When you picture an acne breakout, your mind probably immediately conjures up an image of red, angry, pimples all over your face.
Or a gigantic whitehead prominently features right on your nose.
Or perhaps a smattering of large, swollen, and painful under-the-skin cysts that you can see but cannot do anything about.
You know what you probably didn’t think of? Blackheads.
But we all get them – unless, of course, you’re one of the lucky few who are blessed with a glowing complexion and perfect skin.
This post is for the rest of us.
To be fair, as far as acne goes, blackheads are very mild; they don’t swell up or become painful, and they’re hardly noticeable to anyone besides you.
However, this doesn’t mean that blackheads should be treated any less seriously than other forms of acne.
Neglecting to address blackheads just because they “don’t seem like a big deal” is a good way to pave the way for more serious acne to manifest down the road. That means more painful, more noticeable, and harder to treat – so taking care of blackheads before they become a larger issue is a definite skincare must.
How Blackheads Are Formed
Blackheads are formed when dead skin cells and oils get trapped in the pores in your skin. Their name comes from the tiny black spot that they create on your skin’s surface, which is usually the only way you would ever know that a blackhead was there since they are usually smooth to the touch and not painful.
The black color is a result of a reaction between the trapped skin cells in your pore and the open air.
You’ll notice that dirt was NOT listed as a contributing factor in causing blackheads; this is because, while washing your face is crucial to having a healthy skincare routine, the cleanliness of your skin doesn’t actually have anything to do with whether or not you develop blackheads.
This means that simply washing your face isn’t enough to keep blackheads at bay or to make them go away once you’ve got them.
Luckily there ARE a few things you can do to manage the appearance of blackheads in your complexion:
- Using an exfoliating face wash can help to remove dead skin cells from your face; they can’t get trapped in your pores if they aren’t there!Be careful not to do it too much – because when it comes to your skin, there is DEFINITELY such thing as “too much of a good thing” – but working gentle exfoliation into your routine 2-3 days each week can yield really positive results.
- Steer clear of makeup products that clog up your pores. Products with heavy finishes that don’t allow your skin to “breathe” can be a recipe for skin disaster, and even lightweight formulas can cause trouble if you wear more than what’s recommended.Heavy foundations are a clear culprit, but even redness correctors and concealers should be carefully evaluated to make sure that they aren’t deteriorating your complexion in the long run.
- Get enough sleep, and remember to set aside some time to relax! Stress and lack of sleep can both cause your skin to produce more oils, which increases the odds that some of that oil will get trapped in your pores and lead to blackheads.
You can still get blackheads even if you’re doing everything in the books to take care of your skin. This is certainly a frustrating scenario, but fear not!
There are plenty of products out there to help keep your skin firm and toned while reducing the appearance of and risk of getting blackheads.
Aria Starr Beauty Natural Dead Sea Mud Mask
The Brand: Aria Starr is a family-owned business dedicated to offering high-quality beauty products for a reasonable price.
All of its products use natural organic ingredients and are also paraben-free and alcohol-free. The brand offers hair care and eye care products as well, but its skin care line (and specifically the mud mask) are by far the most popular.
The mud mask has gotten so much attention recently that it’s even been reviewed on LinkedIn – not something you see every day for a skincare product!
The Product: So what exactly is so special about this mask? This product is loaded with naturally occurring minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and zinc (to name just a few – the complete list is actually quite long), and during application works to tighten your pores and moisturize your skin.
Mud masks are typically geared towards combination-oily or sensitive skin, and this one is no exception. Some masks are a complete pain to wash off, but the Aria Starr Dead Sea Mask is a breeze and comes off easily with a little warm water.
After use, your skin should feel softer and appear visibly brighter and firmer.
Many women indicated that, though they used the mask to decrease the appearance of pores and blackheads, they actually felt that the Aria Starr Dead Sea Mask helped to reduce excess oil production too.
Some users with sensitive skin reported breakouts after use or minor irritation during application, but the overwhelming majority were thrilled with their results after use.
In fact, Aria Starr is SO confident that you’ll love this product that they offer a ONE YEAR money-back guarantee. That’s right – you have an entire year to decide whether you love or hate this mask. We’re willing to bet that you’ll fall squarely in the “love it” majority.
Why It Works: This mask packs a lot of positives. The many minerals and vitamins contained in the mask’s natural ingredients extract deep-seated toxins from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce the risk of future breakouts and excess oil production.
When you wash the mask off, you’ll gently exfoliate your skin to wash away dead skin cells that could otherwise have ended up stuck in your pores and causing blackheads.
The same nutrients that naturally detoxify your skin will also help to make it healthier and firmer, which includes decreasing the appearance of your pores. When all’s said and done you’ll be left with a brighter, tighter, and smoother complexion, particularly if you include this mask as a regular part of your skincare regimen.
How To Use It: Apply a thin layer of the mud mask material to clean, dry skin. Be sure to give your mouth and eyes plenty of space.
Let the mud mask set for about 15-20 minutes (until it begins to feel dry to the touch). Gently remove the mask using warm water – you don’t need need to scrub the mask into your face to take advantage of its exfoliating benefits.
Use the Aria Starr Dead Sea Mud Mask once or twice each week (or as your skin sensitivity allows) to produce the best results.
Pros and Cons
- No need to scrub off to exfoliate, the mask does this naturally
- Amazing product guarantee
- You’ll be supporting a family owned business with your purchase
- 20 minutes is a long time to wait for your mask to dry
- Scrubbing while removing can lead to unnecessary skin irritation
AZTEC SECRET Indian Healing Clay Deep Pore Cleansing Facial Mask
The Brand: AZTEC SECRET is something of an anomaly in the world of beauty products; its website is unpolished, and its e-commerce presence is almost completely absent outside of the confines of Amazon.
This mask is actually the only widely available product that the brand sells.
Even so, despite its decidedly un-savvy branding, this mask is almost always among the most-reviewed beauty products on Amazon and is wildly popular. It’s apparently been around for at least 20 years after getting its start selling in stores like Whole Foods, but in the last ten years has gotten attention from Allure’s “Beauty Blogger of the Year,” Reddit, YouTube influencers, and dozens of websites and magazines, seemingly with almost no effort from the founder.
With a buzz like that, you know the product must be fantastic.
The Product: The AZTEC SECRET mask relies on the healing properties of “Indian healing clay” (more commonly known as bentonite clay) which is dried out for up to six months to produce the powdery substance used in the mask.
In order to transform the powder into a mask, the user simply has to mix it with either water or apple cider vinegar. After applying it to your face you will literally feel the mask working; your skin will feel tighter, and some users report that they can actually feel their skin “pulsate.”
After use your skin may be a little red for about 30 minutes – don’t worry, this is completely normal, and is just left over from the mask getting to work on tightening your pores and drying out your acne.
(Side note: This post is specifically geared towards masks to treat blackheads, but the AZTEC SECRET mask is actually also really effective in treating even severe acne outbreaks. Its detoxifying abilities are insane!)
If you have dry or sensitive skin, however, this product may not be for you: dry skin tends to have an adverse reaction to the clay’s powerful detox effects, and a small percentage of users do experience severe breakouts from use (or overuse) of this product.
But if you are like most of the satisfied customers who purchased this product, you will be amazed at how quickly you could see results from using this mask. Many users have visibly clearer and tighter skin after just a few uses, and reviews for this product are overwhelmingly positive.
Why It Works: From their website: “When a facial or clay poultice is applied to the skin it forms a negative charge. Poisons and toxins stored in the epidermis have a positive charge – Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay lifts the pimple and blackheads into the clay bed to cause accelerated healing and nourishment to the skin with over 50 minerals. 100% NATURAL.” (Source)
To translate: The minerals and antioxidants in the clay quickly go to work to remove toxins and impurities from deep beneath your skin. No additives, no gimmicks, no muss, no fuss. It really is that simple.
How To Use It: Mix the AZTEC SECRET clay powder with apple cider vinegar or water in a glass or wooden bowl (the manufacturer specifies that contact with any metal should be avoided) and stir until the mixture forms a smooth paste.
Apply the paste to the face and allow to dry for anywhere from 5 minutes (for sensitive skin) to 15-20 minutes. Remove the mask with warm water.
Pros and Cons
- The anti-establishment brand is weird and wonderful
- Mixing the mask yourself is also weird and wonderful
- With this no-nonsense product, you know exactly what you’re getting
- The one pound tub is an amazing value for your purchase
- Mixing the mask yourself can be kind of a pain
- You won’t really know how long you should allow the mask to set until you’ve tried it once or twice
Daiso Japan Natural Charcoal Peel-Off Mask Tubes
The Brand: Daiso is a Japanese-based company that offers a variety of skincare products. They don’t have a physical store presence in the US (or a web-based presence either, for that matter), but you can purchase their products from almost any online retailer.
Some of their products – most notably this mask and an aloe facial cream – have been reviewed by beauty bloggers and have caught a strong popularity in the beauty scene.
The Product: Your purchase will actually include four tubes of the Daiso Japan Charcoal Peel-Off Mask – you’ll be getting some serious bang for your buck with this one. In true Japanese fashion, the packaging is whimsical and fun, with a pop-up of a face wearing the mask at the top of each tube.
This product is a peel-off mask (as is specifically noted in the product name), which means that you’ll have to wait for it to completely dry before peeling it off. If you’re the type of person who likes to mask up in thick layers, then you should know that this mask could take as long as 30 minutes to completely dry, so be prepared to catch up on your favorite DVR program while you wait.
The Daiso Japan Charcoal Peel-Off Mask offers two key benefits:
First, the activated oak carbon really goes to work cleaning out dirt and toxins from your skin, leaving your skin feeling soft and smooth afterward. The carbon also helps to regulate your oil production (though this means that users with really dry skin may want to steer clear of this product as it could lead to excessive drying).
Second, the peel-off function of the mask means that when used properly it can actually pull blackheads right out from your skin. Talk about instant results!
Why It Works: Let’s talk about the peel-off aspect of this mask for a second. This product really shines when used specifically to target the areas of your face most prone to oil and blackheads: your nose, chin, and right between the eyebrows. (Be careful not to get too close to your eyebrows though, as this mask can be difficult to remove if it gets incorporated into that denser hair.)
Applying a generous layer and letting it dry tightens up your pores and fixes onto the tops of your blackheads, including both some larger ones and a lot of smaller ones that you might not have even noticed. Then simply peel off the mask, and you can literally watch your blackheads disappear!
How To Use It: Apply the mask to your clean, dry face in the specific areas with blackheads and allow to dry for 10-15 minutes.
Once completely dry, gently peel back from your face. Start at the bottom and pull towards the top for best results.
This product is intended to be used only on small areas of the face, but some users do use it as a full-facial mask to varying degrees of success. If you decide to try this, you should know that it could take 30 minutes or longer for the mask to dry and will require some patience to remove.
Pros and Cons
- Removes blackheads from hard-to-reach spots
- When used as a spot treatment, one purchase will last you a long time
- Leaves skin feeling soft and smooth
- Is a pain to remove if you accidentally get it in your eyebrows or hairline
- Thick layers can can a long time to dry
Rahda Beauty Dead Sea Mud Mask
The Brand: Rahda is more of a healthy lifestyle company than a beauty company; its core offerings are essential oils and oil blends, but it has branched out into beauty and skin care products as well.
Its newest line, Rahda Organics, sells products made exclusively from essential oils and plant extracts.
Its skincare line utilizes a variety of active vitamins and plant-based ingredients in formulas designed to specifically target acne, dry skin, uneven skin tone, or brightness.
The Product: The Radha Beauty Dead Sea Mud Mask follows the brand’s all-natural mentality. The active ingredient in this mask is bentonite clay which means that, much like the AZTEC SECRET mask previously described, the application of this mask can produce some pretty powerful results. Something about this particular formula results in an almost Icy Hot™ -like hot-and-cold sensation. You can actually feel it working!
Many customer reviews report seeing an instant difference in their skin tone after using this mask; even after one use, many noted that their skin tone appeared to be more even and their acne became less prominent.
The most noticeable difference, however, will be the way that this mask makes your skin feel: soft, smooth, and supple. And your pores can visibly shrink over time if you continue to use this product.
Why It Works: Bentonite clay is jam-packed with nutrients and minerals: calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and the list just keeps going. Your skin is able to absorb these minerals and nutrients through direct contact, which is why applying a bentonite mask directly to your face is so effective.
These compounds nourish your skin to help it stay happy and healthy, producing that coveted all-natural glow.
Bentonite clay can also kill bacteria that could get trapped beneath your skin and draws out toxins that have already found their way there, which gives your complexion the chance to flourish. In spite of these powerhouse qualities, bentonite clay is gentle enough to be used as a substitute for baby powder and can soothe irritated or inflamed acne breakouts.
How To Use It: Apply a thin layer of the mud mask to your face. Allow the mask to dry for 7-12 minutes, or until the mud becomes slightly dry.
If the mask begins to crack then you’ve left it on for too long. Remove the mask by resting a warm washcloth on your face to moisten the mud and then rinse off with warm water.
This is NOT an exfoliating mask, so resist the temptation to scrub the mask from your face as this can lead to irritation.
Pros and Cons
- Rhada is a well-established natural living and skincare vendor, so its products are easy to trust
- Super easy to apply
- Your skin will feel amazing
- The drying and removing process can take a lot of time
- You may not like the hot-and-cold sensation while the mask is setting
Rocky Mountain Essentials Activated Charcoal Mask
The Brand: There isn’t a whole lot of information out there about the Rocky Mountain Essentials brand. Perhaps they’re new to the beauty scene? They offer at least one other activated charcoal product – a tooth whitener – and both sell very successfully.
Their branding may need a makeover, but their products most certainly do not.
The Product: The Rocky Mountain Essentials Activated Charcoal mask has been reviewed on a number of beauty sites, and almost always ranks near the top of the list compared to its competitors.
This is probably why Rocky Mountain Essentials feels pretty comfortable offering a 100% money-back guarantee, for any reason whatsoever; we don’t imagine many customers end up dissatisfied with their purchase.
This mask fights for your skin on multiple fronts.
The formula, which is ideal for combination or oily skin, fights blemishes and clears out pores, while also helping to control your skin’s oil production. And a one-two punch of coconut activated charcoal and bentonite clay results in a powerful detox, leaving your skin smooth, clean, and refreshed.
Users rave about how easily the mask comes off after each use (which, if you’ve ever used a mask before, you know is no small accomplishment). Lots of customers observed noticeable improvements in the way that their skin looked and felt after only one use, and several that experienced minor breakouts immediately after use reported that once those under-the-skin pimples were brought to the surface their acne has drastically reduced over time.
And the small handful of users who didn’t like their product did, in fact, have their purchase refunded – no questions, no hassle – which is always a great sign that a company really stands by their product.
Why It Works: The Rocky Mountain Essentials Activated Charcoal mask incorporates three key ingredients to deliver impressive results.
The first, of course, is the coconut activated charcoal that gives the product its name. As with other charcoal masks, this ingredient helps to draw toxins from the skin and to regulate oil production.
It also uses bentonite clay as a secondary agent to detoxify the skin and leave it feeling soft and smooth.
Finally, the mask includes a black pearl protein that tightens pores, improves your skin’s elasticity, and enriches it with an ample supply of vitamins and minerals.
The combination of these three ingredients yields a mask that is gentle enough to be used with sensitive skin, but strong enough to help tackle persistent acne.
How To Use It: Apply the mask directly to your face and allow to dry for about five minutes. After the mask dries, gently wipe away with a wet washcloth and follow up with your favorite non-oily moisturizer.
Pros and Cons
- Impressive combination of ingredients for impressive results
- Tons of positive press and reviews from beauty bloggers
- Amazing product satisfaction guarantee
- Not much known about the rest of the brand’s offerings
- The combination of ingredients can lead to breakouts in sensitive skin
Whether you’re looking for a quick fix or a long-term solution to achieve and maintain a healthy, glowing, blackhead-free complexion, any of these masks could do the trick.
They’re definitely a good option above any of the following, which are definite “don’ts” for blackhead care:
- Squeezing your blackheads can be satisfying, and it does appear to provide instant results. However, using your hands introduces more oils to your face, and those oils can get clogged up in your pores.Even using a metal blackhead remover – and yes, that really is a thing – is not a good idea because using it incorrectly can cause painful irritation or drive infections deeper beneath the skin, making it even harder to properly take care of your acne in the future.
- Steaming – think sauna, or a long, hot shower – is not a thing. Some say that it will “open your pores” but science hasn’t gotten on the bandwagon yet.
- Using removal strips is another method that can be satisfying in the moment. However, you should be careful when resorting to this method; removal strips can lead to serious irritation and could even damage your skin.
This isn’t to say that using a mask is completely risk-free. The majority of skincare products on the market come with some type of risk.
Choosing a Blackhead Mask
Every person’s face and skin type has different needs, so the products that work for your best friend could make you break out or completely dry out your skin.
The same logic goes for masks, so do your research before running out and purchasing the first one you looked at.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind when deciding which one of these masks to try:
- Read the reviews. The information contained in this post is helpful and objective, but sometimes you have to read it for yourself to believe it.
- When you read the reviews, make sure to read a few negative ones as well, but take those with a grain of salt. As I mentioned before, there’s no such thing as a skincare product that will work perfectly for everybody, so don’t let a few negative reviews send you running to the (bentonite clay) hills.It’s far more important to look at the percentage of reviews that are negative; five scathing reviews are far more significant if only a hundred reviews for the product are out there; not so much if there are over a thousand.
- Make sure that the ingredients involved make sense for your skin type. Bentonite clay products tend to be more aggressive and may not be suitable for users with sensitive skin, while activated carbon products can come in different strengths and are generally more gentle.
Last, but certainly not least, make sure to test the mask on a small part of your skin before applying it to your entire face. Sensitive areas of your skin work best, such as the inside of your elbow or a small patch of facial skin near your neck.
This way you’ll have an idea of whether the mask is compatible with your skin type ahead of time.