Let’s cut to the chase: Blackheads are not a sexy topic. However, they’re a fact of life, and most of the human population has probably had one (or 10) at some point in time. Like most skin concerns, blackheads also range in both stubbornness and ferocity. First, there are the larger, more noticeable species (i.e., that big black abyss that causes you to swear off all public outings). Then there are the sneakier ones: the pin-size pariahs that go virtually undetected.
Despite their differences in size and severity, blackheads are all caused by the same thing: pores plugged with dead skin cells and an oily, protective substance called sebum. Blackheads consist of dead skin cells and sebum oil in the open pore that react with oxygen and turn black.
How do you get rid of them? Routinely exfoliating with a face wash that includes strategic ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, witch hazel, clay, and charcoal is key to sloughing off dead skin and clearing pores of all the gunk. So we curated a list of some of the best face washes for blackheads to incorporate into your routine.
Keep reading to see which best-of-the-best face washes we’d take into battle.
Best Overall: Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser
Courtesy of Tata Harper
This 100% natural cult-favorite face wash from Tata Harper cleanses and purifies pores (while also brightening and evening out tone) in one fell swoop. It’s loved for its quadruple-action four-in-one formula that features rose clay, willow bark extract, noncomedogenic essential oils, and teensy exfoliating beads that may reduce the appearance of blackheads.
Best Budget: Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel
Courtesy of Ulta
It’s no secret that Mario Badescu’s infamous Enzyme Cleansing Gel makes practically every face wash roundup. And there’s a good reason for that: It works. You can count on the natural fruit enzymes and a side order of alpha-hydroxy acids (from papaya and grapefruit extracts) to wash away impurities every time.
Best With Benzoyl Peroxide: Kate Somerville Anti Bac Acne Clearing Lotion
Courtesy of Sephora
Benzoyl peroxide is an organic acid in the peroxide family that has been used to treat acne because of its keratolytic, moderate comedolytic, and antibacterial properties, which include the reduction of P. acnes and Staph. aureus on the skin.
Containing 5% benzoyl peroxide (bye, blackheads), this still-gentle acne treatment from Kate Sommerville specifically targets congested pores to reduce existing breakouts and keep excess oil and sebum at bay. It’ll do more than just banish your blackheads—it’ll also prevent them from coming back.
Best With Charcoal: Boscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser
Courtesy of Nordstrom
Typically we steer clear of products that promise too much of a good thing. So although this cleanser talks a big game, it also walks the walk. Since it warms on contact, congested pores may be able to open, while purifying and radiance-boosting agents like charcoal, vitamin P, and C, and artichoke leaf perfect the skin.
What Our Testers Say
“The Boscia Detoxifying Black Cleanser is ideal for the oily-to-combination-skinned who need a little something extra to balance out and calm their overactive skin. Great for both everyday usage as well as a deep treatment a few times a week, this detox cleanser delivers fresh, balanced, poreless skin.” — Bryan Levandowski, Product Tester
Best Gel: SkinCeuticals LHA Cleanser Gel
Best Foam: Murad Daily Cleansing Foam
Courtesy of Murad
Murad is a beauty-editor favorite, thanks to its effective, gentle formulas, so it’s not surprising that this face wash for blackheads and congested skin is a game-changer. Witch hazel (a natural astringent) and copper gluconate nix oil while maintaining the skin’s natural moisture stores. Plus, pomegranate and Japanese alder flower extracts add a hit of antioxidants.
Best Powerful: DermaDoctor Ain’t Misbehavin’ Medicated AHA/BHA Acne Cleanser
Allantoin, also known as aluminum dihydroxy allantoinate, is an extract from the comfrey plant (which is native to temperate climates of Asia and Europe). It has potent healing and soothing properties, and may also help exfoliate the skin.
Cruelty-free, dermatologist-tested, pH-balanced, and non-comedogenic, this face wash is an excellent pick for both acne and blackheads. (Believe it or not, the two are technically not synonymous.) Enriched with basically every single ingredient blackheads hate most—among them, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, witch hazel, allantoin, and the brand’s patented sebum-squashing polymer—this formula’s so good at getting the job done.
What to Look For In a Face Wash for Blackheads
Clearing out your pores requires exfoliation. Choose either chemical or physical exfoliators that are gentle and won’t further clog pores. Exfoliators will help to remove dead skin cells, dirt, and oils that are clogging or blocking pores. Look for beta and alpha-hydroxy acids, clays, and charcoal.
Naturally, you’ll want your blackhead clearing face wash to be non-comedogenic, meaning it’s free of ingredients that may clog or block pores. Some types of oils are suitable for breakout-prone skin, while others are not. Ideal oils include rosehip, squalene, and jojoba. Look for the term non-comedogenic on the label of your face wash.
The best blackhead clearing face washes will also help to fight breakouts. Choose ingredients that prevent and treat bacteria causing acne, such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and allantoin.
Astringents will reduce the oil on the skin.4 They also work to tone and tighten the skin, potentially helping pores appear smaller. Ingredients to look for include witch hazel, which is also anti-inflammatory, sage, yarrow, and salicylic acid.
Can face wash remove blackheads?
Not all face washes have the right ingredients to help remove blackheads. Look for face washes designed for acne-prone skin that contain ingredients like salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that is soluble in oil and can penetrate the skin to remove bacteria, dirt, and oils that form blackheads.3
Do blackheads go away naturally?
Blackheads form when dead skin and excess oil clog pores. They can last a long time and don’t go away on their own very easily. For this reason, if you want to get rid of blackheads, it’s a good idea to use blackhead clearing products such as face washes and peels.
What happens if I don’t remove blackheads?
Blackheads can cause the pores to become inflamed, leading to whitehead pimples. Blackheads are open comedones, while whiteheads are closed ones. Sometimes blackheads remain without causing any further changes to the pores.