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10 blackhead removers experts recommend that don't involve squeezing — starting at $11

Effective options for your nose, deep-rooted blackheads, sensitive skin and more.
Three images of Women doing different skincare to get rid of blackheads
Kara Birnbaum/ TODAY; Bior?

Blackheads are one of the most pesky forms of acne to treat — they’re dark, they show up in multiple places on the face, and they’re formed deep in the skin. But what exactly is a blackhead, and why doesn’t it look like other forms of acne?

“A blackhead refers to a blocked pore — we all have pores, or tiny channels in our skin from which our skin cells regenerate,” explains Dr. Kiran Mian, DO, FAAD, a board-certified medical and aesthetic dermatologist in New York City. “Sometimes the keratin that makes up our skin cells gets too sticky and causes clogging in our pores.” Debris at the opening of this channel can also cause blockage, and this leads to the formation of a comedone, another name for the bumps that then appear on your face.

A blackhead is an open comedone, one that is open to the surface and oxidizes, turning dark, hence the name. (Fun fact: A closed comedone is one that remains closed at the skin's surface and stays white, so it's known as a whitehead).

“Essentially, both of these structures represent a clogged skin channel, appearing as tiny bumps on the skin,” explains Mian. “Our oil glands are located at the base of our pores, and when there is a blockage (a black or whitehead), sebum and oil cannot be released, and this leads to inflammation or the further formation of a zit or pimple.”

How do I remove blackheads?

A blackhead can be removed or extracted from the skin, but this should be done gently — and ideally by a professional.

“A dermatologist or esthetician can use a sterile needle to loosen the debris, and then apply gentle downward pressure using a comedone extractor, to express the material within the clogged pore,” suggests Mian. “This removes the blackhead, and hopefully causes little to no trauma on the skin.”

That being said, sometimes a visit to a professional isn’t all that accessible. Below, we’ve asked two dermatologists for their top-recommended products to remove blackheads when you can’t make it to a dermatologist's office. Keep scrolling or use the links below.

What to look for | Best budget | Best overall | Best for nose blackheads | Best for deep blackheads | Best for sensitive skin | Best exfoliant | Best face wash | Best mask | Best pimple patch | Best scrub | FAQs | Meet our experts

What to look for in a blackhead treatment

When shopping for products to help remove blackheads, Dr. Ariel Ostad, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City, suggests looking for anything that contains salicylic acid and glycolic acid. “You should avoid heavy moisturizers, because this can clog your pores and make it worse,” he adds.

Best budget blackhead remover

CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum

Key ingredients: Retinol, ceramides, hyaluronic acid | Size: 1 oz. | Best for: All skin types (especially sensitive), anti-aging, improving texture

A great budget buy that’s widely available everywhere, the CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum works to clear pores while offering anti-aging benefits, too. “One of my favorite over-the-counter retinoids is the CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum,” explains Dr. Mian. “Retinoids help to make our skin cells less sticky to prevent comedone formation.”

While this pick does a great job of clearing pores and smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles, it can be irritating to some. If you are new to retinoids, we recommend using this product a few times a week per night, then switching to every other night (or nightly) once your skin adjusts to the retinoid.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Only a few dots needed per application, wait 10 minutes before applying next layer

Best overall blackhead remover

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment

Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, glycolic acid, niacinamide | Size: 1 oz. | Best for: Acne-prone skin, oily skin, combination skin, acne scars, exfoliation, refining pores

One of the best ingredients that works to clear pores and fight blackheads is salicylic acid. The star ingredient in this La Roche-Posay pick, salicylic acid has been proven to get deep into the pores and prevent acne from forming.

Dr. Mian recommends the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment to her patients because it’s effective, non-drying and can be used on problem areas or the whole face. “Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that is a bit larger in structure,” explains Mian. “These chemical exfoliants help to clear dead skin cells and debris at the surface of our pores, preventing further blackhead formation.”

We love that this product is widely available at most drugstores nationwide. That being said, it’s definitely on the pricier side at $40 per bottle (at time of publish).

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Users recommend applying moisturizer and sunscreen afterward, some report skin purging in the beginning

Best skin care product for nose blackheads

Bioré Original Blackhead Remover Strips

Key ingredients: Glycerin, polymer | Size: 14 strips | Best for: Deep cleansing, normal skin

We can't talk about blackhead removers without including pore strips. This pick from Bioré works deep in the skin to unclog pores and physically remove blackheads at the root. Ostad recommends Bioré's Original Blackhead Remover Strips to his patients because they are gentle yet effective in removing blackheads from your nose area.

Some folks are not huge fans of blackhead remover strips because they can be irritating. Always make sure that you are applying these strips to wet skin (and only on your nose). It’s advised to not use them on red acne blemishes, sunburns, super dry skin or skin prone to spider veins.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Those with sensitive skin report slight irritation, others advise to moisturize afterward

Best skin care product for deep blackheads

Charlotte Tilbury Super Radiance Resurfacing Facial Treatment

Key ingredients: AHA, BHA and PHA acid blend; polyglutamic acid | Size: 0.12 oz. | Best for: Dark spots, fine lines, wrinkles, pores

Deep blackheads call for some extra heavy lifting. This pick from Charlotte Tilbury features multiple ingredients to help get deep into the pores and remove blackheads at the root. Dr. Jeannette Graf, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, recommends this pick to her patients.

“This is a potent mask that resurfaces the skin, leaving it clearer and radiant,” Graf explains. “Formulated with 15% AHA, BHA, PHA and other exfoliators, this facial will get deep into pores and purify them of sebum, oil and dead skin cells that lead to blackheads.”

The formula features star-studded ingredients to help keep skin clear, but it definitely comes at a price — this treatment is $70 per tube (at time of publish). But, it’s a luxury skin care item that delivers, according to reviews.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Reviewers say it leaves skin soft after use, users more experienced with acids say this is milder than other products

Best blackhead remover for sensitive skin

Sofie Pavitt Face Mandelic Clearing Serum

Key ingredients: Mandelic acid, hyaluronic acid, panthenol | Size: 1 oz. | Best for: Acne-prone skin, dry skin, discoloration, fine lines

Celebrity esthetician Sofie Pavitt created this serum, which targets acne and is formulated specifically for sensitive skin. The Sofie Pavitt Face Mandelic Clearing Serum features mandelic acid, which is a gentler alpha hydroxy acid and penetrates into the skin more slowly than other more aggressive acids. Because of this, it’s ideal for folks with sensitive skin who have blackheads and acne but can’t tolerate most acids.

Mandelic acid is the star ingredient in this formula, but it also features hydrating hyaluronic acid and soothing panthenol to address dryness and redness.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Users say this serum is particularly effective for hormonal acne

Best exfoliant for blackheads

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, BHA, green tea | Size: 4 oz. | Best for: All skin types, exfoliating

The Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is the brand’s bestselling product, and for good reason — it really works. This formula is beloved by many customers and dermatologists for its stellar ingredient list, including 2% salicylic acid, antioxidant-rich green tea and hydrating methylpropanediol.

Both Ostad and Mian recommend this pick from Paula’s Choice for their patients with blackheads. “It is gentle yet effective in removing blackheads and contains ingredients like salicylic acid to penetrate deep into the pores,” explains Ostad.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Users say it takes a while to dry on the skin, others say smell is slightly unpleasant

Best face wash for managing blackheads

IMAGE Skincare CLEAR CELL Salicylic Gel Cleanser

Key ingredients: Salicylic acid | Size: 6 oz. | Best for: Acne-prone skin, exfoliating

If you want to prevent blackheads from forming in the first place, look for a cleanser that contains salicylic acid. Graf loves recommending the Image Skincare Clear Cell Salicylic Gel Cleanser to her patients.

“For a cleanser option, I like this product because it includes 2% salicylic acid, which is a hero ingredient for fighting blackheads,” Graf explains. “It gently exfoliates pores, leaving the skin clear and glowing.”

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Users say it can be drying, helpful for hormonal acne

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Graf had a prior partnership with IMAGE Skincare that ended in December 2022. She does not have a current affiliation with them, and this product recommendation is from a different IMAGE line that is unrelated to that former partnership.

Best mask for removing blackheads

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare DRx Blemish Solutions Clarifying Mask

Key ingredients: Colloidal sulfur | Size: 1 oz. | Best for: Acne-prone skin, oil control

The Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare DRx Blemish Solutions Clarifying Mask is a great product to help folks with acne maintain their glow and clear their pores. Mian recommends this pick to her patients as a great mask to use weekly.

“Clarifying face masks can be very helpful in removing blackheads,” explains Mian. “I like Dennis Gross Blemish Solutions Clarifying Mask, as it has anti-inflammatory colloidal sulfur, as well as acne-fighting ingredients (like bentonite and kaolin clay).”

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Some report a strong sulfuric smell, also works well as a spot treatment

Best pimple patch for removing blackheads

Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Nose

Key ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Size: 10 patches | Best for: Nose blackheads

Applying a pimple patch to your blackheads is a gentler approach to treating this type of acne.

“Pimple patches are one of my favorite tools for blackheads — picking at a blackhead to extract it is not good, as it causes more inflammation, scarring and discoloration,” says Mian. “Applying a pimple patch over your zit will not only prevent you from picking at it, but will pull the impurities out gently, allowing it to heal.”

We love this pick from Hero Cosmetics because it’s a perfect fit for your nose. Plus, they have a bunch of various sizes and shapes that you can choose from to apply to whichever area of your face you experience blackheads the most.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Some users say it's a little bit tricky to attach to the nostril area

Best facial scrub for removing blackheads

Tula So Poreless Deep Exfoliating Scrub

Key ingredients: Probiotics, volcanic sand, witch hazel | Size: 2.89 oz. | Best for: Exfoliating pores

The Tula So Poreless Deep Exfoliating Scrub is a great addition to your blackhead-fighting lineup because it uses both chemical and physical exfoliation to clear pores and gently slough off dead skin. Thanks to ingredients like probiotic extracts, volcanic sand and witch hazel, this formula will smooth, exfoliate and purify — and it'll minimize the appearance of large pores, too.

It’s not advised to use a face scrub everyday; you can use this pick in your skincare routine about two to three times per week to remove blackheads and keep skin clear.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Users say this is not very harsh on skin; however, they also say the bottle is a bit small for the price

Questions about blackheads, answered by experts

Why are there so many blackheads on my nose?

Blackheads are most common in the T-zone because that’s where we produce the most oil.

“The nose in particular contains more oil glands than most of the other parts of our face and body,” explains Graf. “The production of oil and sebum, which in turn clogs pores, leads to the development of blackheads.”

How do I close my pores after the removal of blackheads?

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t open or close your pores.

“After extractions — which I recommend having done by a professional who can do so gently without damaging your skin — the best way to prevent the formation of new blackheads is to help keep your pores clean by using products containing salicylic acid to diminish buildup of sebum,” says Graf. “The best way to keep pores clean after extractions is with an exfoliating acid.”

Graf recommends using a toner, serum or mask that includes actives like lactic, glycolic and salicylic acids to keep pores clean.

What happens if I don’t remove my blackheads?

If you don’t remove blackheads, they can become very deep, which will become more difficult and painful to remove down the road.

“They can also develop into cystic pimples that are painful, red, inflamed and pus-filled if they are not treated,” warns Graf.

Meet our experts

  • Dr. Jeannette Graf, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She is also a product developer with her own skin care line.
  • Dr. Kiran Mian, DO, FAAD, is a board-certified medical and aesthetic dermatologist in New York City. She takes a holistic approach and practices boutique-style medicine from a multispecialty clinic in Manhattan.
  • Dr. Ariel Ostad, MD, is a triple-board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon based in New York City. He specializes in Mohs surgery, skin renewal and repair, and more.