Is this ingredient the best blackhead remover?

What causes blackheads and how to get rid of them

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Curology Team
Feb 14, 2020 · 3 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Blackhead removers are having a bit of a pop culture moment, but before you run out and buy a vacuum to suck out the blackheads on your nose, we have good news: removing blackheads may be possible with an accessible, affordable skincare routine that promotes healthy skin.

What is a blackhead?

Blackheads are caused when natural process of skin regeneration goes haywire. First, pores get clogged when excess oil or dead skin cells build up around our hair follicles. The trapped gunk darkens into a blackhead due to exposure to the air.

Whether you get blackheads, whiteheads, or “regular” pimples (pustules) can seem somewhat random. The good news is these types of blemishes are generally treated the same way: by using skincare ingredients with pore-unclogging properties.

Blackhead do’s

  • Cleanse, moisturize, and use sunscreen as part of your daily routine

  • Use skincare products with active ingredients that unclog pores

  • Chemically exfoliate once or twice a week max to promote cell turnover

Blackhead don’ts

  • Don’t try to “extract” blackheads — leave that to the pros!

  • Don’t use blackhead strips — those won’t stop blackheads from coming back!

  • Don’t use skincare products with pore-clogging ingredients — those can make breakouts worse!

Read more blackhead-mythbusting in our previous post.

3 power-house ingredients for blackhead treatment

These 3 skincare ingredients can help to get rid of blackheads.

Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is one of the best prescription-strength ingredients for treating blackheads. It has anti-keratinizing effects, which means it reverses the skin reaction that results in blackheads. Azelaic acid also helps to improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation and UV damage. You can find azelaic acid over-the-counter, but for higher concentrations you’ll need a prescription.


Tretinoin stabilizes the skin’s natural lifecycle by promoting cellular turnover and growth, preventing clogged pores, which makes it a good option for treating blackheads. It can also help improve the appearance of skin by visually reducing wrinkles, large pores, and dark spots. Like azelaic acid, your medical provider can prescribe you tretinoin if it’s right for you.

Salicylic acid

Blackheads respond well to chemical exfoliation with BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acids), the most popular of which is salicylic acid. These help to treat and prevent clogged pores by removing the buildup of dead cells from the skin’s surface. It can be easy to overdo exfoliation, so start slow, especially if you’re still adjusting to your Curology medication. Unlike tretinoin or azelaic acid, you can get salicylic acid over-the-counter.

The easiest way to remove blackheads

What if you could get rid of blackheads without having to leave your house — or put on pants? Prescription skincare has never been more accessible or affordable than with a free trial of Curology (just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover the cost of shipping and handling).

When you sign up, you’ll be paired with one of our in-house dermatology providers who can prescribe you a custom cream with ingredients such as tretinoin, azelaic acid, and clindamycin. For no extra cost, we’ll throw in the complete Curology set, including our cleanser and your choice of moisturizer — layer up as much as you like because it won’t clog pores! It’s a complete skincare routine that you can use with confidence.

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Curology Team

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