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Blackheads aren’t pretty to look at, and some people have a significant number of them. Most people think these tiny black dots are a skin problem that only teenagers have, but adults get them too. Fortunately, there are effective treatments for this common skin condition.

What Causes Them?

Blackheads are essentially pores that are clogged with dead skin cells and sebum. Sebum is a sticky substance produced by sebaceous glands to help protect the skin from water loss and infection. They look black because the pore is open and exposed to air, allowing oxidation of melanin inside the hair follicle. This gives a blackhead its characteristic dark color.

Blackheads are common in people with oily skin. When oil-producing sebaceous glands produce too much sebum, the sebum mixes with dead skin cells and clogs pores causing blackheads to form. Hormones play a role in excessive sebum production. Blackheads are common in adolescents as they go through puberty and their hormone levels start to rise, but adults get them too.


Proper cleansing is a must to remove dead skin cells that clog pores and contribute to blackheads. There are many deep cleansing products which contain salicylic acid and glycolic acid. These ingredients called keratolytics help to loosen dead skin cells that plug up pores. Cleanse twice a day in the morning and evening to remove dirt, oil, excess sebum and dead skin cells.

After cleansing in the evening, apply a pore clarifying treatment. Look for a product that contains glycolic acid to gently remove excess skin cells that clog pores. It has the added benefit of improving skin texture and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. After using a glycolic acid treatment product, your skin will feel softer and smoother to the touch.

If your skin is oily or prone towards blackheads, avoid products that contain ingredients like mineral oil and petrolatum that clog pores and cause blackheads. Always read cosmetic labels carefully, and only use cosmetics that are oil-free and non-comedogenic.

Even if your skin is oily, it’s important to use a sunscreen to protect against sun damage that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. Choose one that’s oil-free and non-comedogenic to avoid pore blockage and breakouts. You'll also want to select a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB and is formulated to meet the needs of people with oily skin and skin prone towards blackheads. Use it every day to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

Other Treatments

A dermatologist can do a series of light chemical peels to treat blackheads. These peels contain some of the same keratolytics that are in Gly Derm Face Solution Plus 10, but they’re in higher concentrations. Another technique called microdermabrasion uses a wand to spray a sand-like material over the surface of the skin to remove dead skin cells. Some dermatologists and spas offer this procedure. Both of these treatments work well for treating clogged pores and blackheads, but they can be costly. Most people will get similar results over time using keratolytics at home.

Some dermatologists also prescribe retinoids in products like Retin-A to treat blackheads and keep new ones from forming. It works by increasing skin cell turnover so that dead skin cells are sloughed off and won’t clog pores. Unfortunately, many people have difficulty tolerating it due to the redness, flaking, peeling and skin irritation it causes.

The Bottom Line?

Blackheads are frustrating to deal with, but they can be treated with regular cleansing and by using products that slough off dead skin cells and remove excess sebum.

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