What is the one beauty question that seems to cross the mind of nearly every woman at some point in her life? It has to be this one: how do you get rid of blackheads on your nose?
Those annoying little black spots can show up every now and then no matter how dedicated you are to your skincare routine.
Where do they come from and why is it always at the most inconvenient of times? There is good news: there are several ways to tackle them head-on. It's just a case of finding the right treatment plan for your skin. Let's examine your blackheads a little closer...
What are blackheads?
In much the same way as most spots on the skin, blackheads are formed in pores that have become blocked or clogged by oil and dead skin cells. Technically known as an open comedone, a blackhead is really a pore or hair follicle that is designed to secrete oil or sebum onto the surface of your skin.
What happens is that as this oil is released, it comes into contact with the outside air. This oxygen in the air starts a process of oxidation which turns the usually cream-colored oil to black. Those tiny black spots are nothing more than oxidised oil on the skin's surface.
The difference with whiteheads is that the pore remains closed and, as the skin stays covered by a fine layer of skin, they appear white - the natural color of sebum. It stands to reason then that if you have an oily skin type, you will be more prone to developing blackheads in areas where your pores are typically larger - on your forehead, jawline and nose.
What causes blackheads?
When you consider that a blackhead is mainly made up of oil, those tiny dots on your skin occur when too much oil is produced in your pores. Consequentially, debris, bacteria and dead skin cells build up in your hair follicles leading to an inflamed infection (blackhead). This could be due to several factors: imbalanced hormones, genetics, heavy skin and hair products as well as stress.
The difference with blackheads however is that their lifespan can be as varied as their causes. While whiteheads are normally cleared within 10 days at most, blackheads can stick around anywhere from days to months if left untreated.
Effective Treatment Options for Nose Blackheads
Not to fret though - help is on the way! Your starting point should be identifying the exact cause of your blackheads. A blockage in your pores of any kind means that your skin is producing too much sebum and skin cells are not able to shed themselves efficiently. Any step in this process can hinder cell turnover and introduce oil build-up and debris into your pores.
A good starting point for treating blackheads is to sift through your most-used creams and oils. Whatever you are allowing to "sit" on your skin has the potential to seep into your pores and create a blockage.
Look at the packaging of your skincare products and look specifically for the terms "oil-free" and "non-comedogenic". It may not be an absolute guarantee that it will not cause blackheads but it's certainly a great place to start.
Related: The Best Products for Blackheads
Then there are those special ingredients in your skincare that have been proven to address the main causes of blackheads.
The best nose blackhead-clearing ingredients to look for are:
Once you've experienced the perks of exfoliation, you'll never go back. Smooth, bright skin with clear pores and no blackheads? Yes, please!
That's what you'll get by incorporating a chemical exfoliating acid into your skincare routine. But which one should you choose?
In the sphere of chemical acids, they begin with AHAs or alpha hydroxy acids. These water-based ingredients slough away the sebum and dead skin cells on the surface of your skin.
The most common and effective AHAs are glycolic and lactic acid - both of which are great introductory chemical acids if you're new to the world of acid exfoliation.
Then comes the beta hydroxy acids or BHAs. Also under the umbrella of chemical exfoliators, these acids have the ability to go even deeper into your pores.
But while AHAs exfoliate the surface of your skin, BHAs actually go underneath the surface. And as it can dissolve in oil, it's primed to break up the sebum present inside your pores. This means gentle exfoliation for your skin, no blackheads and the appearance of smaller pores to boot.
What's not to love, right? Well, unfortunately, BHAs are some of the most irritating of all skin acids. Due to this potency, use it only once per week and follow it up with a rich compensating moisturizer until your skin is able to handle it.
An important warning though: be careful not to use too many active ingredients at the same time. The last thing you need is any unnecessary redness or irritation as your skin tries to acclimatize to a new product.
A great way of slowly layering your products is to start off by using the salicylic acid product once every three days. Once your skin is used to it, you can slowly start to build up to once per day.
We recommend opting for natural fruit AHAs and organic forms of BHA to reduce the chances of irritation. Natural BHAs go by the name of willow bark extract, wintergreen leaf extract or sweet birch extract.
For sensitive skin, we recommend poly-hydroxy-acids (PHAs) such as gluconolactone or lactobionic acid.
The number one ingredient in terms of speeding up skin cell turnover is vitamin A. And the skincare products designed to infuse this potent ingredient into your skin are called retinoids.
Introduce retinol (in smaller doses in over-the-counter serums) or tretinoin (prescription-strength vitamin A), into your skincare routine to help your skin slough away dead skin cells at a much faster rate. This helps your pores stay clean, ultimately lessening the time frame for dirt and debris to turn into blackheads.
An added benefit is you can use retinoids with AHAs and BHAs - just make sure you use them in separate skincare routines (morning vs night) or on alternating days. This ensures you don’t over-exfoliate your skin leading to irritation, redness and premature aging.
If you have sensitive skin, we recommend looking for products that contain Retinyl palmitate which is the gentlest retinoid. Note: it may take more time to see results with this form of retinoid (10-12 weeks) but the results will come!
Think of niacinamide as the unsung hero in your beauty arsenal. It may not get as much attention as retinol and exfoliating acids but underestimate it at your peril – especially when it comes to treating blackheads.
The beauty of niacinamide lies in its ability to boost skin hydration and rebalance that delicate water-oil balance so vital in the health of your skin.
So while it may not necessarily fight blackheads on its own, it’s actively working behind the scenes to regulate your skin’s oil production and combat inflammation of your pores.
You’ll often find Niacinimide included in products with retinol, keep a look out for this when searching for a retinol product!
Cica Extract OR Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl Peroxide (BP) is a synthetic chemical that kills blackhead-forming bacteria. This ingredient can be bought over the counter at percentages up to 10%.
If you have sensitive skin, or like more natural ingredients, Cica Extract is your no.1 choice. This miracle skincare ingredient has been used for thousands of years in Asia to heal wounds and burns. Like BP, Cica kills bacteria inside your pores before it contributes to inflammation and blackheads.
Both ingredients have mild exfoliating properties, so should be used as an alternative to skin acids. The other option is to use these ingredients on alternating days with your chemical exfoliant.
Retinol can be used with BP and Cica but again, be careful not to over-exfoliate. We suggest using these ingredients in the morning and a retinol-based product at night because retinol becomes inactive when exposed to sunlight.
Speaking of secondary superstars, you can’t forget about vitamin C when it comes to preventing blackheads before they even form. The magic of vitamin C is all down to its protective, antioxidative effect.
The chemical process behind the formation of blackheads happens right at the pore – as excess oil is released from the open pore on your face, oxygen makes immediate contact and what you see on the skin is a tiny black dot.
Apply vitamin C to the surface of your skin and you’re nipping the oxidation right in the bud – literally. Instead of a blackhead forming, no oxidation happens, leaving your complexion clear and blackhead-free.
Like niacinamide, you’ll often find Vitamin C in retinol products. Look for products with all three ingredients for a superpower blackhead-clearing trio.
You also have the option of physical exfoliants. Those are the traditional scrubs you may be used to seeing, containing tiny beads to buff away at the skin's top layer.
If you prefer this method, be very careful not to be too vigorous when it comes to scrubbing away at your blackheads. Tempting as it may be, you could do serious damage to your skin.
You’ve heard it before – sunscreen is your skin’s biggest ally in the fight against all environmental stressors. This includes everything from UV damage, pollution and free radicals.
If your skin gets sun damaged, you’re more likely to suffer from enlarged pores, which means a greater likelihood of blackheads. Layer up with a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher. And as you’re trying to combat blackhead formation, make sure it’s non-comedogenic.
As for what to do in the interim, let’s talk about some common concerns in how to get rid of blackheads:
Is it ever okay to squeeze your blackheads?
To put it simply – no. That is, not if you’re okay with potentially leaving a nasty scar on your face. Technically you could get rid of some of the oil and debris by manually squeezing it out, but the risk of scarring is just not worth it.
Then comes the danger of causing inflammation at the site of your open pores, which will cause even more skin troubles than you started out with. If you’re in a real pinch, you could try a pore strip on your cleansed skin. If your skin is super sensitive though, it may leave you with irritation and redness on your skin.
Can anything be done about the blackheads on your back?
As if blackheads on your face weren’t annoying enough, then you get them on your back too?
Body acne is surprisingly common but as it’s not as immediately visible to the eye, they can go largely unnoticed. Tackling them involves much the same process as that for your face; albeit in a much trickier-to-reach area.
Look for a body wash containing a good percentage of salicylic acid and allow it to stay on the skin for at least two minutes before you rinse it off.
Once your skin is prepped, don’t wear tight-fitting clothes against the affected area – humidity will just cause the pores to become clogged again and promote blackheads reforming again.
How can you stop blackheads from coming back?
Consistency is key. Develop a regular routine for getting rid of your blackheads and stick to it.
Your skin operates on a monthly cycle – anything between 20 and 40 days. This is the time it takes for your skin cells to turnover and renew themselves.
Consider getting a facial once every cycle, especially if you are prone to getting an acne breakout around the same time every month.
This may be due to the timing of ovulation or even a stressful period at work. Getting a professional facial can really help with stimulating your cell turnover and managing the production of sebum within the pores.
When do you need to see a dermatologist?
If after all your best at-home efforts, you’re still not seeing any improvement in your skin, you may want to see a dermatologist for their professional opinion.
Your doctor will be able to examine your skin thoroughly and, should there be an underlying issue causing your inflammation, you can have it treated by an expert straight away.
It’s important to note too that, just because it looks like a blackhead to you, there may be a lot more going on beneath the surface.
By trying to treat it yourself, you run the risk of causing further damage should it be a deep cyst, for example.
A common treatment that your dermatologist or aesthetician could perform is a chemical peel. Using those same chemical exfoliants found in over-the-counter treatments (glycolic acid or the more intensive Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peel), a very high dose of the acid is inserted on the top layer of your skin.
Once your skin has recovered from the procedure, you will have experienced a complete removal of the dead skin cells, bacteria, debris and excess oil in your pores.
Remember though that, as the skin renews itself every month or so, you will need to have these treatments done regularly to keep seeing those same results.
Also very effective when performed by a trained professional is an extraction facial. This involves using steam to dissolve the oil in your pores and then removing all dirt with a special blackhead extractor tool.
As you can imagine, this process is very invasive and, if done incorrectly, could damage the fine capillaries within the skin and cause deep inflammation as well as hyperpigmentation.
Other treatments include
- Microdermabrasion/Microhydrabrasion. This treatment manually exfoliates the top layer of skin reducing the oil, bacteria and dead skin cells. The tools used in Microdermabrasion contain a diamond-tipped head that removes dead skin cells.
- Intense Pulse Therapy (IPL). Using lightwaves, this treatment stimulates collagen production which reduces the size of your nose pores, thus reducing blackhead formation.
Final thoughts: so how do you get rid of blackheads on your nose?
When it comes to treating your stubborn blackheads, you have a wide variety of treatments to choose from.
Are you more attracted to a chemical exfoliant? Maybe you prefer a clinical treatment to see results as quickly as possible.
Whichever your preference, you’re sure to find a treatment just right for you - just keep testing and it will happen! Beat blackheads the easy way – one skin cycle at a time!