Exfoliating with baking soda
“Exfoliating is one of the only variables we do have control of when it comes to minimizing the appearance of blackheads,” Zalka noted. You can use cleansers, brushes and sponges to gently scrub away plugged pores, but chances are you already have a key element in your fridge.
“Baking soda is an ingredient that is often used in microdermabrasion, which, as a method of exfoliating, can aid in minimizing blackheads when done regularly.”
Mix baking soda with water to create a gentle scrubbing paste. Alternatively, you can use apple cider vinegar instead of water, because it has astringent and anti-bacterial properties and will similarly clear out pores.
2. Use clay masks
“I occasionally recommend facial masks for patients to use for deep cleaning that can in some circumstances help clean out pores, leaving them smoother looking,” said Zalka. “Like with microdermabrasion, it needs to be done on a regular basis for best results.”
Dr. Jennifer MacGregor of Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City echoed that.
“Abrasive pastes, powders and clay masks with kaolin gently exfoliate and help absorb existing oil, but it will accumulate again shortly after the product is used,” she noted.
3. Try pore strips
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Whether store-bought or homemade, “pore strips can provide immediate improvement of some types of plugged pores, but the blackheads will recur unless a proper skin care regime is followed routinely as a preventative measure,” noted Zalka.
4. Apply salicylic and/or glycolic acid
“The best way to break down oil in clogged pores is by using beta-hydroxy acids (like salicylic) or combination peels containing salicylic acid,” said MacGregor. “It is lipophilic (attracted to fat/oils) and concentrates at the surface of the pore to dissolve the plugs. Consistent use will prevent the blackheads before they form and help clear existing pores.”
Additionally, glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that’s derived from sugar cane, helps clear dead skin and debris on the surface.
5. Buy a retinoid product
This vitamin A derivative is “the absolute best way to clear clogged pores and prevent blackheads from forming,” said MacGregor.
“Prescription-strength formulations are the most effective, but there are several highly effective over-the-counter retinol formulations. These work on receptors in the skin to improve the way skin grows and sheds so that it is less likely to form acne. The outer skin layer evens out and gets thicker while the outer dead layer of keratin material sheds more efficiently. Sometimes there is noticeable peeling but after regular use three to seven times weekly for four to six weeks, the side effects lessen and the skin appears more radiant and clear.”
6. Get microdermabrasion
This professional method of exfoliation “can help a great deal,” said Zalka. “Your dermatologist can also provide chemical peel treatments and comedone extractions which are office-based procedures known to help improve skin texture and appearance.”