Are unseemly black spots ruining your appearance? If the idea of ripping them out using ready-made “blackhead removal strips” or wax doesn’t sound appealing, we’ve got your back! Explore these gentler, more natural remedies for removing and even preventing blackheads.
But first, what are these “unsightly” spots? Blackheads are tiny yellowish or black bumps that erupt on your skin. They are, in fact, one of 6 different types of spots that fall under acne; others include whiteheads, pustules, nodules, cysts, and papules. Also called comedones, blackheads are caused when hair follicles or pores get clogged. Specifically, when these comedones reach the surface of the skin and stay open they are blackheads, and when they’re closed and remain within the skin they’re called whiteheads.
Hormonal changes, as in puberty or during childbirth, or birth control pills (both getting on one or stopping) can trigger a breakout. Hormonal changes cause sebaceous glands that produce the natural oil or sebum to go into overdrive. This excess sebum combines with dead skin cells to plug your pores, resulting in blackheads.1
Blackheads aren’t “black” with dirt as popular lore would have you believe! When the sebum or oil and other particulates in an open comedo come in contact with the air, they tend to oxidize and discolor. This is the color you see on the bumps.2
Blackheads can remain on your skin indefinitely unless you do something to get rid of them.3 While there are topical treatments, antibiotics, and other pills you can take to treat acne, including blackheads,4 try these natural alternatives if you want something milder.
Steaming your face is one of the most effective ways to clean the skin and deal with blackheads. It softens the skin and makes it easier for the blackhead to purge itself.5 Here’s how you can go about it:
- Begin by washing the skin with a mild, unscented cleanser.
- Rinse off and then pat dry before you start the vaporizer.
- Keep it about a foot and a half away from your skin to avoid burning yourself, but close enough so the steam hits the blackheads.
- Do this for about 10 minutes and then wipe your face with a soft, clean towel.
2. Clean Up With Fruit Scrubs And Masks
Use a natural scrub made from fruit peels like those of an orange or fruits like bananas. These act as a gentle exfoliant. Do keep in mind that the frequency will have to vary depending on your skin type and the intensity of the exfoliant used. If you have thick and oily skin, a daily regimen might be needed. On the other hand, if you have sensitive or dry skin, once a week should be enough. Here’s one that you can try:
- Mash up some banana and apply on its own or with coconut oil or honey.
- Alternatively, mix powdered orange peel with honey or water. Apply to the skin using gentle circular motions to exfoliate.6
- Besides these, avocado works well to cut inflammation and can be blended with honey, which nourishes the skin and fights bacteria.
- Raw papaya is another effective option. It can remove dead skin cells, soak up excess oils, and fight inflammation thanks to the papain enzyme.7
3. Try Baking Soda
Baking soda is a natural antiseptic that can cleanse the skin and help you slough off dead skin. Here’s how you can use it:
- Make a paste of a spoonful of baking soda with water
- Apply to your blackheads before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
This should help unclog the pores and leave your skin feeling fresh and clean.8
Note: Baking soda can be too harsh for some skin types, so first check how your skin reacts to it. Do an allergy test on a small patch of skin before using it all over your face.
4. Get Rid Of Dead Skin With Sugar
Glycolic acid found in sugar can act as a natural exfoliant. It can even help treat acne by breaking down dead skin, allowing it to be easily removed. It also helps skin regenerate by stimulating collagen synthesis.
- Make a homemade mask with sugar, fruits, and milk (all of which contain glycolic acid). Oatmeal, honey, milk, and bananas are popular choices. Muscovado sugar, in particular, works well with any of these.
- Wash away after 5–10 minutes.
- Use along with a topical retinoid to increase its effectiveness even further.9
What about all those popular remedies with salt? While salt can be a base for scrubs, it’s best avoided on the face. Salt can be too harsh for your face, leaving the skin rough and dry.10
5. Brush On Some Egg White
Egg whites can improve the appearance of blackheads and acne. To try it
- Apply it directly to the affected areas. Use between 2–3 egg whites at a time.
- As the white dries, it tightens the skin, pushing pores shut and squeezing out the excess sebum and clogging.
- Once dry, wipe away gently with a clean towel dampened with lukewarm water.11
6. Slather On Some Honey
If your blackheads are inflammatory, you could benefit from using honey. Researchers suggest that this non-irritating sugar can be a safer substitute for stronger (and harsher) antimicrobials on the market, including benzoyl peroxide.Honey also inhibits bacterial growth, helping you combat breakouts. Here’s how
- Apply directly to pimples or blackheads.
- Leave it on for 30 minutes before washing off with lukewarm water.12
7. Use Lemon Juice
Lemon juice, when applied to blackheads, can kill bacteria responsible for acne and act as a disinfectant, preventing new breakouts. Better yet, it also lightens the skin as well as any unsightly scars.13
- Dip an earbud in lemon juice and gently dab at the affected area
- Leave it on for a few minutes before washing it off with lukewarm water.
Note: Lemon juice can irritate sensitive skin. So if you’re worried about an allergic reaction or rashes, be sure to combine lemon juice with soothing honey. Alternatively, you could skip this particular remedy altogether.
Does Toothpaste Work?
A popular home remedy for removing blackheads involves dabbing some toothpaste on the affected area. The antimicrobial action of the paste is believed to help cleanse the area. However, as much as one would want them to work on blackheads, this remedy works better for whiteheads, according to research.14 Toothpaste can also dry your skin out, so this isn’t a remedy we would recommend.
How To Avoid Blackheads
One way to reduce the incidence of blackheads due to bacteria is by keeping the skin clean. Use natural antibacterial cleansers like tea tree oil or neem oil diluted with carrier oils like olive, coconut, or almond oil. You can also try lemon juice mixed with honey. Steaming the face or exfoliating can also help get rid of dead skin cells that could clog up pores.
Another equally important thing to do is to reduce triggers of inflammation. Sugar is inflammatory, as are saturated and trans fats, refined carbs, and omega-6 fatty acids.15
Also take care not to pick at the blackheads. You’ll just end up pushing more dirt and bacteria into your skin and increasing inflammation.
|↑1||Questions and Answers about Acne. National Institutes Of Health.|
|↑3||Comedones. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑4||Acne. British Association of Dermatologists.|
|↑5||Worwood, Valerie Ann. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Over 600 Natural, Non-Toxic and Fragrant Recipes to Create Health Beauty a Safe Home Environment. New World Library, 2012.|
|↑6||Evaluate before you exfoliate. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑7, ↑8, ↑11, ↑13||Ravisankar, P., O. Sai Koushik, V. Himaja, J. Ramesh, and P. Pragna. “ACNE-CAUSES AND AMAZING REMEDIAL MEASURES FOR ACNE.” Journal of Pharm Research 5, no. 07 (2015).|
|↑9||Faznurfariza Firdaus, Nicholas. “Extraction of glycolic acid from natural sources.” PhD diss., Universiti Malaysia Pahang, 2012.|
|↑10||Cox, Lauren, and Janice Cox. EcoBeauty: Scrubs, Rubs, Masks, Rinses, and Bath Bombs for You and Your Friends. Ten Speed Press, 2011.|
|↑12||Eady, E. Anne, Alison M. Layton, and Jonathan H. Cove. “A honey trap for the treatment of acne: manipulating the follicular microenvironment to control Propionibacterium acnes.” BioMed research international 2013 (2013).|
|↑14||Dharmik, Preeti, and Ashok Gomashe. “Anti-Acne Activity of Toothpaste–An Emerging Pimple Treatment.” International Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Analysis 1, no. 4 (2014): 149-153.|
|↑15||8 Food Ingredients That Can Cause Inflammation. The Arthritis Foundation.|