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If you’re gonna do it, here’s the safest way. Skin Care Beauty Machine
I'll be the first to admit that I often dream of having clear, smooth skin without a single blackhead or pimple. And I will also (hesitantly) admit that in order to get rid of clogged pores, I've indulged in some really bad habits, like poking and prodding at my face with blackhead removal tools until I'm left with inflamed skin—and the same blackheads I started with. Because the reality is that nobody can have pore-less or perfectly clear skin; all skin has texture and bumps, and all humans have blackheads (even if some have more than others).
That said, there are products that can help you treat your blackheads safely (see: salicylic acid), and even a few blackhead removal tools endorsed by dermatologists. But before you drop $$$ on some fad pore vacuum or ultrasonic skin scrubber that may or may not damage your skin, take a beat and keep reading, because I chatted with board-certified dermatologists Mona Gohara, MD, and Rachel Westbay, MD, for all the deets on the best blackhead removal tools and how to use them below.
✔️ P.S., This is new, up-to-date info, bb. We updated this article in February 2023 to add new blackhead removal tools the internet won't stop talking about, deleted outdated oldies, and checked in with experts for the latest news and products, just for you.
Ready to take those blackheads on? Keep reading for the entire list of the best blackhead removal tools—from comedone extractors to ultrasonic skin spatulas—and expert advice on how to safely use them, below.
Ideally, you’d go to your dermatologist for extractions because DIYing them at home can lead to broken blood vessels, a damaged skin barrier, bacteria being pushed deeper into the follicle, and even cuts if the metal isn’t correctly filed). But if you’re set on trying it yourself, start with this extractor, which Dr. Westbay calls the "gold standard" of blackhead removal tools used by derms. After disinfecting it with rubbing alcohol, hover the "loop" over your blackhead, then gently push down while slowly dragging it across the pore. If the blackhead easily comes out, great. If not, that's your indication to leave it alone (not press harder!) and try a salicylic acid toner instead.
THE REVIEWS: "This is the perfect tool for small whiteheads and blackheads," writes one tester. "It has done wonders; I use it about twice a week on my nose."
Attn: Even though these tools are everywhere on TikTok rn, you should know they're incredibly sharp and can pierce, injure, or even scar your face if used incorrectly. Dr. Westbay explains that before extracting, dermatologists will use the needle-like tool to "gently puncture the pore to help dislodge the contents and make for easier extraction," then use the rounded tweezers to wiggle and pull the clog out. So, even though they're highly effective (in skilled hands), they should really not be used to DIY a blackhead removal in your bathroom mirror. I know you're still going to try it anyway, but don't say I didn't warn you.
THE REVIEWS: "Easy to disinfect and stays clean in its included plastic case," one reviewer writes. "I've used it on splinters, and gently to extract blackheads and a small cyst."
If you’ve already mastered the basic blackhead extractor (i.e., a small metal tool with loops on the end) without causing any damage—see: broken blood vessels, bruising, and/or cuts—then you may be ready for a step up: this six-piece set. The next-level pro kit allows you to treat both tiny and massive blackheads with a mix of loops, tips, and tweezers. And each one is designed with non-slip grips to help you keep a steady hand (though injuring yourself is still highly possible if you’re not a derm!).
THE REVIEWS: "These stainless steel tools are easy to care for and can be kept sanitized for future use," one reviewer writes. "There a many options to handle any pimple that needs addressing. I love that they have a nice case to keep them all together and available when a pimple pops up."
Is this a blackhead removal tool? No. But is it the one blackhead treatment that actually works? Yup. This cult-favorite salicylic acid toner works by dissolving dead skin cells and excess oil from your pores, helping to clear blackheads and smooth skin over time. It can be a bit drying on sensitive and/or dry skin, so I tend to dab it on my blackheads (before moisturizer or serums) just twice a week. But even if you have "tough" skin, don't overdo it: three times a week max.
THE REVIEW: "Holy grail, it cleared up the texture and acne on my chin that I had been struggling with for years," one reviewer notes. "Nothing else worked. I use it daily in the morning and it improves my skin texture and tone overall and leaves my skin glowing!"
If you have that one blackhead that refuses to come out, you should, (1) Stop and see a dermatologist, because that’s a sign it’s deeply set within your skin. But when you inevitably ignore my advice, you should then, (2) Do some prep to minimize damage, like softening your skin with a warm washcloth—or take a hot shower—for 10 minutes, before trying to dislodge the clog with the curved edges of these tweezers. Or, better yet, skip the risk and instead grab an acid-based treatment instead.
THE REVIEW: "It is easy to use and even easier to clean," one tester writes. "The little curved hook makes it so that I don't get marks on my face as I would usually get with any other acne tool."
Not into the idea of sharp metal on your face? Amazing, welcome to the club. Instead, try a light-therapy treatment (aka LED treatments), which can help kill acne-causing bacteria and calm inflammation, especially when done at a dermatologist's office with medical-grade equipment. You can also opt for an at-home device, like this tiny one from Dr. Dennis Gross, but just know that they tend to produce significantly slower and less noticeable results. If do pick one up, start with clean, dry skin and hold the device over your clogged pores for three minutes (the automatic timer will shut off on its own). Stick to once-a-week use, and don't forget to manage your expectations.
THE REVIEWS: "I tried it out on a spot that was deep underneath the skin; used it as per the directions, and within a few hours, it was nearly coming to a head," reads one tester's review. "As long as you manage your expectations, this is a handy tool to have.
If your nose is extra oily or prone to clogged pores, you may need a bit of gentle (gentle!) exfoliation before you can easily extract a blackhead. Enter: This dual-ended blackhead removal tool. On one end is a beveled exfoliating tip (lightly swirl it over the crevices of your clean, dry nose to remove surface-level dead skin cells), and on the other end is a classic angled loop (gently press over your blackhead to extract it).
THE REVIEWS: "My 19-year-old came to me yesterday and was surprised about how well this worked to clear up her skin," one reviewer notes. "I used a much simpler version when I was a teenager, and this one is much nicer to use and look at. Excellent Teeezerman quality—if you don’t have one you don’t know what you’re missing."
FYI: The viral TikTok beauty trend, pore vacuuming doesn’t work the way you think it does, and anyone who says so is lying. Even though the tool uses a suction approach that claims to suck gunk out of your pores, at most, it will only remove a bit of oil, makeup, and dead skin from the surface of your pores. And this, btw, can be easily done with a face wash without running the risk of bruising and broken capillaries. This pore vacuum has microdermabrasion crystal-coated disks that exfoliate your skin to improve its texture over time. Begin with the white ultra-sensitive disk, pull your skin tight, and gently glide the device in an upwards motion. If you have sensitive skin and/or an inflammatory condition, absolutely stay clear.
THE REVIEWS: "I love how this product works and it’s been great for my skin," writes one tester. "I steam my face while I’m using it and moisturize with a gentle oil beforehand. My face feels smooth and soft afterward."
Similar to other trending blackhead removal products, the ultrasonic pore extractors are exfoliators that scrape away surface-level gunk and, potentially, push out a blackhead if it’s super close to the surface of the skin and you’re pressing hard enough (which, too much pressure can cause bruising, broken capillaries, damage to the skin barrier, etc.). In order to use it correctly, Dr. Westbay explains that this is a water-based exfoliation device, so your skin must begin and stay wet throughout the process. "Using gentle pressure, push the device along your skin in an upward and/or outward motion," she says. The slower you go, the less damage you will cause.
THE REVIEWS: "Gently gliding it across your face removes whiteheads," one tester writes. "It was really satisfying to see what the Dermapore was pulling out—I feel amazing," writes another.
If you're not ready to go all out on the high-tech gadget tools—or want to leave the blackhead extractors to the pros, smart!—consider purchasing this traditional Moroccan exfoliating tool. It won't remove individual blackheads, but it will exfoliate your skin and that may loosen up gunk, dead skin cells, and oil in the pores. Those with rosacea, keratosis pilaris, or any type of sensitive skin should be wary of use as physical exfoliation can definitely cause irritation and damage to the skin barrier. As for those with relatively ~normal~ skin wanting to give it a try, wet the flat side and apply your favorite cleansing balm. Using gentle pressure, cleanse in circular motions making sure to avoid your eye area.
THE REVIEWS: "Using this once or twice a week, along with a cleanser, has significantly minimized these little bumps I have had on my forehead for the last 20 years," one review reads.
Fun fact: Most facial cleansers don’t remove all of your pore-clogging makeup and skin oils (which is why I swear by double cleansing). So if you want a more ~thorough~ clean to help prevent blackheads—and your skin isn’t sensitive—try this silicone facial brush that gently pulses while you massage it over your skin for a stronger cleanse. Pro tip: Use it with a pump of salicylic acid cleanser to treat existing blackheads at the same time.
THE REVIEWS: "When this device came out I was kind of skeptical because I worried the power wouldn't be strong enough, and the bristles weren't super soft for cleaning my face," one tester writes. "I was so wrong about this device, my face actually feels clean and I love the power and soft bristles."
Sorry to be the bearer of sad news, but pore strips can actually cause more blackheads over time, thanks to the fact that they damage your skin barrier and weaken the elasticity of your pores with repeated use (stretched-out pores = bigger blackheads). But if you're determined to use one, despite these warnings, at least choose a pore strip that does some good at the same time, like these from TonyMoly. The strips are formulated with charcoal powder (to soak up excess oils) and acetic acid (a natural antibacterial found in eggshells), so they act as spot treatments while they sit on your nose.
THE REVIEWS: "Best blackhead removing patch ever, and believe me—I've used them all," one tester writes. "You won't be disappointed."
Gonna say it again: Would love for you to not extract your blackheads at home. But if you plan on it, make sure to first take a warm shower or grab a facial steamer to help soften your skin and make the blackheads easier to extract. If you're using a steamer, just fill the steamer's basin with distilled water (tap water contains minerals that can clog your steamer over time), then hold your freshly washed face at least 12 inches from the nozzle while you steam. Just note that too much heat and steam can compromise your skin barrier, so stick to 10-minute sessions once a week. And, if you're working with rosacea or eczema, skip this one altogether to prevent a flare.
THE REVIEWS: "I love this hot and cold facial steamer!" one reviewer notes. "I use it a few times every week. Besides being soothing, I use it with my skincare products, and since I’ve been using it, I have pretty smooth skin. It’s a must-have for your skincare regime."
A blackhead is a form of acne that develops when pores fill up with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, says dermatologist Rachel Westbay, MD. "When exposed to air, keratin—the primary protein that makes up your skin cells—becomes oxidized, turning it black," she says, hence why it's called a blackhead. Basically, it's a dark, waxy "plug" that clogs your pores.
As to whether or not blackhead removal tools really work, it depends on your desired outcome and what tool you're referring to, because "blackhead removal tools are quite variable in their efficacy," says Dr. Westbay. But, yes, most of the at-home tools will work to some degree, but only slightly—and not without risks.
Basically, as long as you have pores on your face, you'll have to deal with them filling back up and forming blackheads (unless you change your skincare routine; more on that below). So the best that a blackhead removal tool can do is pull, pick, or push a bit of the gunk out of the opening of your pore, which is why Dr. Westbay calls these tools a short-term fix, not a solution.
If you really want to treat your blackheads, you need to incorporate retinoids and chemical exfoliants (like salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic aid) into your routine to dissolve dead skin cells and excess oil from your pores. Use your retinoid twice a week and your chemical exfoliant twice a week (on separate days), and you'll see clearer skin within a month.
"Any form of manipulation to your skin should be done by professionals who are trained to address potential complications," says Dr. Westbay. Why? Because picking and digging at your skin with blackhead extractors can leave you with cuts, bruises, broken blood vessels, and even scars—especially if you’re working with melanin-rich skin that’s already prone to hyperpigmentation.
There is some good news, though: Dr. Gohara explains that if done correctly and with caution, blackhead removal tools may be an effective way to clear some of the stubborn blackheads that don't seem to go away (i.e., the dark, more obvious ones that have been on your face for days, weeks, or even months). Beforehand, "ensure that you consult your dermatologist to confirm that this is the right approach for you," says Dr. Gohara.
Chances are that you're probably going to ignore my advice anyway, so before you just go wild on your skin, take this advice first:
If you choose to use a blackhead removal tool after acknowledging the risks, there are a few important tips you should keep in mind to make sure you're using 'em correctly and as safely as possible:
Siena Gagliano is an associate editor who writes beauty at Cosmopolitan and has three years of experience writing about beauty, fashion, and lifestyle news. She’s an expert at researching and writing skincare stories, like moisturizers for oily and acne-prone skin and the best clear sunscreens, and feels especially knowledgeable about blackhead removal tools, thanks to breaking out quite often. She regularly tests and analyzes blackhead removal tools on her own skin for efficacy, while working with the industry’s top dermatologists to assess new formulas and products.
Siena Gagliano is the associate editor at Cosmopolitan, where she primarily covers beauty in the makeup, skin, and hair spaces, as well as some fashion and lifestyle. Wanna know how to get the best brows of your life? Gotchu. What about how to achieve ridiculously glowing skin, a super bouncy blowout, or exactly how to use that viral face mask? Check, check, and check. Before joining Cosmopolitan, Siena was a writer at Bustle and several other media outlets. As NYC's newest resident, she has vowed to find the best (extra) dirty martini this city has to offer—and yes, that means ~attempting~ to try every cute cocktail spot in the city (hit her up with some recs, pls). Follow Siena on Instagram where you'll see that her account is mostly dedicated to pics of her cute dog and that magazine life.
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