Skin Experts Say These Face Washes Will Help Purge Your Face of Blackheads


(Image credit: @skinbycare)

But first, a little bit of blackhead 101. (Because yes, those tiny stubborn spots are actually very misunderstood!) Although an automatic assumption is that the sprinkling of black dots around our complexion is the visual proof of trapped dirt within our pores, that's only partly accurate. According to celebrity esthetician Melanie Grant (who regularly works with Victoria Beckham), blackheads are caused when the opening of a hair follicle becomes clogged with sebum, dead skin cells, and other debris. Said trapped debris becomes oxidized by air, thus creating that dark, namesake appearance.

Another important thing to address? While there is a slew of strategic products, rituals, and treatments you can enhance your regimen with in order to decrease and prevent blackheads—like high-quality cleansers—the only way to truly expunge blackheads is to book an in-office appointment for professional extractions. "Typically with blackheads, they would need to be extracted," celebrity esthetician Shani Darden tells us. "However, there are a few ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, and retinol that can help to decrease and prevent them."

As the ultimate blackhead prevention prescription, our experts agreed using a chemical cleanser consisting of pore-purging acids (think glycolic, lactic, salicylic, etc.) three to four times a week is your best bet.

"I recommend incorporating a salicylic acid–based cleanser or serum to deep-clean the pores and reduce inflammation," continues Grant. "Formulas with BHAs are best as they penetrate deep into the pore, cutting through oil and liquifying the sebum. Avoid heavy, occlusive creams and oils, and add a clay or charcoal-based masque two or three times per week to draw out impurities and mop up excess oil." As a note, salicylic acid is the most commonly used BHA within the beauty industry, and since it's oil-soluble, it's an especially fantastic antidote for clogged pores.

Additionally, if you're really oily or tend to wear a lot of makeup, Grant recommends opting for a double cleanse using a gentle, acid-based cleanser. (Avoid harsh scrubs, please!) The first cleanse will remove the top layer of makeup, dirt, and surface debris, while the second will be more efficiently able to deep-clean your pores by removing oil, dirt, pollution, and dead skin cells.

What Are the Best Face Washes for Blackheads?


(Image credit: Melanie Grant)

We'll start you off with a list of expert- and editor-approved face washes to help treat and prevent blackheads, but as a general rule of thumb, look for lightweight, water-based formulations enhanced with strategic ingredients like the aforementioned salicylic acid, AHAs (like glycolic and lactic acids), and retinol. 

On the other side of the foot, be sure to avoid comedogenic products which can clog your pores and spike your chance for breakouts and congestion. Also, make sure you're only using your exfoliating cleansers a few times a week and you're choosing well-balanced, gentle, non-irritating options like the below. If you're choosing overly aggressive formulas or using them too often, you can actually strip your skin, compromise your skin barrier and pH, and surge oil production.

"Overall, it’s really important to make sure you’re using a cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin," Darden warns. "This can lead to an overproduction of oil, which can then lead to more blackheads. Also, beware of cleansers with alcohol, as those can overdry the skin."

1. Senté Exfoliating Cleanser

2. iS Clinical Cleansing Complex

3. Shani Darden Cleansing Serum

4. Cosmedix Clarify Salicylic Acid Foaming Cleanser

5. Renée Rouleau AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser

6. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Cleanser

7. Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser

8. SkinMedica Exfoliating Cleanser

9. DermaDoctor Ain't Misbehavin' Medicated AHA/BHA Acne Cleanser

10. Dr. Barbara Sturm Enzyme Cleanser

What Are the Best Products for Blackheads?


(Image credit: @shanidarden)

In addition to an acid-based face wash, our experts shared a few other key practices and products essential for preventing and treating blackheads. Godsick cites regular facials for extractions and in-office treatments like Dermal-Infusion, which basically uses vacuum pressure to suck up dirt and oil from your pores.

Alongside (or in place of) any in-office treatments, Darden recommends experimenting with retinol, gentle at-home peels, and/or a high-quality active serum a few times a week to keep blackheads at bay, pores clear, and skin radiant and glowing. See below for her specific product picks. 

The Holy-Grail Retinol

The Holy-Grail Peel Pads

The Holy-Grail Serum

Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.