Looking for natural blackhead remedies can feel like a digital odyssey, but as the oracles of this skin story, we promise your journey stops here. No more misinformation or misleading ideas about what works, especially when it comes to the “natural” stuff.
Because the truth is, and we realize the truth about beauty isn’t always fun, at-home remedies aren’t always safe. Much like a siren call, it lures you and then you find your skin crashing.
In fact, most dermatologists aren’t enthusiastic about recommending DIY methods because research is limited and often the risks aren’t worth the reward. That’s right, baking soda on your face? Unsafe.
What is a blackhead?
A blackhead isn’t actually dirt in your pores. It’s a pore that’s been clogged by sebum, a type of oil that naturally occurs in your skin. Because the pore has been stretched open — versus a whitehead, in which the pore is closed — the sebum is exposed to air, causing it to turn a dark color. Hence, blackhead.
The goal with these remedies will be to remove that oil, sans skin damage.
But there may be home methods worth a shot, especially if your wallet is tight and your esteem is in need of much facial soothing. We scoured the research and checked in with some experts to see what natural remedies pose the least minimal risk.
That being said, it’s extra important to do a patch test (dab the solution on your wrist before putting it on your face and wait at least 24 hours to see if there’s a reaction).
Since these methods haven’t been studied extensively, what works for someone on Reddit may not be great for you. And what works great for you might not be great for someone else. As with most DIY remedies, it’s hard to predict how your skin will respond.
Did you know you can turn your drinkable green tea into a skin-healing paste? “Green tea is rich in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol that has been shown to improve acne and oily skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD.
EGCG is anti-androgenic, meaning it’s helpful for reducing sebum production. Reducing sebum can lead to a reduction in blackheads. It also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, she says.
Caren Campbell, a San Francisco based dermatologist, also suggests drinking green tea to improve the health of your skin. “Drinking three cups of spearmint tea (if not pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant) is a nice, natural way to improve acne,” she said.
“Spearmint tea helps to block androgen hormones, the hormones that drive the oil production that causes acne in the first place.”
How to make a green tea face mask
- Make a cup of green tea like as you would to drink it but let the tea bag steep for around an hour.
- Let the tea bag cool and then break it open to release the leaves.
- Put the leaves in a bowl and add 1 tbsp of honey. If the mixture is super thick, add a few drops of water.
- Apply the mixture in an even layer over your skin and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes
- Rinse off with warm water.
- Repeat once or twice a week until you start to see results.
Oil cleansing is a skin care method that uses noncomedogenic oils (oils that don’t clog pores) to melt and clear away the dirt and oil on skin.
It may seem counterintuitive to add oil to oily skin but some experts recommend it, as it’s safe and gentle for the skin barrier.
“Oil cleansers work on the principle of ‘like dissolves like,’” explains King. “So they can help remove excess oils from the surface of the skin. Because blackheads form when a pore becomes clogged with dead skin cells and oil, removing excess oil can be helpful.”
How to oil cleanse
- Drip 1 to 2 teaspoons of argan oil or jojoba into the palm of your hand.
- Use your fingertips to gently massage the oil on your face for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Use a warm, damp washcloth to lightly wipe away the oil, careful not to press too hard into the skin.
- Pat with a dry towel and apply moisturizer if you feel like you need it.
How long can you massage for?
If you’re able to stick to being gentle with your skin, you can massage up to 5 to 8 minutes.
- Oil cleanse to soften the pores.
- Apply a clay mask to draw the impurities to the surface.
- Then cleanse with oil again to dislodge the blackheads.
There are multiple ways to do it but we suggest using bentonite clay for the mask and jojoba for the oil.
“Bentonite clayis very absorbent and helpful for absorbing sebum,” says King. “Its abrasive properties can also be helpful for physical exfoliation, which can remove dead skin cells and keratin debris. The resulting decrease in sebum, dead skin cells and keratin debris can lead to a decrease in blackheads.”
Don’t mask every day
Since bentonite clay is drying, don’t use this method more than 2 to 3 times a week. You can oil cleanse for a minute every day to help encourage the blackheads to massage out, but don’t press too hard as that can damage capillaries.
Campbell adds that clay also has potential anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, which are good for skin. Despite this, she still recommends using a prescription from a dermatologist in lieu of this at-home solution.
While an acne prescription plus appointment fee can run pretty pricey (anywhere from $125 to $450, depending on insurance coverage), Campbell says you can buy AcneFree’s Adapalene Gel for under $10 on Amazon.
How to do skin gritting
- Clean your face with the oil cleansing method, for at least 1 minute.
- Apply a bentonite clay mask. You can make your own mask by buying the powder and adding water. Be careful not to add too much water or your mask won’t stick.
- Keep the mask on until it starts to dry and crack, then rinse it off.
- Massage oil into your skin again for 2 to 3 minutes. You should feel texture, or grits, under your fingertips. Supposedly, these grits are the dislodged blackheads.
Long before turmeric became a hip DIY mainstay, people in India and Indonesia were using it as a skin care ingredient.
Current research on its effectiveness as an acne treatment is positive, albeit limited. Though one study found certain extracts made from turmeric had anti-acne effects. Of course, just because something hasn’t been studied definitively or exhaustively doesn’t mean it won’t work.
If you’re down for an experiment, try making a turmeric face mask at home.
Keep in mind, though, turmeric can temporarily stain skin so we recommend using it 24 hours or more before an important event, or any event you don’t want an orange-ish face for.
How to make a turmeric face mask
- Mix 1 tablespoon honey with 1 teaspoon turmeric powder and a few drops of warm water (this will help melt the honey, if it’s solidified, and make it easier to spread).
- Mix into a thick paste and apply to your skin.
- Rinse with warm water after 10 to 15 minutes.
If you’re tired of using product after product, you might be interested in the simplicity of facial steaming. “The warmth of the steam will open pores and stimulate sebum excretion,” says King.
Beyond acne, bathing your face in steam has a bunch of other great perks. It hydrates and soothes the skin, and helps with circulation, which can promote collagen production.
Extract with caution
How to do facial steaming
If you’re feeling fancy, you can buy an at-home facial steamer. Or you can follow these DIY steps:
- Bring 4 to 6 cups of water to boil in a large pot. (For aromatherapy, throw in some fresh herbs or blend of dried herbs and let the water simmer for a couple minutes.)
- Pour the water into a bowl and set the bowl on a table or counter.
- Bending over the bowl, use a towel to make a little fort for your head and the steaming bowl. Leave a good 6 to 8 inches between your face and the hot water (the steam can be super hot!).
- Lift the towel periodically if it gets too muggy in there.
- Continue for 5 to 10 minutes.
It makes total sense to be wary of the products you put on your skin. You want something that’s gentle and safe, and doesn’t require opening 25 tabs just to know exactly what’s in it.
But the thing about using direct-from-plant ingredients on your skin is that plants aim to grow with the purpose of their survival. The lemon tree doesn’t spend any time in a lab figuring out what’s best for human skin, after all.
Campbell’s take is simple: with so many cheap, safe, and effective acne treatments, why take the risk of experimenting with something that hasn’t been thoroughly tested?
With that in mind, we put together a list of commonly-suggested natural skin care solutions that you should definitely stay away from.
Lemon burns the skin
A suggestion commonly seen floating around the internet is to use lemon as a natural astringent to remove dead skin cells. Please don’t do this. Lemon is super acidic.
That acidity can disrupt your face’s natural pH, which is essential for maintaining clear, healthy skin. If you put lemon juice on your face for a long time, it could seriously impact your skin barrier, leading to easier sunburns and phytophotodermatitis.
Egg whites cause irritation
Egg whites — particularly in the form of an egg white mask — have been hailed as an all-natural blackhead peel. This is a big no-no as raw eggs can carry salmonella, which you don’t want anywhere near open cuts or your mouth.
Plus, there’s no known benefit for your skin or your blackheads.
“Egg whites can cause skin irritation,” said King, “particularly if left to dry with tissues for a homemade version of pore strips — this can dry hard enough to traumatize the skin when pulled off. Egg whites are also common allergens.”
Apple cider vinegar may cause rashes
ACV has almost a cult-like following and has been suggested as a cure for pretty much everything. Yes, including acne. Like with lemon juice, ACV’s acidity is just plain bad for your face’s pH and skin barrier.
Campbell adds that, used topically, it can cause rashes and itching.
Sugar scrubs are too harsh
While sugar may seem innocent enough, it’s too abrasive to use as an exfoliant. Sugar granules are too harsh for the skin, and can cause tears.
King also notes that sugar scrubs are not specifically comedolytic, meaning it won’t directly prevent acne.
Instead, Campbell recommends using a chemical exfoliator like glycolic or salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells.
Other popular trends to stay away from
- Urine. Please, please don’t put pee on your face.
- Glue. This is another no-no.
- Toothpaste. Leave toothpaste for your teeth. It can cause dryness and irritation for your skin.
Know that virtually everyone has blackheads and acne to some degree. Even though they look super, duper obvious when your face is an inch from the mirror, they’re likely not as glaringly noticeable as you think.
Unfortunately, there’s no fool-proof, at-home, all-natural remedy for blackheads. Everyone’s body and skin is different, and each person will have a different response to all of these ingredients.
A good rule to live by? Be gentle and check in with your dermatologist often, they’re your friend!
If your at-home treatments don’t seem to be working, Campbell says to get a retinoid from your doctor and to be patient. “Retinoids are the mainstay treatment [for blackheads].”
If going the retinoid route, she cautions they take around 6 weeks to start to work and they can dry out skin, especially when you first start to use them.
Dominique Michelle Astorino is a health and wellness writer who has authored more than 5,000 stories on the subject. You can follow her at @dommymichelle on Instagram and Twitter, where she shares her unending love for healthy living, travel, the beach, and her dog Stella.