Causes of Blackheads

  • Puberty: this little word does wonders and blunders at the same time, leaving a life long effect! For a layman to understand, this is the age when our hormones tend to change drastically for us to grow well, and things can go a little off the beat. These offbeat actions inside show up outside eventually as acne, blackheads, and hormonal disorders.
  • Heredity: just like your charismatic looks are a product of parental genes, so is your skin type and sometimes issues. Oily or combination skin types usually are prone to blackheads.  
  • Products: yes! The layering that you do of makeup products or skincare can clog up those pores as well. No matter how much you take care of your dermis, it won't thrive unless given the right products and oxygen. 
  • Hygiene: people do have a say in this factor that unhygienic surfaces tend to show the signs of being filthy. To some extent, this is true because cleaning your entire skin every day with excellent cleansers can keep the pores free of filth.

But what if these icky spots have popped and you have to deal with them? Worry not, we are here to guide you through this battle without using any harmful weapons that leave a scar because nobody wants a scar unless it's from a war, right?  

4 Painless methods to remove your blackheads

(Recommended by Dermatologists)

Method 1: Daily Mild Exfoliation

Sloughing off the dead skin cells on your skin can let your pores breathe better and allow them to thrive. Exfoliation or scrubbing is not necessarily done via a physical scrubber or tool. It can also be done via clear fluids that get absorbed into your skin to exfoliate from inside.

Ingredients to look for:

Salicylic acid (aka BHA)
Lactic acid (mildest AHA)

These are some of the most effective active ingredients to look for in your cleanser to ward off blackheads.

Besides cleansers, you can also include a stable and well-formulated serum to use after your oil-absorbing cleanser, which not only clean pores but also keeps your oil in check to prevent future blackheads. Since we do not wash off serums like cleansers, they penetrate deep and flush out skin debris from inside.

For a reliable and all-purpose approach, we recommend using 2% SALICYLIC ACID, which will undoubtedly be your knight to ward off the extra shine and prevent acne and blackheads. Any product with salicylic acid should be your first pick if you have very oily skin because it is an age-old remedy to treat excess oil and has a high penetration level.

For someone who wants a milder approach, 10% LACTIC ACID can be the key as they have more efficacy towards the superficial woes and have less tendency to go deep within the pores and clean them. But it is less irritating and can be best for sensitive skin with a mild blackhead.

How to exfoliate to remove blackhead?

Apply a cleanser and gently rub in a circular motion for 1 minute to dissolve all dirt and impurities. Then wash your face with cold water.

If using serums, then apply 2-3 drops of serum after cleansing and hydration. Allow 2-3 minutes to get absorbed before applying other treatment serums or moisturizers. You can also use a cotton pad readily available in the market to apply serums uniformly.

Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen while using direct acids to avoid sunburn.

Method 2: Masks

This is the most used word, and thing in the world right now, isn’t it? From DIY masks to bottled masks to sheet masks and today, cloth masks, we have come a long way!

Of all the available masks, these two are must-have for oily skin:
1 The CHARCOAL mask has been a people pleaser because it’s a quick fix. It can pull off these clingy bumps and remove them from the root.

2. On the other hand, CLAY masks like that of KAOLIN and BENTONITE have also given tremendous results if used in the long run, for they can absorb oil and dirt from deep down the pores.

No matter what you choose, you can include a mask in your routine once a week for energized, clear skin. Follow the instructions mentioned on the product. 

Method 3: Superficial Chemical Peels

Trending peeling solutions with moderate concentrations of direct acids are excellent in combating blackheads. Peeling once a week can help in the deep cleaning of your pores and skin to prevent future blackheads.

Unlike clinically performed chemical peels, they are painless and do not impact tissues under the epidermis layer; thus can be safely done at home.

Good peeling solutions in India:

Minimalist 30% AHA and 2% BHA
Minimalist ACV weekend peeling solution

These peeling solutions are formulated with 100% Aloe juice instead of water and Tasmanian pepper berry extract that calms any irritation caused by direct acids.

Note: Chemical peeling performed at the doctor’s office is a potent peeling treatment that uses a higher concentration of active ingredients and shall not be performed without consulting your dermatologist.

How to peel at home? 

After cleansing, apply a thick layer AHA 30% and BHA 2% peeling solution and leave for 10 minutes. Wash with warm water and follow up with 2% hyaluronic acid to avoid any dryness.

Sunscreen is a must for every individual while using peeling solutions because it makes the skin photosensitive hence can cause sunburn/damage.

People with hypersensitive or compromised skin should avoid chemical peeling as it may cause irritation or redness. 

AHA PHA BHA 32% Face Peel
AHA PHA BHA 32% Face Peel
AHA PHA BHA 32% Face Peel
AHA PHA BHA 32% Face Peel

AHA PHA BHA 32% Face Peel

₹ 689

When to use: PM

Frequency: Once in 2 weeks

View details

Method 4: OTC treatments such as Retinols 

For someone with stubborn blackheads, RETINOL is the go-to, but start with a less concentrated retinol product for your skin to suit first and then begin its work with treatment.

Retinols are clinically proven to promote cellular differentiation and proliferation, resulting in clean and reduced pores. It prevents new blackheads from forming.

Also, with 2% retinol, be patient enough to use the product and see the results. Don’t discontinue halfway losing hope because it is a gentle ingredient and takes some time at least 5-6 weeks.  

Minimalist Expert's Advice:

Don’t waste time on Benzoyl peroxide as it may be a miracle ingredient for reducing acne inflammation but have zero impact on blackheads. Acne does not equal blackheads!

How to use Retinols for reducing blackheads? 

Choose a 2% OTC Retinol and apply 2-3 drops after cleansing and hydration at night. While layering Retinoids with other serums, use it last as they are oil-based and inhibit the absorption of water-based serums.

The above methods will not reduce blackhead immediately, but regular use will give you clear, smooth skin. They are scientifically proven ingredients for removing and preventing blackheads.  

Minimalist Magical Routine for Blackheads: 

Morning Routine

2% Salicylic Acid cleanser → 2% Hyaluronic Acid → 2% Salicylic Acid Serum → Moisturizer → SPF

Night Routine

Mild cleanser → 2 % Hyaluronic acid → 2% Retinol → Moisturizer

Weekend Special

In Morning mask and At Night 30% AHA and 2% BHA peeling solution followed with good non- comedogenic moisturizer 

Methods to remove blackheads instantly at home 

 1. Physical Scrubs 

Liquid scrubs, gel, or cream-based have one thing in common, i.e., a solid substance that is minute enough not to give you scratches or rashes but rub off the upper visible portion of blackheads.

Walnuts particles, dried leaves, grounded coffee are some natural substances combined with a scrub base to give you a brighter look. Still, the efficacy level isn't high enough for us to recommend this to everyone.

For those who have mild blackheads on our noses and have dry non-sensitive skin, scrubs can do the job, but moderate to extremely oily skin scrub can be of little to no help.

That being said, there are some scrubs available over the counter to include in your weekly routine to keep woes at bay. 

2. Nose strips or peel-off masks

For quite some time, nose strips and peel-off masks are popular ways to remove blackheads.
They have been the priority of almost everyone having blackheads because it gives an illusion of clear pores and pulls off the outgrown hair and oxidized hair follicles.

There are not enough studies to prove their efficacy in controlling blackheads, but some studies have shown they are effective in removing blackheads.

However, this is temporary, and pores may refill with blackheads within a week.

So, these products might remove blackheads but are not the best solution. More research needs to be done to prove their efficacy and long term benefits.

Nevertheless, Sticky Charcoal Peels and Squeaky, Tea Tree Adherent, Pore Strips have taken some space on everyone’s shelf due to that instant effect.

The above two methods may not be Dermatologists' favorite, but still popular because of ease and fast results. We recommend making a cautious call based on your skin sensitivity and needs.

Now that we have talked over the intricate details of how to treat the woes, let's debunk some myths related to comedones. 

Popular Myths About Blackheads 

  • Only oily skin is blackheads prone. False. Undoubtedly, oily and combination are more prone, but that doesn't mean dry skin can not have blackheads at all.  
  • Having acne means having blackheads. False. Yes, acne and blackheads both are common in people with oily skin, but they do not necessarily go hand in hand. 
  • Scrubbing is for every day. Not really! The more you agitate your skin and rub off the natural oil, the more it tends to produce oil, and you certainly don’t want your skin to produce an excess of anything.
  • Blackhead removal Tools always cause scars. Not always! Immature and mild blackheads that haven’t been on your face for too long can be best extracted via a tool, but more pesky comedones can leave a scar if used very harshly. So we recommend seeking professional help for extraction. 
  • Sunscreen causes blackheads. Not all do! Do not skip your sunscreen because skipping sunscreen may result in photoaging. Instead, choose an oil-free, non-comedogenic sunscreen. 

The Bottom Line

Lastly, always remember “better safe than sorry,” so try to start with a routine to cleanse, hydrate, and use a serum or layer the pores with the right kind of product. Do not overdo things and let your pores be free from any products once in a while for them to breathe.

Non-comedogenic products without any irritants or activators should be your investment for you to save some bucks on treating the after-effects of not using these products.

If you have painful, inflamed blackheads or blackheads that do not go away even after 6-12 weeks of a regular skincare routine, you must consult your doctor. They may suggest physical extraction, laser treatment, prescription based medicine, etc.