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Like any other type of acne, blackheads are the unfortunate result of pores clogged with bacteria and oil. The difference between blackheads and other pimples is that blackheads are open at the skin’s surface. That black stuff that looks like dirt is actually just the dark clog in the hair follicle or pore. If there’s any good news when it comes to acne, it’s that blackheads often vanish with the help of medicated creams.
Visit the skin care aisle at your favorite store and you might find yourself overwhelmed with the variety of acne creams available. The medication in the best creams to treat blackheads is the same stuff that’s proven to fight other types of acne. Look for benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or sulfur as an active ingredient, and choose a mild- to moderate-strength cream unless your blackhead problem is severe. If it is, pull out the big guns by trying a 10 percent benzoyl peroxide cream, but know that you might need to recruit your dermatologist to help you win the war against severe acne.
No matter what cream you choose, using it properly can give breakouts the boot instead of making your problem worse. Cover the affected area with a thin layer of cream. If you’re using a cream with an active ingredient you haven’t tried before, limit application to once per day for a few days to prevent excessive redness and drying. Once your skin gets used to the cream, apply it two or three times a day, but don’t forget to wash your face and pat it dry first.
Many zit-zapping medications can be overly drying. It’s important to cover the affected area thoroughly when applying acne creams, but treat your skin to a noncomedogenic moisturizer after the cream dries. Moisturizing might seem counter-productive, but as long as you choose a water-based product that won’t clog your pores, it’ll actually help you keep your flawless face. Skin produces more lubricating oils when it’s dry, increasing the risk of breakouts. “No pain, no gain” doesn’t always apply here. If your skin is excessively dry, red or burns for more than a couple of minutes after you apply a blackhead cream, ditch it in favor of a gentler product with a different type of medication or a lower percentage of the active ingredient.
While creams alone can help, blackhead-busting action is often enhanced by the use of a good facial scrub. “Cosmopolitan” recommends Freeman Beautiful Skin Smoothing Creamy Scrub with Avocado & Oatmeal because it contains tiny granules that help loosen the gunk clogging your pores. Neutrogena Pore Refining Cream is a go-to choice from “Cosmopolitan” following your cleansing routine. “Marie Claire” recommends a prescription from a dermatologist for Retin-A to fight particularly resistant blackheads, but notes that Biore Pore Perfect strips are an over-the-counter option to lift blackheads out from pores. Check out the strips if your skin is particularly sensitive to medicated acne creams.