What Are 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 six 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
Natural Remedies For Blackheads
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 You could 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. To make a banana-based scrub, mash some up and use on its own or with coconut oil or honey. Powdered orange peel can be mixed with honey or water. Apply to the skin using gentle circular motions to exfoliate.6
Alternatively, use a fruit mask. This is gentler on the skin since it won’t require you to “scrub.” Just mash up the fruit with a carrier oil or honey. 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. To use, simply make a paste of a spoonful of baking soda with water and apply to the blackheads before rinsing off with lukewarm water. This should help unclog the pores. This treatment will leave your skin feeling fresh and clean.8
Do note that this remedy isn’t for everyone. 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.
Simply make a homemade mask with sugar, fruits, and milk (all of which contain glycolic acid) and wash away after 5–10 minutes. Oatmeal, honey, milk, and bananas are popular choices. Muscovado sugar, in particular, works well with any of these. If used along with a topical retinoid, its effectiveness increases 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
Just applying some egg white to the area where you have blackheads or acne can help tremendously. As the white dries, it tightens the skin, pushing pores shut and squeezing out the excess sebum and clogging. Use between 2 to 3 egg whites at a time. 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. When applied to pimples or blackheads, honey inhibits bacterial growth, helping you combat breakouts.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
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.