As a girl with oily skin, I’ve always struggled with blackheads. I spent most of my life thinking it was normal for an esthetician to spend over 30 minutes on extractions alone until I went to a facial appointment with my mom and she complained that her attendant didn’t really “prick” her face (I told her to consider herself lucky, lol). I have also incorporated ~acids~ into my routine around two years ago, but I still haven’t found the perfect combination of products that works for my skin.
To find out how to get rid of my blackheads, I sought professional advice from Dr. Miriam Adraneda of Adraneda Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, and here’s what I learned from her:
Before even thinking about how to deal with blackheads, it's important to know what they are and how they're formed. Blackheads (medically known as comedones) are tiny bumps in the skin that occur when dead skin and oil (a.k.a. sebum) accumulate in the openings of hair follicles. Considered a mild type of acne, comedones can lead to severe acne and scarring if left untreated so it’s best to consult early on.
Here are some factors that contribute to blackhead formation:
- Androgens, a group of hormones that stimulate the oil glands to produce more sebum, contributing to the clogging of pores.
- Certain drugs such as anti-TB medicines, steroids, and some oral contraceptive pills.
- Emotional stress, which can exacerbate acne.
- Occlusion and pressure on the skin, which are usually caused by leaning the face on the hands or wearing sports gear that clings to the skin (e.g., helmets). Acne caused by these factors is called Acne Mechanica, and it often occurs on the cheeks, chin, and forehead.
- Certain cosmetics and personal care items that can cause clogging of pores, such as makeup and hair care products.
Dr. Miriam advises to do the following to prevent blackheads: Avoid occlusion and pressure on the skin, check if your makeup products are non-comedogenic, eat healthily, and try to manage stress. If you’re already dealing with comedones and want to get rid of them ASAP, she recommends facials with extractions to physically remove the blackheads.
It also helps to use products with ingredients that exfoliate the skin to help minimize blackhead formation:
- Retinoids (or vitamin A derivatives), which include retinol and retinoic acid
- Alpha hydroxy acids (or AHAs) such as glycolic acid
- Beta hydroxy acids (or BHAs) like salicylic acid
A word of caution: You still have to be careful when applying these types of products because they may cause peeling, drying, or irritation when used inappropriately. Also, always use sunblock to avoid sunburn and skin irritation. It’s best to consult your dermatologist when incorporating acids into your routine to make sure you’re using them correctly.
Here, we list down some products that can help keep your complexion free of blackheads:
How to remove blackheads: The INKEY List Retinol
The INKEY List boasts a simple yet powerful retinol product made with one percent stable retinol, 0.5 percent granactive retinoid (which is slightly stronger than retinol), and squalene (a hydrating and soothing ingredient). Its slow-release formula improves skin clarity, tackles blemishes, and evens out the skin tone while minimizing irritation. This product promises to reveal brighter, smoother, and fresher-looking skin.
The INKEY List Retinol, P700, Sephora
How to remove blackheads: Pond’s Age Miracle Night Cream
Despite being marketed as an anti-aging product, the Pond’s Age Miracle Night Cream also helps enhance the overall radiance of the skin and boost cell renewal. It features Retinol-C Complex, which continuously releases retinoid actives to give the skin a youthful glow.
Pond’s Age Miracle Night Cream (50g), P732, Lazada
How to remove blackheads: Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil
Give your skin a good night’s sleep with the Luna Sleeping Night Oil from Sunday Riley! Made with trans-retinoic acid ester complex, this product reduces the appearance of large pores and fine lines while evening out the skin’s texture, hydrating the skin, and addressing other signs of premature aging. It also contains blue tansy and German chamomile essential oils to soothe the complexion.
Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil (15ml), P3,375, Sephora
ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS
How to remove blackheads: In Her Element Glow Job 5% Glycolic Gel Cream
In Her Element’s Glow Job Gel Cream is formulated with five percent glycolic acid for exfoliation, aloe vera for soothing, and a combination of shea butter, jojoba, oil, and sunflower oil for moisture.
In Her Element Glow Job 5% Glycolic Gel Cream, P775, In Her Element
How to remove blackheads: Pixi Glow Tonic
The list wouldn’t be complete without the cult-favorite Pixi Glow Tonic! Enriched with five percent glycolic acid, this toner deeply cleans the pores by getting rid of excess oil and impurities. It also contains aloe vera to soothe and hydrate the skin, as well as red ginseng to protect and energize the skin.
Pixi Glow Tonic (100ml), P1,050, Lazada
How to remove blackheads: Alpha-H Liquid Gold
A bestseller from Australian brand Alpha-H, Liquid Gold is a four-in-one product that works as a toner, exfoliator, serum, and moisturizer. Its low pH formula, which includes five percent glycolic acid, helps diminish wrinkles, pigmentation, and sun damage.
Alpha-H Liquid Gold (100ml), P2,600, Sephora
BETA HYDROXY ACIDS
How to remove blackheads: Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner
Packed with skin-loving ingredients like 0.5 percent salicylic acid and aloe barbadensis, the Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner preps the skin by reducing sebum, minimizing inflammation, moisturizing the skin, and dislodging buildup. It’s also super sulit because you already get 200ml of product for less than P1,000!
Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner, P900, BeautyMNL
How to remove blackheads: COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
If you’re looking for a product that helps prevent AND treat blackheads, try the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid from K-beauty fave COSRX. Made with natural BHA and betaine salicylate, this product melts blackheads while preventing oxidized sebum from turning into more blackheads.
COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, P900, BeautyMNL
How to remove blackheads: First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Blemish Patrol Pads
Formulated with salicylic acid, the Skin Rescue Blemish Patrol Pads from First Aid Beauty refines the pores and mattifies the complexion. While traditional over-the-counter acne treatments might irritate the skin, these pads contain willowbark to help soothe redness.
First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Blemish Patrol Pads, P1,642, Sephora
AHA + BHA
How to remove blackheads: Maxi-Peel Zero Micro-Exfoliant Fluid
Touted as the Best Chemical Exfoliant in the 2019 Cosmo Beauty Awards, the Maxi-Peel Zero Micro-Exfoliant Fluid is chock-full of skin vitamins and micro-exfoliants that gently cleanse and exfoliate the skin. It unclogs the pores with the help of BHA, evens out the skin tone with AHA, and protects and brightens the skin with vitamins B3, C, and E. We totally get why it’s a winner!
Maxi-Peel Zero Micro-Exfoliant Fluid, P75, Watsons
How to remove blackheads: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
With a combined 32 percent of AHA and BHA, The Ordinary’s Peeling Solution offers deeper exfoliation to help improve the skin’s texture and radiance, fight visible blemishes, and reduce the look of fine lines. The formula also includes Tasmanian pepperberry (which helps reduce irritation associated with acid use), hyaluronic acid (for comfort), vitamin B5 (to assist healing), and black carrot (an antioxidant). If you plan to give this potent product a try, make sure you’re an experienced user of acid exfoliants and that your skin isn’t sensitive.
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, P700, BeautyMNL
How to remove blackheads: Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask
If you’re on the lookout for a ~truly natural mask~, try Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask. It gently clarifies acne-prone skin with two percent white willow bark (a natural BHA), eight percent fruit enzymes (including papaya and pineapple, which are natural AHAs), and blue tansy oil (reduces the appearance of redness and soothes dry skin).
Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask, P3,090, Sephora
Follow Paulina on Instagram.