Skip to main content

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

  1. blog
  2. > Skincare Products

What are the best face masks for blackheads? Experts explain

Spoiler: It all comes down to their ingredients.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 4, 2023 • 10 min read
Medically reviewed by Jessica Mefford, NP
Woman Removing a Face Mask
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 4, 2023 • 10 min read
Medically reviewed by Jessica Mefford, NP
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.

In this article

What are blackheads?
More

There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best! Luckily our team of licensed dermatology providers are regularly reviewing and assessing products on the market and are happy to offer a few recommendations! So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our standards.

Blackheads are no fun, but face masks can be. 

The next time you want to treat yourself to a little self-care, you might want to opt for a face mask for an enjoyable way to relax and give your skin some serious TLC. But in order for these skincare products to be effective, it’s important to choose options made with the right ingredients that can actually make a difference in the appearance of blackheads.

We asked Curology’s licensed dermatology providers to shed some light on the topic.

What are blackheads?

Before we share the best face mask for you, let’s learn what blackheads really are. 

Blackheads, also known as open comedones, are a non-inflammatory type of acne—and are considered milder than inflammatory acne, which can include pus-filled pimples. Non-inflammatory acne typically doesn’t leave marks or scars.¹

Blackheads (and whiteheads!) occur when you have congested pores. Contrary to popular belief, their “black” appearance isn’t a result of dirt stuck in your pores, but rather your skin’s melanin (which is the substance that gives your skin its pigment) in an open pore reacting with the oxygen in the air.²

But treating the issue requires looking at what causes the open, clogged pores in the first place. When dead skin cells block a pore’s opening, they can trap sebum (aka oil) inside it and prevent it from getting out, which results in a blackhead. This is why you’ll generally only get blackheads on the areas of your body that have more oil glands, such as your face, chest, back, and shoulders³—and why a face mask might be especially helpful, particularly if you have an oily skin type.

It can be satisfying in the moment to squeeze blackheads! But try to resist the temptation to do so, as it can worsen the non-inflammatory breakout.⁴ Luckily, there are a few skincare ingredients you can turn to for help.

What ingredients can improve blackheads?

Some professional treatments, like mechanical extraction, can help clear blackheads.⁵ When in doubt, seek professional advice (like from a licensed dermatology provider at Curology!) to help figure out what method may work for you.

These key ingredients may help blackheads and some may be found in face masks:

  • Adapalene can unclog your pores and slow down the formation of new blackheads.⁶

  • Salicylic acid can significantly reduce the appearance of blackheads.⁷ 

  • Research shows that azelaic acid can improve comedonal lesions like blackheads.⁸

  • Tretinoin has been shown to be effective for those with blackheads.⁹ That said, you won’t see this ingredient in over-the-counter face masks since it requires a prescription. If you have questions or are interested in trying tretinoin, reach out to a licensed dermatology provider at Curology to learn more.

Tips for using face masks for blackheads

Once you find a face mask with the ingredients you’re looking for, let the self-care begin! When applying your product, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

Prioritize ingredients that are backed by research—not just ones that sound like they would be clarifying for your skin. For instance, masks with bentonite, talc, and kaolin clay are known for absorbing sebum to help reduce oily skin, but more research is needed to confirm if this holds true.¹⁰

On the flip side, choose a face mask that doesn’t include pore-clogging ingredients. If you’re not sure what to check for, refer to this list to get started.

Avoid harshly scrubbing your skin (especially if you have sensitive skin!), either when you’re washing your face or removing your face mask. 

In the same vein, try to limit your use of blackhead masks to once a week at first, until you feel comfortable that your skin can tolerate more frequent use. We know they’re fun, but these products are generally not meant for daily use. When using an ingredient for the first time, it’s always a good idea to conduct a patch test to see if your skin reacts well.

Try pairing pore-cleansing ingredients with moisturizing ones so you don’t wind up with dry skin. Curology’s Gel Moisturizer offers a lightweight, buildable formula that gives your skin a quick boost of hydration. If you’re looking for something a little more heavyweight, you may want to try The Rich Moisturizer, which helps restore your moisture barrier without clogging pores.

Be patient with any skincare products you’re using to treat blackheads. It can take as long as four to six months of regular treatment to see improvement.¹¹

6 best face masks for blackheads

Without further ado, here are our picks for the best facial masks for blackheads.

1. The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

What we like about it:

  • Features salicylic acid to help minimize the appearance of blackheads

  • Uses squalane and glycerin to moisturize

2. Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner

What we like about it:

  • Uses salicylic acid to help clear blackheads

  • Features glycolic acid, which has been shown to help reduce the appearance of pores¹²

3. Drunk Elephant Bouncy Brightfacial Brightening Mask

What we like about it:

  • Features azelaic and salicylic acids

  • Can be added to your morning or evening routine

  • Can be used as a leave-on mask

4. Fenty Skin Cookies N Clean Whipped Clay Pore Detox Face Mask

What we like about it:

  • Features salicylic acid and glycerin

  • Contains citric acid, which can offer anti-aging effects¹³ 

5. Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow AHA Night Treatment

What we like about it:

  • Uses glycolic and lactic acid 

  • Contains hyaluronic acid to moisturize the skin

  • Can be worn overnight multiple times a week

6. GlamGlow Supermud Instant Clearing Treatment Mask

What we like about it:

  • Features salicylic acid

  • Contains glycolic, lactic, and tartaric acids, which can stimulate skin cell renewal¹⁴

Tips to help clear acne

Face masks can be effective tools that may help you get rid of blackheads. But other than applying these skincare products, there are a few other things you can do to help.¹⁵

  • Wash your face regularly with a cleanser that targets acne but is gentle enough for daily use. Curology’s Acne Cleanser can be a helpful place to start, as it washes away excess dirt and oil without stripping skin or clogging pores. 

  • Avoid touching your face, as doing so can cause acne to flare up.

  • Shampoo often, since oil from your hair can brush against your forehead and the rest of your face. And if you struggle with body acne, use a product that specifically targets it—like the Acne Body Wash, which cleanses your pores of dirt and grime. 

The key takeaways

  • Blackheads are caused by the skin’s melanin in open pores reacting with the oxygen in the air.

  • Dead skin cells and trapped oil can contribute to clogged pores.

  • Look for face masks with active ingredients that can help unclog pores, such as adapalene and salicylic acid.

  • Start out by using face masks for blackheads once a week, as they’re not meant for daily use.

  • Pair pore-cleansing ingredients with moisturizing ones to keep your skin hydrated as you treat your acne.

  • Avoid squeezing your blackheads or using tweezers, as this may make your acne worse.

Curology can help treat your blackheads

Face masks may help fight blackheads—plus, they’re just fun to use! However, they aren’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to treating your acne, especially since most aren’t for daily use.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

curology bottle
curology bottle

To point you in the direction of a long-term solution, reach out to a licensed dermatology provider at Curology, who can provide you with a personalized formula for your acne. Sign up here* to get started.

FAQs

Is there a mask that pulls out blackheads?

Some active ingredients in blackhead masks can help clear out your pores and exfoliate dead skin cells. Here are a few to get you started: Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner and The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque.

Can you pull out blackheads with tweezers?

We’d advise against it since squeezing blackheads can make them worse.¹⁶ Instead, look for products with active ingredients that can help unclog your pores. 

What pulls blackheads out?

Look for ingredients that can help treat non-inflammatory acne, such as salicylic acid,¹⁷ tretinoin,¹⁸ adapalene,¹⁹ and azelaic acid.²⁰

Do clay masks pull out blackheads?

Clay masks with bentonite, talc, and kaolin are known for absorbing serum to help reduce oily skin, but more research is needed to confirm if this holds true.²¹

How do you unclog blackheads naturally?

Look for skincare products with ingredients that treat non-inflammatory acne, like salicylic acid²² and adapalene.²³ These can be blackhead masks, cleansers, serums, or other types of treatments. 

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Acne: Overview. InformedHealth.org. (2019, September 26).

  2. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Acne: Overview. InformedHealth.org. Ibid.

  3. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Acne: Overview. InformedHealth.org. Ibid.

  4. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Acne: Overview. InformedHealth.org. Ibid.

  5. Pagnoni, A., et al. Clinical evaluation of salicylic acid scrub, toner and mask in reducing blackheads. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (March 2004).

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Acne: Overview. (n.d.).

  7. Pagnoni, A., et al. Clinical evaluation of salicylic acid scrub, toner and mask in reducing blackheads. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ibid.

  8. Layton, A.M., et al. Real-World Case Studies Showing the Effective Use of Azelaic Acid in the Treatment, and During the Maintenance Phase, of Adult Female Acne Patients. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. (2023, February 24).

  9. Russell, J.J. Topical Therapy for Acne. American Family Physician. (2000, n.d.).

  10. Del Rosso, J.Q. The Role of Skin Care as an Integral Component in the Management of Acne Vulgaris: Part 1: The Importance of Cleanser and Moisturizer Ingredients, Design, and Product Selection. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (December 2013). 

  11. Russell, J.J. Topical Therapy for Acne. American Family Physician. Ibid.

  12. Kakudo, N., et al. A novel method to measure conspicuous facial pores using computer analysis of digital-camera-captured images: the effect of glycolic acid chemical peeling. Skin Res Technol. (November 2011).

  13. Green, B., et al. Citric acid: An α and β hydroxyacid for antiaging. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (March 2005).

  14. Tang, S.C. and Yang, J.H. Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules. (2018, April 10).

  15. Ludmann, P. and Schleehauf, B. Acne: Tips for Managing. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2022, November 16).

  16. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Acne: Overview. InformedHealth.org. Ibid.

  17. Pagnoni, A., et al. Clinical evaluation of salicylic acid scrub, toner and mask in reducing blackheads. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ibid.

  18. Russell, J.J. Topical Therapy for Acne. American Family Physician. Ibid.

  19. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Acne: Overview. Ibid.

  20. Layton, A.M., et al. Real-World Case Studies Showing the Effective Use of Azelaic Acid in the Treatment, and During the Maintenance Phase, of Adult Female Acne Patients. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. Ibid.

  21. Del Rosso, J.Q. The Role of Skin Care as an Integral Component in the Management of Acne Vulgaris: Part 1: The Importance of Cleanser and Moisturizer Ingredients, Design, and Product Selection. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  22. Pagnoni, A., et al. Clinical evaluation of salicylic acid scrub, toner and mask in reducing blackheads. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ibid.

  23. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Acne: Overview. Ibid.

Jessica Lee is a certified Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She received her Master in Nursing from Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

Ingredients subject to provider consultation.

Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Jessica Lee header image square

Jessica Mefford, NP

Related Articles

What is micellar water and how can you use it effectively?The science behind our skincare quiz: why it worksSome of the best acne serums to fight breakoutsSafe skincare: What is the ‘triangle of death,’ and is it really dangerous?Meet the cleanser by Curology

Popular Articles

Ask Curology: Is my cold breaking me out?Slugging: The dermatologist-approved skincare hack going viral on TikTokTretinoin vs retinol: What’s the difference?How to create a self-care routine that actually sticksYour 2023 skincare horoscope
Try prescription skincare
30-day trial. Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get routine essentials
A display of Curology Custom Formula bottles on a white shelf.

Good skin days ahead

Join the 1M+ patients who’ve tackled everything from acne, to fine lines, to hair thinning with prescription-powered treatments, personalized by a Licensed Dermatology Provider.
Ingredients proven to tackle
  • Breakouts
  • Redness
  • Fine lines
  • Dark spots
  • Hair thinning
$29.95/month
*Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get StartedShop ProductsWhy CurologyGuidesOur StoryCommunity
All Rights Reserved 2014-2024 Curology Inc.
Terms of ServicePrivacy Notice
Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information