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How To Clear Up Blackheads


Who doesn’t want a flawless complexion, right?! There’s definitely ways to get rid of blackheads without picking and squeezing at your skin (and if you’re doing that, you’ve got to stop!).

In today’s article and video I’ll be sharing my favourite diet, lifestyle, and skincare tips for clearing up blackheads and reducing the appearance of enlarged pores, plus also what not to do (because you don’t want to make it worse!).

How to clear up blackheads with diet, lifestyle and recommended skincare products

3 Ways To Get Rid Of Blackheads


Don’t underestimate the power of exercise and a flawless complexion.

And I’m not exaggerating.

Sweaty exercise in my opinion clarifies and decongests your skin from the inside out like nothing else.

If you’re looking for a remedy for blackheads and congested pores, start exercising daily. Make sure the exercise you’re doing raises your heart rate, warms you up, and gets you sweating. The heat and sweat is what will help soften and unclog your pores.

If you commit to exercising regularly, over time you will see your pores shrink in appearance, with blackheads reducing in size or completely disappearing.

Cut down on cooking oils in your diet (especially heated oils)

In general, the healthier your diet is, the better your complexion will be. Cutting down on sugar, caffeine, dairy, and processed food will help you have clearer skin and reduce pore congestion.

Out of all foods that are detrimental to your skin, I find cooking oils to be closely linked to enlarged and congested pores, and blackheads.

I regularly tell my coaching clients to cut down on the oils they are using in their cooking, or if they can, eliminate it completely. And they’re always so surprised how much it actually helps their skin.

Based on my own experience, I’ve always noticed that if I ate a particularly oily meal, an hour later my skin would be VERY oily. And it’s not that the oil from my food got all over my face. The oil is literally coming out through my pores, from the inside out. For some people, this type of thing wouldn’t adversely affect their skin, but if you’re prone to breakouts, acne, and congested pores, this could very well clog up your skin and contribute to blackheads.

Some of you already know that many years ago I was on a raw food diet for about 4 years. During that time I only ate raw foods, nothing was cooked and I barely used oil, even in my salad dressings (in those 4 years I was on the raw food diet, I never even finished a bottle of oil, that’s how little I was using). During that time I barely had any blackheads and no enlarged pores, and I attribute that to the fact that I wasn’t having much oil in my diet. I did eat plenty of foods that had naturally occurring fat like avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut meat, etc., but barely any oil.

I suggest you too reduce the amount of oil you’re using in your food and cooking, especially oils that you are heating up. Whenever possible, skip the oils completely. Instead of frying or sautéing your food with oil; steam, poach, bake or grill your food instead.

And remember, I’m not telling you to eliminate fat from your diet – just the oils. So please, continue eating healthy fats every day (like avocado, eggs, meats, fish, nuts/seeds, coconut, etc). You just don’t need the processed oils.

Exfoliate your skin regularly

Exfoliation is key.

Blackheads are a result of oil/sebum, dead skin cells, dirt and debris building up in your pores and on the surface of your skin. And sometimes just cleansing your face isn’t enough to get rid of that build up.

There’s many different methods of exfoliation for unclogging pores and diminishing the appearance of blackheads. For immediate pore perfecting results that smooths out  the surface of your skin, I recommend an exfoliating scrub or mask. For deeper exfoliation that gets inside your pores, I recommend using a serum, toner or mask containing exfoliating acids or enzymes (such as AHAs or BHA). Usually a combination of the two works the best.

Depending on your skin type, you should be exfoliating your skin with a scrub, mask, toner or serum at least once a week, and no more than 3 times a week (every other day).

You never want to over exfoliate your skin which can result in redness, irritation, and dehydrated skin (which can sometimes result in your skin getting even more oily making blackheads worse).

If you’re just starting to add exfoliation into your skincare routine, start with just once a week using either an exfoliating scrub, mask, or serum. As your skin gets used to exfoliation, you can increase the frequency to two or three times a week.

Here’s a few guidelines to follow for exfoliating your skin to get rid of blackheads:

  • Best to exfoliate your skin 1-3 times a week (never every day, always allowing at least one “rest day” in between applications)
  • Never use an exfoliating acid and scrub the same day (or in a 24 hour period, so don’t use an exfoliating acid at night, and then a scrub the next morning – that’s too much!)
  • Best to only exfoliate your skin at night, avoid exfoliation in the morning or daytime to prevent sun sensitivity or sun damage
  • Never exfoliate your skin when you have active pimples or acne (it will irritate your skin more, making it harder for your pimples to heal. Best to only exfoliate your skin when it’s clear and all pimples have healed)
  • If your skin is sensitive to exfoliating scrubs – use an exfoliating serum, toner, or mask instead
  • If your skin is REALLY sensitive, use an exfoliating mask only on areas where you have blackheads (like applying a clay mask just on your nose).
  • Avoid using facial brushes like Clarisonic, rough sponges, or textured clothes (they’re to harsh and abrasive)

Exfoliating skin care products for blackheads featuring Indie Lee Gentle Daily Peel, Living Libations Royal Rose Honey Mask, Oskia Micro Exfoliating Balm, May Lindstrom Problem Solver, Annmarie Skin Care Kaolin Micro Exfoliant

Types of exfoliation & recommended products:

Exfoliating Acids (Toners, Pads, Serums):

Exfoliating toners, pads and serums containing exfoliating acids like salicylic acid and AHAs can be a lot gentler on the skin than a facial scrub, and deliver stellar results.

Salicylic acid (BHA) in particular is the best exfoliating acid for blackheads and clogged pores. It’s the only exfoliating acid with small enough molecules that can penetrate the skin and break up the build up of sebum and debris clogging your pores. 

AHAs like glycolic acid, lactic acid and mandelic acid only work on the surface of the skin. Their molecular structure isn’t small enough to get inside pores and dissolve the build up of sebum like salicylic acid. They are good at dissolving dead skin cells building up on the surface of your skin which can trap sebum and debris in your pores, but they won’t help clear out your pores.

So, when selecting an exfoliating acid toner or serum for blackheads, best to get a product that contains salicylic acid. It can have both salicylic acid and AHAs, but not just AHAs without salicylic acid.

My favourite acid peel pads for blackheads: 

INDIE LEE Gentle Daily Peel This is the best exfoliating acid product I have found for blackheads. These really work great at dissolving buildup in pores and getting rid of blackheads. You can use them 2-3 times a week after cleansing your skin. They’re easy to use, and they exfoliate without irritation. If you’ve tried exfoliating acid toners or pads before and they’ve left your skin red or raw – try these. They’re gentle but they work. With consistent use you’ll see clogged pores, blackheads and enlarged pores diminish. Your skin will become much smoother, clearer, and brighter (great too for fading acne marks and scars too).

Best to only use exfoliating serums, pads and toners at night, 2-3 times a week, and always make sure to wear sunscreen.

Exfoliating Scrubs:

There’s no doubt exfoliating scrubs deliver instant results. Your pores will always appear much smaller and your skin will be much smoother after washing your face with an exfoliating scrub. But you have to be careful, some scrubs are too rough and coarse which can tear at your skin. 

When selecting an exfoliating scrub for blackheads, look for a scrub that contains fine exfoliating grains or powders (such as activated charcoal powder, rice powder, oat flour, clays, fine coffee grounds, etc). You never want to use a product with large or sharp grains (like sugar or salt) because they can cause micro tears in your skin and they’re not fine enough to breakup and remove the build-up in your pores.

My favourite facial scrubs for blackheads:

ANNMARIE SKIN CARE Kaolin Micro Exfoliant  Made with green kaolin clay and diatomaceous earth, this exfoliating cleanser draw out impurities as it polishes the skin. The exfoliating texture is super fine but has enough grit to really work into the skin and slough off buildup and dead skin cells.  Skin is left smooth and polished, and pores less visible.

LEAHLANI Kalima Coconut Cream Cleansing Powder This is a fantastic exfoliating cleanser, than can even be used daily. I highly recommend it, not only for blackheads, texture and clogged pores, but for fading acne scars and marks. You activate the powder with a few drops of water to make a cleansing paste and apply it to damp skin. I recommend leaving it on for a few minutes before rinsing for a deeper cleanse. The coconut cream softens and nourishes skin as oat powder soothes, and clarifying clays deeply cleanses.

LEAHLANI Honey Love Microdermabrasion Exfoliator This is a robust exfoliator to deeply cleanse pores and polish buildup from the surface of the skin. This exfoliator makes skin extremely soft and smooth, and hydrates skin as it cleanses. I recommend using this as a scrub and mask, so after applying it to your skin, leave it on for 10-20 minutes for the exfoliating enzymes to dissolve buildup and work deeper into pores. This leave your skin smooth, bright, and clear.

Clay masks for blackheads:

Another cleansing/exfoliation method that delivers instant results are clay masks. This is one of my favourite treatments for blackheads because it’s much gentler on your skin than a scrub. Clay has the unique ability to draw impurities to the surface of your skin and clean out your pores, plus it will leave your skin soft, smooth and bright.

To exfoliate your skin using a clay mask, you can buy a clay at a health food store (like kaolin clay, french green clay, bentonite clay, rhassoul clay, etc.) and mix it with water or honey. Or, you can buy a facial mask that uses clay as its base.

Favorite clay masks for blackheads:

LIVING LIBATIONS Royal Rose Honey Mask An all-in-one clarifying mask and exfoliating scrub. Made with clay, honey, rose petals, and pearl powder it resurfaces the skin as it draws out impurities. Skin is left silky smooth, bright and perfected.

INDIE LEE Clearing Mask This mask is powerful yet gentle. It’s made with clay, sulphur, salicylic acid and glycolic acid to clarify and resurface the skin. It’s formulated in a way that it deeply cleanses as it balances and nourishes the skin, revealing clear smooth, bright, plumped skin. Gorgeous mask, and especially great for treating clogged pores, breakouts and congested skin.

Check out my video tutorial showing my special way of using clay masks to get rid of blackheads and get super smooth skin.

3 Things that will make blackheads worse

1- Don’t steam your face

I love occasionally going into a steam room, but I want to warn you to be careful of regularly steaming your face with a facial steamer or at home facial steams with boiling water.

Heat and hot water can dehydrate your skin, cause broken capillaries, and irritate your skin.

There’s no such thing as your pores opening and closing. The only thing that steam or hot water will do is soften your pores, which can help to breakup the oil and debris clogging your pores – but you don’t need hot continuous steam applied to your face to do that. Just taking a shower, washing your face with warm water, and/or exercising is sufficient, and won’t hurt your skin.

2- Don’t squeeze, pick, or try to extract blackheads yourself

Whatever you do, don’t pick, squeeze or try to extract blackheads yourself. Don’t use those metal blackhead tools, or apply tape or blackhead strips to your skin. All of that is just wrong! You’re hurting your skin more than helping it. And you don’t want to risk damaging or scarring your skin.

You might be wondering if it’s ok to get blackheads professionally extracted by an esthetician?

I would be careful. Always make sure you visit a really good esthetician. After a facial with extractions, you should never have marks or any visible signs that extractions were performed on your skin – if you do, the esthetician was being to rough on your skin.

Do keep in mind that in some countries like the USA, extractions are regularly performed by estheticians, whereas in other countries, such as many European countries, extractions are rarely performed. There’s polar opposite opinions whether extractions are beneficial for your skin or not.

I personally like having a facial with extractions, but with the right esthetician that is gentle and knows what she’s doing (in the past, there’s been occasions I’ve had a terrible facial that really messed up my skin, so don’t take it for granted seeking out a reputable and recommended esthetician).

3- Beware, some skincare products can emphasize the appearance blackheads and enlarged pores

Here’s a warning, some shiny makeup and skincare products can emphasize the appearance of blackheads.

In particular, facial oils.

This is not to say they cause them. In fact, many people notice that when they use a facial oil as a cleanser, the appearance of blackheads reduces dramatically, and overtime pores appear less clogged. Which is great, and what we want! But, when you apply an oil as a moisturizer and leave it on your skin, the shine from the oil can magnify the appearance of blackheads, making them much more noticeable.

So, the oil isn’t giving you blackheads, but it’s causing them to be more noticeable on your skin.

If you’re nodding your head right now because you’ve seen this happen to you, all you need to do is use something to reduce the shine like blotting papers, finishing powder, or a pore perfecting or mattifying makeup product.

Recommended products from Vapour Organic Beauty and RMS Beauty to make skin appear poreless and disguise blackheads.

Makeup I recommend to disguise blackheads and are compatible with acne prone skin:

RMS BEAUTY “Un” Powder  I really like this powder because it’s so fine and soft, it doesn’t settle in creases or emphasize fine lines and wrinkles like most powders do. It’s also not heavily mattifying, so it has a much more natural finish. I use it on my t-zone and it really decreases the appearance of blackheads and enlarged pores, giving you a smooth flawless finish. Over the years I have used both the translucent and tinted versions of this product.

VAPOUR BEAUTY Soft Focus Stratus Instant Skin Perfector  Another pore perfecting product I love. This primer is silicone-free, so it’s great for acne prone skin. I use this on my nose and forehead to eliminate shine. Stratus Soft Focus gives you a perfectly smooth, poreless finish. If you’re looking for a mattifying product and you don’t like powders, I highly recommend this one.

How about you?

I would love to know what has helped you with blackheads and enlarged pores? Please share in the comments below.

About the Author
Hi, I’m Natasha St. Michael, Founder of Inspire Beauty. I’m also a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Natural Health Educator accredited by the Institute For Integrative Nutrition. I’m obsessed with skin care and self-care. I’m 47 years old, struggled with adult acne until I was 30, and now I’m all about preserving the youthfulness of my skin (and sharing all my tips and tricks). If you have a question about a product or need a recommendation, feel free to contact me anytime.


This blog is for information purposes only. The content is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Should you have a medical or dermatological problem, please consult with your physician. None of the information or recommendations on this website should be interpreted as medical advice.

All product reviews, recommendations, and references are based on the author’s personal experience and impressions using the products. All views and opinions are the author’s own. 

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2 Responses

  1. I had no idea that pores opening and closing was a myth! I’m going to stop squeezing and start exercising instead!

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