Here’s the thing about blackheads: They really shouldn’t be popped. All that pressure and picking is going to leave your skin scratched up, irritated, and quite frankly, not looking any better. You’re much better off shrinking the appearance of your pores by using one of the best blackhead removers. From chemical exfoliants and physical scrubs to pore vacuums, there’s no shortage of products to help ~safely~ clear out the dead skin, oil, and bacteria clogging up your skin. And by using one of these blackhead removal products (we’re rounding up the best of the best below), you’ll likely have fewer comedones from here on out.
But picking a blackhead removal product isn’t one-size-fits-all. A pretty intense salicylic acid serum might work wonders for someone with uber-oily skin, while a gentler alpha-hydroxy acid (think: lactic or glycolic acid) will do the job for those with more sensitive skin types. Regardless of what you need, we’ve got you covered.
What Are Blackheads?
A blackhead is quite literally a pimple, specifically an open comedone, that has come to a black-colored head. “They are a type of acne lesion in which a pore accumulates dead skin, oil, and bacteria,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp. They then turn black as a result of oxidation. Blackheads are going to be the *most* common in people with oily skin, but just about anyone can deal with ‘em. You can have sensitive skin and blackheads, dry skin and blackheads, combination skin and blackheads—you get the point.
What to Look For
“Blackhead treatments can come as cleansers, toners, serums, or leave-on treatments,” explains Dr. Camp. “Some facial masks can also be used to draw out impurities on the skin to clean out pores.” Then there’s also pore vacuums, pore strips, and physical scrubs. In short: There’s a lot to choose from. But, the best blackhead remover for you is going to depend largely on your skin type. “People with more sensitive skin may elect to use a chemical exfoliant, as they tend to be more gentle on the skin than physical exfoliants,” says Dr. Camp. Lactic acid, glycolic acid, or poly-hydroxy acids can provide non-abrasive exfoliation. Now while those ingredients are all very, very viable options for oily or combination skin types, too, products with salicylic acid, scrubs, retinoids, or pore vacuums, are also an option.
How Blackhead Removers Work
How your blackhead remover works is pretty dependent on the type of product you choose. Pore strips, for example, are going to use an adhesive material to grip dead skin and debris, while pore vacuums use suction to achieve the same end. Then there’s more traditional exfoliation. “Chemical exfoliants use ingredients that break apart adhesions between superficial skin cells to gently remove dead skin,” says Dr. Camp. “Physical exfoliants gently abrade the skin to scour away dead skin cells and debris.”
The Best Blackhead Removers
- The Best Peel Pad: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel
- The Best Serum: ReVive Acne Reparatif Acne Repair Gel
- The Best Retinoid: Differin Gel Adapalene 0.1% Gel
- The Best Face Mask: Sisley Paris Exfoliating Enzyme Mask
- The Best Toner: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner
The Best Peel Pad Blackhead Remover
We simply can’t talk about the best blackhead removers without going on a little tangent about these uber-popular peels. They’re a derm-favorite (Dr. Camp approves), a beauty editor must-have, and loved by celebrities ranging from Selena Gomez to Kim Kardashian. It’s no surprise they have a cult-favorite status—they work like a charm. “They contain alpha and beta-hydroxy acids to remove superficial dead skin cells and impurities within pores,” explains Dr. Camp. The combo of acids allows them to not only clean your pores, but also provide a ton of other benefits. Your tone will be more even, your lines and wrinkles will be less noticeable, and you’ll remain hydrated.
Pros: Derm-approved; Gentle enough for daily use; Multi-benefit
Cons: Slight smell; Might be too harsh for sensitive skin
The Best Toner Blackhead Remover
“Toners are used after cleansing to more effectively remove build up and oil,” explains Dr. Camp. “This gentle toner contains salicylic acid to remove debris in pores. It also contains glycolic acid, which is an alpha-hydroxy acid that encourages exfoliation.” Just put a little bit on a cotton pad and give your skin, your neck, and chest a good swipe. Over time, you’ll notice that your pores are minimized, your blackheads (and whiteheads) are less common, and your skin feels generally smoother.
Pros: Derm-approved; Tested and safe for sensitive skin; Affordable
Cons: Not the strongest
The Best Retinol Blackhead Remover
“Differin gel contains adapalene, which is a retinoid. This product used to be available only by prescription, but can now be purchased over the counter,” says Dr. Camp. So, how does it work to get rid of blackheads? It “regulates cell turnover,” which means there’s a lesser chance of your pores getting clogged up with dead skin cells. But that’s just the tip of the good skin iceberg. A retinoid this strong is going to help reduce the majority of breakouts and keep your skin looking younger and plumper.
Pros: Derm-approved; Anti-aging benefits; Helps with multiple types of acne
Cons: Can be drying and irritating
The Best Pore Vacuum Blackhead Remover
While pore vacuums should be used with an abundance of caution (they’re really not ideal for easily irritated skin), this particular extractor tool has hundreds of five-star reviews and a dermatologist stamp of approval. Rather than using suction, which can cause broken blood vessels and redness, it uses ultrasonic vibrational technology to coax the gunk out of the pores. There’s also an “infuse” functionality that works to push skincare actives deeper into the pores. Pair it with one of the other products on this list and you’ll get double the acne-fighting power.
Pros: Extracts and infuses; Derm-approved
The Best PHA Blackhead Remover
While you can’t ~technically~ change the size of your pores, you can certainly make them look a heck of a lot smaller by getting all the gunk out of ‘em. That’s where this toner comes into play. It’s going to gently exfoliate (thank you, PHAs) and treat blackheads (thank you, BHAs) to create a clearer-looking complexion with less noticeable pores. It’s a great option for anyone who errs on the sensitive or drier side, too. With watermelon extract and hyaluronic acid as main ingredients, this formula effectively counteracts the drying effects of the acids.
Pros: Good for pores; Hydrating
Cons: Strong smell
The Best Serum Blackhead Remover
If you’re looking for something heavy-duty, this powerful serum is the way to go—blackheads don’t stand a chance. Thanks to 0.5 percent salicylic acid, this tacky texture will have your skin looking better in just a few days’ time. But trust me, the benefits will only keep coming with continued use. Not only should your skin stay breakout-free, but you’ll also get a ton of anti-aging benefits. The serum contains the brand's proprietary bio-renewal protein, which slows aging, promotes healing, and keeps your skin looking fresh and bouncy.
Pros: Powerful; Anti-aging benefits
Cons: Too strong for sensitive skin
The Best Face Mask Blackhead Remover
A daily, leave-on treatment is probably the way to go for anyone with moderate or severe breakouts, but a bi-weekly face mask can do a damn good job at keeping mild blackheads under control. Our mask of choice? This Andalou Naturals option, which is formulated with exfoliating papaya and pineapple enzymes as well as clarifying willow bark extract. The purifying formula works like a charm to lift up debris, but just make sure you wash the solution off after 20ish minutes to avoid irritation.
Pros: Affordable; Brightening; Gentle
Cons: Stronger options available
The Best Face Wash Blackhead Remover
If your skin runs on the sensitive or drier side, looking for a wash-off treatment is probably going to be your best bet. Shorter contact should minimize irritation while still tackling acne. Take this Zo Skin Health cleanser, for example. It uses both physical and chemical exfoliation to dig deep into pores and get rid of gunk. Jojoba esters take charge on the physical front, gently exfoliating dead skin cells, while salicylic acid gets to work dislodging pore-clogging debris. Last, but certainly not least, vitamin E swoops in to provide a bit of calm—and antioxidant protection.
Pros: Physical and chemical exfoliation; Antioxidant protection
The Best Face Oil Blackhead Remover
Face oil and acne-prone skin might sound like a recipe for disaster—but not when this oil is your product of choice. It’s specifically formulated to keep blackheads (and whiteheads) under control, while simultaneously giving you a dose of calming and soothing hydration. And still—it gets better. Once the salicylic acid and tea tree oil have addressed current blackheads, licorice extract gets to work brightening dark spots left behind from previous breakouts. Just use this as your last step in your nighttime skincare routine and you’re good to go.
Pros: Brightening; Soothing
Cons: Strong Scent
The Best Scrub Blackhead Remover
For a long time, scrubs were on the no-no list. The thought of physical abrasion was a bit, well, terrifying—especially for easily irritated skin types. But fast forward to 2023 and there are actually some really elegant, non-abrasive scrubs on the market. One of the best, in my humble opinion, is from Dr. Barbara Sturm. The physical component removes flakes and dry skin patches, which are all the more common in the winter, while purslane and vitamin A soothe the skin and combat redness.
Pros: Physical and chemical exfoliation; Soothing
Cons: Not as strong as a daily leave-on