How to Clear Blackheads & Shrink Pores

Ban the word "blackhead" from your beauty book -- it's time to send them packing. Blackheads, or open comedones, appear when the sebum and dead skin cells in a clogged pore oxidize in air and turn dark. Perceptible in larger pores, open comedones can also widen small pores permanently. While pore size is genetically determined, the proper cleansing regimen can minimize their appearance and keep your skin smooth and blackhead-free.

Young woman looking at her reflection in a mirror. (Image: b-d-s/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Wash your face twice daily with a mild facial cleanser containing salicylic acid. Work the cleanser against damp skin in gentle circles, then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water. Pat dry with a soft washcloth.

Step 2

Dip a cotton ball in toner and gently sweep it across your face after washing to remove excess oil from your pores.

Step 3

Moisturize with an oil-free, water-based noncomedogenic product containing SPF 15 or higher to keep your skin hydrated and prevent sun damage.

Step 4

Treat your face with a pore-refining mask once each week. Rinse off the mask after the product's recommended wait period and pat your face dry with a soft washcloth.

Step 5

Pat a small amount of glycolic- or salicylic-acid exfoliant on your skin up to three times each week. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry.

Step 6

Consult a dermatologist for a retinoid prescription or select a gentler over-the-counter retinoid cream. Apply the cream 20 minutes after washing each night.

Step 7

Ask for a deep cleansing facial with comedone extraction from your dermatologist to get rid of stubborn, deep-set blackheads.

Step 8

Fill large pores with a silicone-based primer before applying foundation for a smooth, poreless surface.

Things You'll Need

  • Facial cleanser with salicylic acid

  • Soft washcloths

  • Pore-refining mask

  • Toner

  • Cotton balls

  • Oil-free facial moisturizer

  • Retinoid cream

  • Chemical exfoliant

  • Silicone-based makeup primer


Always wash your face after exercising.


Avoid harsh cleansers and soaps. Do not cleanse more than necessary, or your skin may overproduce oil.

Avoid skin picking, which causes inflammation, scarring and larger pores.

Avoid cosmetic products that contain oil.

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