Blackheads are among the most stubborn, but also the most common of acne issues. While blackheads can be a nuisance, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes that these are relatively easy to treat.
The key to treating blackheads is time and patience. When over-the-counter products fail to produce results, or if they dry out our skin, you may be tempted to move on to another treatment measure.
Home remedies like baking soda are increasing in popularity as a method of getting rid of blackheads more “naturally.” Still, there are significant concerns about using baking soda on your skin — especially your face.
Why you shouldn’t use baking soda
Baking soda is promoted by numerous online entities as a “natural” way to get rid of blackheads. In theory, baking soda can indeed have a drying effect. Proponents back this treatment measure because of baking soda’s potential ability to dry out clogged pores.
The problem with applying baking soda to your skin is that it can dry out the rest of your skin, too.
Some users may even experience contact dermatitis, a type of eczema caused by adverse reactions to substances and chemicals that encounter the skin. This may lead to redness, rashes, and itchiness.
The bottom line is that baking soda could do potentially more harm than good for your skin. It isn’t worth using the substance on your face for any reason.
What to use instead
Baking soda does little to remove the material that clogs your pores and lead to blackheads. Oftentimes, we forget what blackheads are made of: dead skin and sebum (oil). You can find a more appropriate treatment method by keeping these components in mind.
The treatment and prevention of future blackheads should include a method to get rid of the dead skin cells that are clogging your pores while also eliminating excess oil.
Consider some of the following treatment measures you can use instead of harsh baking soda.
Salicylic acid or BHAs
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), which is perhaps best-known for its ability to fight noninflammatory acne (aka blackheads and whiteheads). The acid works by removing dead skin cells and effectively drying up oils that are trapped in hair follicles.
At it helps treat blackheads, salicylic acid can also improve overall skin texture. It may even help calm inflammation in more severe cases of acne.
BHAs like salicylic acid are less irritating than alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid. The latter is primarily used for anti-aging concerns and can make your skin more sensitive to damage from the sun.
Salicylic acid is widely available, primarily in over-the-counter (OTC) products. You can find daily cleansers, toners, and moisturizers infused with the acid. It’s also found in acne spot treatments and certain exfoliating masks. Prescription and dermatologic forms are also available.
No matter which form you choose, it’s best to start small and gradually work your way up to multiple applications or higher concentrations of salicylic acid as needed.
The drying effects can sometimes cause unwanted redness and irritation, so start with 0.5 percent first. You shouldn’t exceed a 5 percent concentration. Also, choose one type of salicylic acid-containing product at a time — doubling up on this ingredient can increase your risk for side effects.
Citric acid is both a BHA and an AHA. Made from citrus fruit extracts, the acid is used in cosmetics to neutralize your skin’s natural ph. It can also work deep in the pores to dry out oil and dead skin cells.
When used on a regular basis, citric acid can eliminate clogged pores and make your skin smoother. It works particularly well in toners and serums that you apply before your daily moisturizer.
While some drugstore products have citric acid in them, this ingredient is more common in higher-end beauty brands. You might consider spending just a bit more on your blackhead treatment if salicylic acid doesn’t quite do the trick.
Deep-cleansing masks are a staple for anyone prone to blackheads. These types of masks work particularly well for combination and oily skin types.
With the multitude of face masks available on the market though, it’s easy to get lost when trying to find one that works best for blackheads. Start with those that contain clay, mud, or charcoal. These help to dry out surface oils while drawing out impurities stuck in your pores.
You can find these types of masks at a drug store or beauty counter, and many spas offer them, too. It may require a process of trial-and-error before you find the one that works best for you.
No matter which selection you choose, you want to limit your masks to three times per week. Any more than this can dry out your skin.
Oil cleansing method
While this may sound like an oxymoron, oil cleansing has proven helpful for all skin types — even oily, blackhead-prone skin.
The process works by applying a cleansing oil to your skin and massaging away any excess oil, makeup, and dirt. After you use the cleansing oil, the theory is that your daily cleanser can then work more effectively in your pores.
Still, not all cleansing oils are created equal. Some work best for dry to normal skin with added moisturizers. Others are more diverse. Cleansing oils are widely available on the market and at different price points.
If you’re prone to blackheads, then you could benefit from a small amount of daily gentle exfoliation.
This isn’t the same as a daily mask or microdermabrasion, which you should not do every day. Instead, investigate the benefits of micro-exfoliation. Such products consist of smaller exfoliants that are designed to lift away dead skin cells on the surface before they get trapped in your pores.
You can think of this method as a preventive measure against future blackhead development.
Avoid baking soda
Baking soda, in theory, might dry out your blackheads. The problem is that baking soda can dry out the rest of your skin, too.
This makes you vulnerable to even more breakouts because your pores are working overtime to produce even more oil to alleviate the dryness.
Baking soda just isn’t designed for use on your face.
Still, it can be disheartening if you have blackheads despite trying everything you can.
If that’s your experience, it may be best to see a dermatologist. They might recommend prescription treatments or even recommend in-house procedures to get rid of your blackheads once and for all.