ACNE SERIES 2: Bye Bye Blackheads!

Mar 3, 2021

Have you ever obsessed over a constellation of dark spots on your nose, thinking everyone can see them? If so, it might be time for a de-gunker and get rid of them?

But no amount of washing or scrubbing can get rid of them! We should first understand what causes blackheads so it will be easier to figure out a way to get rid of them!


What are blackheads?

Blackheads, white heads and clogged pores are not the same.

The difference between a whitehead and a blackhead is simply whether the hair follicle (aka pore) is open or closed. Both are non-inflammatory acne because the skin around the clogged pore is not usually inflamed or red.

Blackheads are called “open comedones” and they form when too much oil is produced inside the pore, making it difficult to flow to the surface. As it builds up in the pores, the opening of a hair follicle becomes clogged or plugged with dead skin cells and oil. This material gets oxidized by the air and appears black or brown or sometimes yellowish.

A whitehead on the other hand is an almost or fully closed follicle which prevents oxygen oxidising the oil, and so it appears like a white bump on your skin as opposed to a black or brown one.

Blackheads appear commonly on the nose, sides of your nose, forehead and chin. Blackheads and whiteheads can form anywhere, as long as there is a hair follicle.

Do not confuse blackheads with a sebaceous filament (aka clogged pores). Sebaceous filaments are natural parts of your pores meant to bring oil to the surface in order to hydrate the skin. These appear like blackheads and they often appear on the nose, but they are not acne. Sebaceous filaments are caused when the oil lining the follicle in a pore causes it to look larger. You can feel a blackhead but you cant feel a sebaceous filament.

Another way to differentiate and test this difference is by using a nose strip: If the gunk pops out cleanly once you remove a pore strip from your nose, then it is a blackhead! If not, it is most likely a sebaceous filament and squeezing wont do your skin any good.


How do I get rid of blackheads?

To get rid of blackheads, you need to dissolve the plug and dislodge the build up that is causing the blackhead. Do not squeeze out the blackheads on your own, even though it’s very tempting! Your hands and fingers have oil and dirt, and squeezing them may cause further, worse breakouts and may even cause more damage to your skin. What you can do is focus on products with ingredients that get rid of the blackheads.

  • Look for products that have ingredients that loosen the sebum and dead skin cells that clog your pores to help unplug the follicles. 

Use cleansers and exfoliators that contain salicylic acid (BHAs) or glycolic acid (AHAs) or a combination of the two. BHAs can help exfoliate while AHAs can smooth out the appearance of the skin.

Retinol can get rid of blackheads too. Chemical exfoliators are way more effective to get rid of blackheads than physical exfoliators (like face scrubs) as they penetrate deep into the pore and clean out the gunk, while physical exfoliators only remove and scrub off the surface of the blackhead. The cause of blackheads start way beneath and deep into the pores, and scrubs do not penetrate your pore to clean it out. 


  • Using a nose strip is a quick fix to get rid of blackheads and but this is only temporary pleasure. Nose strips does not remove the entire blackhead to its roots embedded deep within the pores, and will just remove a part of the blackhead close to the surface. Use a nose strip only for a fast and temporary fix.

    Since we already talked about sebaceous filaments or pores, treating clogged pores is a bit trickier. Unfortunately, you can’t shrink pore size since this is largely determined by genetics, and oily skin types tend to have larger pores than dry skin types. However, you can control the build up of oil in the pores by using - guess what - salicylic acid, glycolic acid or retinoids.


    Check out our skincare routine to get rid of blackheads:

    Do this at night before you start your night routine, before starting off your first cleanse (oil cleanser).

    1. Use a BHA chemical exfoliator, like the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and Mizon BSA Blackhead Away Liquid. 

    COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is a chemical exfoliation liquid that contains a natural BHA ingredient, willow bark water, that penetrates deeply into the pores and helps clear clogged pores and gently exfoliates dead skin cells. 

    Mizon BSA Blackhead Away Liquid is an essence that removes blackheads and prevents dirt, excess sebum, and dead skin cells from accumulating into pores. It also deeply moisurises the skin and regulates pore size.

    Apply an appropriate amount on dry nose (you can apply in your T-zone until the chin and a bit on the part of your cheeks if you want to unclog your pores on those areas every now and then). The BHA will go deep into the pores and melt the sebum clogging your pores that's causing the blackheads. Let it sit for a good 20 minutes.


    2. Next is applying a clay mask with volcanic ash and/or kaolin clay, like the Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask 2x or Neogen Dermalogy Canadian Clay Pore Cleanser.

    The Innisfree clay mask contains Jeju volcanic ingredients, made from hardened lava. The fine, porous structure of Jeju volcanic clay strongly absorbs sebum inside pores. Neogen Pore Cleanser is made with micro-particles of natural glacial marine soil, colloidal Kaolin clay from West Coast British Columbia, Canada and carbonated water ingredients. This intensive pore mask instantly absorbs and cleanses away trapped dead skin cells, excess sebum, wastes, blackheads, and even makeup inside pores without any irritation or pain.

    Apply the clay mask on the areas where you applied the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. Let it sit for 10-15 mins (or follow according to product description). The clay mask has volcanic ash and kaolin clay that will now absorb the melted sebum in your pores after the BHA did its work. Wash off the mask and pat dry your face.


    3. Start your night time with your oil cleanser like the Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balms

    Apply the cleansing balm on dry face. Gently massage your skin for a good 2 minutes, while concentrating more on the areas where you applied the BHA and clay mask. Add a bit of water into the hands to start the emulsification process and continue massaging your face for another 1 minute, again concentrating on those areas. The cleansing balm will do its work and remove all the sebum and grime left on the pores, thoroughly cleansing the pores. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water. 

    4. Follow with a water-based cleanser, ideally with a BHA ingredient like the By Wishtrend Acid-Duo 2% Mild Gel Cleansera mild gel cleanser containing 1% LHA(Capryloyl Salicylic Acid) and PHA (Gluconolactone) to treat pores and sebum, so mild that you can use everyday. 

    Apply on damp face and lather gently on the face for a good 1 minute. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.


    Unfortunately, the effects of pore-clearing treatments such as masks and scrubs are not permanent. Pores will fill back up because that’s what pores do. What we can do is develop a regular and consistent routine to take care of our pores and make sure to manage the sebum production to avoid clogging them!

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