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Can You Pop Blackheads? How to Treat & Prevent Them

For many with acne-prone skin, blackheads are all too familiar. These pesky blemishes can feel impossible to get rid of, and the urge to pop them is understandable. But is it safe? Here are the best treatment and prevention options to banish blackheads for good. 

Understanding Blackheads

A blackhead (also known as an open comedone) is a mild, non-inflammatory form of acne. It’s characterized by a slightly raised bump that has a gray or black color at the head. Despite popular belief, this color doesn’t come from dirt. Rather, the debris in the pore is exposed to oxygen, which causes oxidation, resulting in the darker color. 

Can You Pop Blackheads?

The short answer: yes, you can pop blackheads. That said, in order to minimize irritation and reduce the risk of scarring and discoloration, you need to take an extremely gentle approach.

Popping your blackheads with your fingers isn’t recommended, as it can be harsh on the skin. Instead, you’ll want to use a comedone extractor – a tool designed to push debris out of the pores to eliminate blackheads. However, it’s crucial that you are gentle with the tool, as it still has the potential to cause damage to the skin. 

Safe Popping Techniques

If you decide to use a comedone extractor to pop your blackheads, there are a few steps you should take to ensure you are being as safe as possible. 

Prior to starting, be sure you sanitize your tool and wash your hands and face. This will help you avoid spreading any pore-clogging bacteria or debris to the skin.

After cleansing, steam your face with a steamer or in the shower. Doing so will soften the debris in the pores, which will make the extraction process much easier. 

Next, go in with your extractor. Place the loop around the blackhead, and gently press down on one side. Slowly roll it to the other side, being sure not to apply too much pressure. If you’re treating multiple blackheads, sterilize the tool between each extraction. Once you’re done, you can swipe a cotton ball saturated in a gentle toner on the skin to remove any debris. 

One final tip: if it’s not budging, don’t push it. Some blackheads are too deep and can’t be extracted with a comedone extractor. If you push too hard, you run the risk of causing damage to the skin.  

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Alternative Treatment Options

Rather than popping your blackheads, you may want to consider treating these blemishes with topical solutions. Benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and topical retinoids are all excellent ingredients for treating blackheads and other forms of acne. 

These ingredients come with much less of a risk of damaging the skin, and may be all you need to banish blackheads for good. Note that they can be drying, so it’s a good idea to add a gentle hydrating serum (like the  Hyaluronic Pure Boost Serum) to your routine to counteract any dryness. 

If you have stubborn blackheads that aren’t responding to treatments, consider meeting with a dermatologist. They can establish a treatment plan that will work best for your skin’s needs. 

Preventative Measures

To maintain a clear, blackhead-free complexion, consider implementing these preventative steps into your skincare routine:

  • Cleanse twice a day to remove pore-clogging debris from the skin. Consider using a benzoyl peroxide face wash at least once a day, as it will help kill acne-causing bacteria. 
  • Double cleanse after wearing sunscreen or makeup. This will ensure there isn’t any pore-clogging debris left on the skin after cleansing. 
  • Add salicylic acid and/or a topical retinoid to your routine. With consistent use, these ingredients help keep the pores clear to prevent breakouts.  
  • Use a clay or charcoal-based face mask once a week. These ingredients draw impurities out of the pores, helping to prevent blackheads and other forms of acne.