Do you find yourself scrutinizing those tiny black dots on your nose in the mirror? You're not alone. Blackheads, those slightly raised, dark-colored spots, are a mild form of acne that many people struggle with. Fortunately, there are effective ways to help get rid of blackheads on your nose, as well as tips to help prevent their return.
Understanding that blackheads are clogged pores filled with sebum and dead skin cells is essential for effective treatment and prevention.
There are effective at-home remedies to help remove blackheads, such as regularly cleansing, choosing the right ingredients, and gentle exfoliation.
While treating blackheads at home, avoid common mistakes such as manually extracting yourself, using too many active products, and overusing pore strips.
Professional treatments, such as facials with extractions and exfoliating treatments, are extremely beneficial and can be tailored to individual skin types.
Consistent skincare habits, tailored to your skin's needs, play a crucial role in preventing the formation of blackheads.
Do you have blackheads on your nose?
If you’ve ever examined your skin closely in the mirror, especially on your nose, you may have noticed tiny black dots scattered across the surface.
These painless, slightly raised, dark-colored spots are known as blackheads.
Blackheads, a type of mild acne, are one of the most common — and, unfortunately, stubborn — skin conditions worldwide. The good news? If blackheads are a concern for you, there are effective ways to help treat them and prevent new ones from forming.
In order to successfully treat blackheads, you first need to know what they are and what causes them.
What are blackheads?
Blackheads appear when the pore attached to your hair follicle becomes clogged, forming a visible dark-colored plug.
The medical term for blackheads is open comedones. Comedones are the scientific term for the start of a pimple. When the pores of the pimple stay open, they are called open comedones or blackheads. On the other hand, when the pores stay closed, they are called closed comedones or whiteheads.
Why are they called blackheads?
Did you know the reason why blackheads are dark in color is not due to dirt, which is a common misconception?
When the contents inside the pore are exposed to air from the open surface, the mixture oxidizes and turns a darker color.
The dark contents inside blackheads are mainly a mixture of your skin’s natural oil (sebum) and dead skin cells, as well as everyday impurities like dirt, pollution, bacteria, topical products, and makeup residue. This mixture combines to form a plug and clogs the pore.
Unlike closed comedones, which are inflamed, often painful pimples, blackheads are not inflamed and are painless. Their open surface allows you to see the dark contents inside, hence the term 'open.' The black or dark gray color of these contents, which is visible due to their open surface, is what gives blackheads their name.
What causes blackheads?
What causes the pores to clog and form a visible blackhead?
Every hair follicle on your skin is attached to a small pore, allowing the individual hair to grow out. Inside each pore is a sebaceous gland that produces your skin's natural oil, known as sebum. Sebum keeps your skin hydrated, soft, and healthy, and it reaches the skin's surface by exiting through the open pores.
However, an issue can arise when too much sebum is produced in the pores. This excess sebum, when combined with dead skin cells and other impurities, can clog the pores and create a plug — a perfect recipe for a blackhead.
Where do blackheads occur?
Blackheads can form on any part of the body but are most often seen in areas that naturally produce more oil, such as the face, back, and shoulders. Due to its high oil production, the nose is one of the most common areas for blackheads to emerge.
What can make blackheads worse?
Certain factors can increase the risk of blackhead formation.
Naturally oily skin
People with naturally oily skin tend to be more susceptible to blackheads because the excess oil can easily clog their pores. Hormonal changes that increase natural oil production, such as those during puberty, menstrual cycles, or as a result of hormonal birth control, can also increase the risk of developing blackheads.
A buildup of dead skin cells
If dead skin cells accumulate on the skin, they can block the pore's opening, trapping the oil inside and mixing with the sebum. This mixture forms the plug that is characteristic of blackheads. Regular exfoliation and cleansing help prevent the buildup of dead skin.
Not regularly cleansing
Not regularly cleansing skin, especially at the end of each day, can allow sebum, dead skin cells, and everyday impurities to accumulate, leading to clogged pores and blackheads.
Unprotected sun exposure
Going out in the sun without sunscreen or protection can damage skin and enlarge pores. The sun's UV rays break down collagen and elastin, the structures that keep skin firm, causing pores to widen. Larger pores are more likely to become clogged with oil and dead skin, increasing the chance of developing blackheads.
How to get rid of blackheads on your nose
There are effective at-home remedies and professional treatments available to help remove blackheads from your nose. Although blackheads can be difficult to treat, consistency and patience are key to achieving clearer skin.
To successfully tackle blackheads on your nose, start by adopting these beneficial habits in your at-home skincare routine:
1. Regularly cleanse your skin
Cleansing your face on a regular basis is the first step in treating blackheads. Cleansing helps remove excess sebum, dead skin cells, and everyday grime, such as dirt, pollution, makeup, and topical skincare product residue, all contributing to blackhead formation.
Start by cleansing twice a day, morning and evening. You should also cleanse after activities that make you sweat, such as a sweaty workout.
Even though cleansing is important, make sure not to over-cleanse the skin, as this can dry out your skin and force it to produce more oil, worsening your blackhead situation. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you can rinse your skin with plain water in the morning instead of using a cleanser to help avoid drying out your skin.
Look for a cleanser designed for oily skin, and avoid cream-based cleansers, which may clog pores. You may also consider using a cleanser with salicylic acid, which can help to loosen and clear the mixture in the clogged pores.
2. Incorporate salicylic acid into your routine
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that exfoliates the skin and is known for its ability to penetrate and unclog pores. It does this by breaking down the contents in your pores that cause blackheads, helping to remove and prevent them.
You can find salicylic acid in many different skincare products, such as cleansers, serums, toners, and face pads. To minimize irritation, start with a lower concentration and gradually introduce the product into your skincare routine. Remember to always perform a patch test on your skin before using new products.
Do not use salicylic acid products if you are allergic to aspirin. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your healthcare provider before using products containing salicylic acid. If irritation occurs, stop use and seek advice from a dermatologist.
3. Use a topical retinoid product
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives and include retinol, retinal, adapalene, and the prescription-only tretinoin. Retinoids help fight against blackheads in two ways:
- Decrease the accumulation of dead skin cells by speeding up the shedding of skin cells.
- Decrease the skin's natural oil production, both of which contribute to blackheads.
Start with gentler, over-the-counter forms like retinol or retinal. Retinoids can be irritating to your skin until your skin adapts to them, so to reduce the risk of irritation, make sure to start with lower strengths and introduce them slowly. Always perform a patch test on your skin before using new products.
Consult your healthcare provider. Retinoids can also increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun when first introduced to your skin, so sunscreen is a must.
4. Only use non-clogging topical products
Choosing the right products that won't clog your pores is vital when dealing with blackheads. This includes choosing the right sunscreen, skincare products, makeup, and anything else you apply to your skin.
Many of the ingredients found in these products can be comedogenic or pore-clogging. This includes certain natural oils like mineral oil and coconut oil, as well as other ingredients such as cocoa butter.
To avoid the risk of pore-clogging products, look for products labeled 'oil-free,' 'non-comedogenic,' or 'non-pore-clogging.' This means these products have been formulated to prevent pore clogging and are less likely to contribute to blackhead formation.
However, it's important to remember that everyone's skin is unique, and what doesn't clog pores for one person may not be true for another. Make sure to always monitor your skin's response when trying new products.
5. Include gentle exfoliation into your routine
Gentle exfoliation can help combat blackheads by sloughing away dead skin cells and impurities that contribute to clogging.
Chemical exfoliants. Include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic and lactic acids and the gentler mandelic acid for sensitive skin types. These acids can be found in cleansers, serums, toners, and pads.
To minimize irritation, start with a lower concentration and always perform a patch test on your skin before using new products.
Physical exfoliants. Products with tiny beads or particles, or gentle physical scrubbing devices can also be effective if used with a light touch. The key is to use these products in moderation because over-exfoliation can irritate your skin.
Exfoliating once a week is a good place to start; however, the frequency of use will depend on the specific product used, your skin's sensitivity, and your skin's needs. Always follow the product's specific instructions and pay attention to how your skin responds, adjusting the frequency as needed.
6. Use a clay or charcoal mask on your nose
Using masks formulated with clay or charcoal can be a helpful way to reduce blackheads. These ingredients are able to absorb excess oil and draw out impurities inside your pores.
These masks can be especially beneficial for oily skin types. However, since they can remove moisture from the skin along with the oil, they might not be a good option if you have dry skin.
Make sure to hydrate the skin afterward with a moisturizer suitable for oily skin.
Common mistakes to avoid when treating blackheads
When treating blackheads at home, it's important to avoid these common mistakes:
- Avoid picking, squeezing, and manually extracting. While it's tempting to extract blackheads manually, this can cause scarring and pigmentation due to skin injury and can lead to more serious issues like ruptured follicles and cysts.
- Don't overload your skin with too many active products. Introducing too many active ingredients at once can overwhelm and irritate your skin. Start with one new product at a time and observe how your skin responds.
- Use pore strips cautiously and sparingly. While they can remove some debris found in blackheads, they can also remove important elements of your skin's protective barrier, leading to irritation.
- Choose salicylic acid over benzoyl peroxide. While benzoyl peroxide is effective at treating acne, it is more effective on inflamed, closed comedones and less effective on blackheads or open comedones. Salicylic acid is a better option for treating blackheads.
- Be cautious of self-tanning products. Self-tanners can darken blackheads and make them more noticeable.
- Avoid at-home suction devices. These devices can damage the skin and cause visible broken blood vessels, especially around the nose.
Professional treatment to remove blackheads
If you have trouble getting rid of blackheads on your own, you may want to consider professional treatments to help remove them.
Regular professional facials with extractions can be extremely beneficial. A trained skin care professional properly prepares the skin and carefully extracts the blackheads, minimizing the risk of scarring and discoloration.
Chemical peels using exfoliating acids and other professional exfoliating treatments, such as dermaplaning, microdermabrasion, and hydradermabrasion devices, provide a deeper exfoliation. These treatments effectively remove dead skin cells and help to remove the stubborn, clogged plugs that form blackheads.
Certain types of lasers and light therapies, performed by qualified professionals, may help reduce oil production and improve skin texture, which may contribute to fewer blackheads over time.
Consulting with a skincare professional or a dermatologist can help you decide which treatment best suits your skin's unique needs.
Tips on preventing blackheads
Preventing blackheads is just as important as treating them. Incorporating the following practices into your routine can keep your skin clear:
- Select the right skincare products and makeup. Using non-comedogenic and oil-free products can prevent pore-clogging.
- Regularly cleanse your face. Washing your face twice daily will help prevent blackhead formation.
- Use products with salicylic acid. Using products with salicylic acid not only helps to treat current blackheads but can also help keep pores clear and prevent future ones from forming.
- Do not sleep in your makeup. Always wash off your makeup at the end of the day to prevent the residue from clogging your pores.
- Avoid touching your face. Touching your face can transfer oils and dirt, leading to clogged pores.
- Regularly wash your pillowcases and sheets. Regularly clean anything that comes into contact with your face to reduce the transfer of oils and dead skin cells, which can clog your pores.
- Keep a regular skincare routine. Consistent skincare habits are key to preventing blackheads from forming.
- Get professional treatments. Regular facials and other professional treatments can help prevent blackheads from forming.
While blackheads on the nose are a common frustration for many, they can be managed with the right approach. Daily cleansing, selecting appropriate skincare products and ingredients, and gentle exfoliation are all part of a successful regimen.
The key to treating blackheads is patience, consistency, and finding what works best for your skin type. Not everyone will respond successfully to the same treatment — everyone’s skin and underlying causes are different.
- Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris.
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Acne.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Beta Hydroxy Acids.
- American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 50 Years of Topical Retinoids for Acne: Evolution of Treatment.