First of all, you’re not gross if you have blackheads. It doesn’t mean you’re extra dirty, hygienically negligent, or damaged in any way. Pores are human, and we need them. They tend to be attached to sebaceous glands and hair follicles that get clogged and attract particles in the air. I asked my skin specialist if there are any ways to get rid of them for good - the answer is no. But you can be less prone to them, if you're not genetically gifted then the answer is in commitment, and finding the right routine for you.

Sometimes it’s not even about dirt or particles, but just sebum that has oxidized once it’s in contact with the air. The result is what looks like a clogged pore with dark coloring. Popping it will only be temporary and will cause inflammation, and perhaps even a pimple from harming the skin around the area.

Some people are more prone to blackheads than others, and that’s OK. Essentially, that means that we cannot make ourselves completely free of them permanently with at-home, natural tactics, but we can stay on top of them and clear them out regularly. Here are five simple steps to staying ahead of blackheads.


Step 1: Double Cleanse 

I started double cleansing before even knowing what double cleansing was. I happened to just stumble upon the Clinique Take the Day off cleansing balm at Terminal 3 at Heathrow back in 2017, took it back home with me, and randomly used it to take off my makeup (obviously), then used my regular cleanser La Roche Posay Effeclar Purifying Cleansing Gel to cleanse as usual. To my surprise my skin starting looking clearer. 

Even if you’re not a fan of balms or oils, oil cleansing as the first step in your evening routine is non-negotiable for eliminating blackheads. It may seem counterproductive to use oil to pull oxidized oil out of our pores, but it works like a charm. 

Be sure to spend at least 60 seconds massaging an oil cleanser into your face, paying special attention to the T-zone—the forehead, between the brows, the nose and surrounding area, and the chin—where blackheads tend to occur most. Use a washcloth dampened with warm water to remove the oil, then add more oil to the cloth and work in gentle circles in the area, buffing the oil cleanser into the offending pores. Rinse with a non-oiled side of the cloth, and follow with your non-oil cleanser. Make sure it’s gentle, as to not dry out the skin and trigger more oil production.

Step 2: Steam

I started this back in high school, not knowing what I'm doing, I used to just do it because it felt like it was working, and in a way it would've had I not overdone it. To anyone who knows me very well, this will explain the worrying amount of face towels I own - I do it once a week. But before we start you need to understand that you should never over-steam your face, only do this once or twice a week. 

Heat gently softens the pores. They won’t open and close like a trap door, as we’ve all been conditioned to think, but steam or a hot towel does loosen stubborn dried sebum and grime from the pores and make them malleable for the next step. 


Step 3: Exfoliate 

We don’t want to scrub too hard in that washcloth oil cleansing step, because this is where we apply our favorite chemical exfoliant to help dissolve dead skin, which will prevent new blackheads from forming and also dissolve the stubborn sebum we just softened with our facial steam. Find a gentle exfoliant with fruit enzymes or BHAs to gently dissolve impurities and encourage the skin to regenerate for a vibrant glow. I used to go for the Clinique Pep Start 2 in 1 Exfoliating Cleanser, and it worked wonders, sadly rumors are it's been discontinued. But I've been using KORA Organics Turmeric 2 in 1 Brightening and Exfoliating Mask, and it works!


Step 4: Mask 

After thoroughly rinsing off your favorite chemical exfoliant and gently patting your face dry, use a gentle yet effective clay mask ( I use Cadualie Instant Detox Face Mask ) to do an extra little cleanup. No need to clay mask the entire face post-exfoliation—if blackheads are the issue, stick to those areas. We don’t want to over-exfoliate healthy skin, which can cause disruption to a perfectly functional skin barrier.


Step 5: Finish with an antioxidant rich serum or moisturizer

Because blackheads are rarely actually the dirt they appear to be, but rather oxidized sebum, we can do our best to prevent them from occurring by using antioxidants. Makes sense, right? Using a potent antioxidant or antioxidant-like ingredient (hello niacinamideproduct daily - I used the Ordinary Niacinamide, I liked it, but lately I've been using Caudalie Vinergetic C+ Overnight Detox Oil, Sunday Riley Juno Essential Face Oil (I use this daily day and night and it's packed with antioxidants), and for moisturizer I've been loving Caudalie Reservatrol Lift Night Cream.


Following these steps ( again, once or twice a week max) will help keep your newly cleansed pores looking fresh.

February 11, 2022 — Natasha Shamas