How to Banish Blackheads (Without Scarring!)

By Renee Rouleau, Refinery29

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When it comes to our faces, we don't rely on just anyone to tell us what our skin needs to get that ever-elusive glow. Instead, we turn to skin-care veteran (and celebrity fave!) Renée Rouleau, who knows it takes more than the right products to get radiant. Each week, she'll be serving up her expert tips to keep your complexion in tip-top shape.

We've all got 'em: Blackheads. Luckily, even if you inherited enlarged pores that are noticeable-from-a-mile-away clogged, there are still ways to banish them - for good. The most effective way to remove blocked pores is with gentle (!), manual removal. And, while products alone cannot take the place of a professional extraction, a well-formulated serum with salicylic acid will help keep pores cleaned out after removal.

Still, running to a professional every time your pores get clogged can get really expensive, really fast. Read on for my expert advice for safe, do-it-yourself extractions to clean and clear your pores without harming the skin. Don't even think about squeezing before reading these tips!

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What you'll need:
Cellophane or plastic wrap
Washcloths
Facial tissue
Moisturizer

For the best results, I recommend you remove blackheads immediately after a shower since the skin temperature has been raised. This softens the hardened oil within the pore for easier extractions. After showering, apply a thick coat of moisturizer to the area that needs to be treated.

This will create a temporary occlusive seal, trapping the heat in the skin to help with extraction. Next, cover the area with a piece of plastic wrap and apply two hot, damp washcloths for five minutes. Using two washcloths will help the one that's touching the plastic wrap to retain its heat longer. Then, remove the washcloths and the plastic wrap, and re-apply a bit more moisturizer if it has been wiped off.

The pores and blackheads should now be very softened making for easy extractions. Here's the tricky part: Wrap a tissue over each forefinger gently squeezing to remove the blackheads clogging your pores. The goal is to avoid positioning the fingers too close, as this won't allow for proper extraction. The blackheads and clogged pores are deep within the skin, so widen your fingers so the blackhead will be effectively removed from underneath. To avoid red marks, go easy and keep re-positioning your fingers.

For example, position fingers at 3:00 and 9:00 and then 5:00 and 10:00, 2:00 and 7:00. My general rule this: three strikes and you're out. Meaning, if it doesn't come out after three tries, don't do it any longer or you'll risk damaging the skin or potentially breaking a capillary. Not good!

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When finished, wipe over the skin with an alcohol-free toner to remove moisturizer residue and apply a cooling gel mask to reduce any redness. Those more prone to breakouts and with oil may want to use a clay-based mask to purify the pores.

Once you've removed the clogged pores, you'll want to take steps to prevent the blackheads from coming back so quickly. (Note: They will always come back, unfortunately.) Even though you should abstain from using any acid-based products on your skin for 24 hours after a manual extraction, it's important to incorporate products into your daily routine that use acids - such as AHA's and BHA's that absorb directly into the pores and keep the pore lining clear - to prevent the oil within your skin from filling the pore back up so quickly.

Skin care products with acids might include cleansers, a Beta Hydroxy Acid serum and at-home pore cleaning peels. Be sure the products are gentle and do not contain SD alcohol 40 or denatured alcohol. Be sure you stay away from any acid-based products for at least 24 hours after manual extractions.

Know how an apple always turns brown after you cut it into slices? To prevent it from turning brown - or oxidizing - you'd just squeeze lemon juice, which is high in vitamin C, onto the apple. Because a blackhead is simply oil that has oxidized, thereby turning it black, another key to keeping pores clear is preventing the oil from oxidizing by using - you guessed it - an antioxidant, or vitamin C serum. Blackheads will slowly re-appear over time, so it's important to get either get regular monthly facials - if your budget allows - or bookmark these safe and effective instructions. Here's to clear pores!

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