Blackheads, much like cockroaches, are the worst for this very reason: Every time you squeeze one of them away, you find dozens more to tackle. (How's that for a fun visual?) We turned to eight top dermatologists to find out how to get rid of them — for good.
First, understand exactly what blackheads are so you don't damage your skin by trying to scrub them away.
"Blackheads are just an oxidized mix of oil and dead skin cells that are sitting in pores — the exposure to air is what causes them to oxidize and turn black. Having them is not a sign that you're too dirty, so don't cause more damage by being rough with your skin and scrubbing really hard." — Rachel Nazarian, dermatologist in New York City
"Salicylic acid is a great option for dissolving those blackheads away, and it can be found in over-the-counter products. Ideally, you'd use a leave-on product rather than a cleanser or soap, since the longer the exposure to the active ingredient, the better it'll work. After using a salicylic acid product for several weeks, many of the blackheads will resolve, but others will just loosen." — Nazarian (We like the Best of Beauty–winning Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment.)
Or try a retinoid.
"Retinoids are a great treatment for blackheads, and while many people with sensitive skin are loath to try them, there are low-strength retinoids (we like Kate Somerville's RetAsphere 2-in-1 Retinol Night Cream), which are often more tolerable." — Rebecca Kleinerman, a dermatologist in New York City
Use an enzymatic exfoliator at least twice a week
"I like masks that have papaya, charcoal, pineapple extract, or clay to debride — or wash away — surface skin cells." — Jason Emer, a cosmetic dermatologist and aesthetic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California (We recommend the Herbivore Botanicals Brighten Pineapple Enzyme + Gemstone Instant Glow Mask, the Pixi Beauty Peel & Polish, or the Lancôme Energie de Vie The Illuminating & Purifying Exfoliating Mask).
Try using a Clarisonic.
"Just be sure not to overdo it because irritation from the cleansing brush could flare up other acne. One to two times a week should be sufficient." — Jeremy Fenton, a dermatologist in New York City (They now come in mini sized, FYI.)
Consider taking acne medicine.
"Prescription medicines like oral contraceptive pills and spironolactone can reduce oil production and prevent your pores from being blocked. They will get rid of blackheads and prevent new ones from showing up in the future. But these medicines are reserved for people with more than just the occasional blackhead; they are more for people with moderate to severe acne." — Joshua Zeichner, an assistant professor in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City
Go for a microneedling treatment.
"Low-energy, low-density, nonablative lasers like Clear + Brilliant and microsecond lasers like Aerolase will literally heat the under-surface of the skin without damaging the top layer, so there is zero downtime." — Emer (You can also try microneedling at home, like this Allure editor did.)
Don't forget to moisturize.
"All of these methods may strip oils from the skin and be drying, so you might be surprised to learn that you need to moisturize to treat their blackheads. It's important to maintain the right balance in the skin, and moisturizing will allow you to continue using exfoliating products without any issues. If a retinoid is too drying, try applying it over moisturizer (or even between layers of moisturizer). Also, choose noncomedogenic moisturizers only so they won't clog the pores." — Fenton (Slather up with these water-based options.)