Ready to say goodbye to blackheads for good? Here is our guide to the best drugstore products for blackheads.

Our Recommendations

1. Advanced Pore-Refining Treatment 4% BHA

Paula’s Choice Advanced Pore-Refining Treatment 4% BHA

Paula's Choice Product for Exfoliation, Large Pores, and Acne

Paula’s Choice Advanced Pore-Refining Treatment 4% BHA

This exfoliant contains a powerful concentration of salicylic acid, which works to unclog pores to minimize their appearance while also fighting breakouts.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Exfoliation, Large Pores, and Acne
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage the exfoliant into the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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The 4% concentration of salicylic acid (which is higher than the cult-favorite Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant) helps to unclog pores and promote a more even skin texture and tone. This makes this an excellent exfoliant for those dealing with large pores and breakouts and wanting to improve the overall appearance of the skin.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-greasy
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

This exfoliant contains additional antioxidant-rich ingredients that protect the skin and fight signs of aging, as well as soothing and hydrating ingredients. This includes glycerin, allantoin, grape seed extract, green tea leaf extract, and matricaria flower extract.

Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Salicylic Acid, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Glycerin, Aminomethyl Propanol, Adenosine, Allantoin, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizinate, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Bran Extract, Punica Granatum Fruit Extract, Sambucus Nigra Fruit Extract, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Lycium Barbarum Fruit Extract, Peucedanum Graveolens (Dill) Extract, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

2. Blackhead Power Liquid

COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid

COSRX Product for Acne and Blackheads

COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid

This beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) exfoliator is one of the best COSRX products for those prone to acne and blackheads. It penetrates deep into the skin to unclog pores, which helps maintain clear, smooth skin.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Acne and Blackheads
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, dispense the product onto a cotton pad, and then gently wipe all over the face.
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BHAs are some of the most effective chemical exfoliators when it comes to unclogging pores. This product contains gentle BHAs – willow bark water and betaine salicylate – which exfoliate with a minimized risk of irritation.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin

This product contains sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid) and panthenol, which help counteract some of the potentially irritating side effects of the exfoliating ingredients.

Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Butylene Glycol, Betaine, Niacinamide, Betaine Salicylate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

3. Acne Medication Pads

Stridex Daily Care Acne Medication Pads Maximum Strength

Stridex Product for Acne and Blackheads

Stridex Daily Care Acne Medication Pads Maximum Strength

These cleansing pads use the power of salicylic acid to help treat and prevent breakouts.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Acne and Blackheads
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: Cleanse and dry the skin, and then sweep a pad across the entire face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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These pads are soaked with a 2% concentration of salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (or BHA). Salicylic acid is an incredibly effective chemical exfoliator that unclogs pores to help treat current breakouts and prevent new acne from forming.

Pros

  • Lightweight solution
  • Exfoliating

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

These alcohol-free pads are textured, which increases the product’s ability to sweep away debris and exfoliate the skin.

Salicylic Acid, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Xylenesulfonate, Citric Acid, DMDM Hydantoin, Fragrance, Menthol, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Purified Water, Simethicone, Sodium Borate, Tetrasodium EDTA.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

4. AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary Product for Improving Skin Texture and Tone

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

This peeling solution is one of the best The Ordinary products, particularly for those looking for a high-strength but budget-friendly at-home peel.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Improving Skin Texture and Tone
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Cleanse the skin, and wait for it to fully dry. Once dry, apply the peel evenly over the face and neck. Leave on for up to 10 minutes, and rinse with lukewarm water.
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This peel offers a range of benefits, thanks to a high concentration of alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, and citric acid), as well as an effective concentration of beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid). The AHAs help to exfoliate the top layer of the skin to reduce the signs of aging, improve texture, and minimize hyperpigmentation, while BHA unclogs pores for a clear complexion.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • High probability of irritation (best used by those experienced with acids)

This peel contains ingredients to help counteract irritation, including Tasmanian pepperberry and vitamin B5. However, this peel is still very strong for an over-the-counter product, and is best suited for those who already have experience using chemical exfoliators in their routine.

Glycolic Acid, Aqua (Water), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Daucus Carota Sativa Extract, Propanediol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Xanthan gum, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin"

    Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

5. Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

COSRX Product for Acne and Daily Cleansing

COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

This gentle foaming cleanser removes excess oils and helps unclog pores without drying out the skin.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Acne and Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Dispense the cleanser into your palms, and then gently massage it into wet skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
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If you’re acne-prone, you need a daily cleanser that will remove excess oils and impurities without further irritating breakouts or drying out the skin. This cleanser contains a 0.5% concentration of salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps gently unclog pores to minimize breakouts.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the salicylic acid, this cleanser contains willow bark water, tea tree oil, evening primrose extract, and other soothing skincare ingredients.

Water, Glycerin, Myristic Acid, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Lauric Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycol Distearate, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Salicylic Acid, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Melaleuca Alternigolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Saccharomyces Ferment, Cryptomeria Japonica Leaf Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Leaf Extract, Pinus Palustris Leaf Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Flower Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethyl Hexanediol, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.

6. Effaclar Adapalene Gel

La Roche-Posay Product for Acne

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel

This acne gel treatment contains prescription-strength levels of adapalene, a topical retinoid that helps clear breakouts and prevent new acne from forming.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Acne
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing and drying the skin, apply a pea-sized amount over the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This treatment is one of the best La Roche-Posay products for acne. It contains a 0.1% concentration of adapalene, which has been shown to be incredibly effective in the treatment of acne. This topical retinoid increases cell turnover rate, which keeps pores from clogging and prevents acne.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Oil-free
  • Dermatologist tested
  • Non-comedogenic

Cons

  • May cause irritation

While adapalene is less likely to cause irritation compared to stronger prescription retinoids (like tretinoin), it still may lead to some irritation, especially for those new to using retinoids. Start by using it every other night or twice a week to allow your skin to adjust.

Adapalene USP 0.1% (retinoid), Carbomer homopolymer, Edetate disodium, Methylparaben, Poloxamer 182, Propylene glycol, Purified water, and Sodium hydroxide

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "A review of the use of adapalene for the treatment of acne vulgaris"

    Accessed Aug. 18, 2021.

7. Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution

Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution With 2% Salicylic Acid

Paula's Choice Product for Acne, Blackheads, Hyperpigmentation and Redness

Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution With 2% Salicylic Acid

This gentle exfoliating product is ideal for skin prone to breakouts, as it unclogs pores to minimize blemishes while soothing the skin to decrease redness.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Acne, Blackheads, Hyperpigmentation and Redness
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, soak a cotton pad with the product and swipe all over the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This product contains a 2% concentration of salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that is able to work deep in the pores to unclog and treat breakouts (and prevent new blemishes from forming). It also helps minimize the appearance of pores, and will work to diminish the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from previous blemishes. This concentration is high enough to be effective on acne-prone skin, but still gentle as to reduce the risk of irritation.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

Additional hydrating and soothing ingredients are paired with the salicylic acid to minimize irritation and reduce redness. This includes glycerin, hyaluronic acid, allantoin, and panthenol.

Salicylic Acid 2%, Water (Aqua), Dipropylene Glycol (hydration), Pentylene Glycol (hydration), Polysorbate 20 (stabilizer), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Glycerin (skin replenishing), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration/skin replenishing), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (skin-soothing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Panthenol (hydration), PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer (texture-enhancing), Methyl Gluceth-20 (hydration), Glycereth-26 (texture-enhancing), Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane (hydration), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Tetrasodium EDTA (stabilizer), Sodium Metabisulfite (stabilizer).

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments A Review"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.

8. Adapalene Gel 0.1%

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

Differin Product for Acne, Blackheads and Dark Spots

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

This treatment gel contains adapalene, a retinoid that is commonly used to treat acne and prevent new breakouts from forming.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Acne, Blackheads and Dark Spots
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply a thin layer of the treatment all over your face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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Adapalene is incredibly effective when it comes to treating acne, and it can also help fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from past breakouts. It increases cell turnover rates, which in turn helps clear acne and improve tone and texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Oil-free

Cons

  • May irritate the skin

This gel is free of fragrances, and is also non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t contribute to clogged pores. You may initially experience some irritation as your skin adjusts to the retinoid.

Adapalene 0.1% (retinoid), carbomer 940, edetate disodium, methylparaben, poloxamer 182, propylene glycol, purified water and sodium hydroxide

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "A review of the use of adapalene for the treatment of acne vulgaris"

    Accessed Sep. 1, 2021.

9. 2% BHA Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ExfoliantCult favorite

Paula's Choice Product for Gently Exfoliating and Preventing Breakouts

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

This cult-favorite product contains salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliator that gently exfoliates dead skin cells and unclogs pores for a clear complexion.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Gently Exfoliating and Preventing Breakouts
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, soak a cotton pad with the product and swipe all over the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This is a best seller at Paula’s Choice, and for a good reason. Salicylic acid (a beta-hydroxy acid, or BHA) is an excellent chemical exfoliator that sheds excess skin cells and decongests pores to fight acne and blackheads and promote a more even skin tone.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This product also contains green tea, which soothes irritation and provides anti-aging benefits.

Water (Aqua), Methylpropanediol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Polysorbate 20 (stabilizer), Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract (green tea/skin calming/antioxidant), Sodium Hydroxide (pH balancer), Tetrasodium EDTA (stabilizer)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

10. Paula's Choice 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide

Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide

Paula's Choice Product for Diminishing Breakouts and Preventing New Acne

Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment

The 2.5% concentration of benzoyl peroxide helps fight current breakouts while preventing new acne from forming.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Diminishing Breakouts and Preventing New Acne
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the treatment to acne-prone areas. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This is one of the best Paula’s Choice products for acne because benzoyl peroxide is a highly effective acne-fighting ingredient. It kills acne-causing bacteria on the skin and also gets rid of excess oil and pore-clogging dead skin cells.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This treatment also includes soothing and hydrating ingredients, including allantoin and bisabolol. These additional ingredients help calm redness and minimize drying from the benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% (anti-acne), Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol (hydration/penetration enhancer), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer (texture-enhancing), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture-enhancing), Sodium Citrate (pH adjuster), Laureth-4 (stabilizer), Caprylyl Glycol (preservatives), Hexylene Glycol (preservatives), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Benzoyl Peroxide"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

FAQs

What works best for removing blackheads?

Salicylic acid (a beta hydroxy acid, or BHA) is a chemical exfoliant that is incredibly effective at dissolving debris inside the pores to treat blackheads. Retinoids and benzoyl peroxide are also great for getting rid of blackheads. If you’re using over-the-counter products with these ingredients and aren’t seeing any results, you may need to talk to a dermatologist about a stronger prescription-strength treatment or professional manual extraction.

How do you permanently get rid of blackheads?

If you want to fight current blackheads and prevent future blemishes from forming, you need to stick to a targeted skincare routine with products that contain ingredients known to prevent blackheads. One of the best ways to permanently get rid of blackheads is to regularly use a chemical exfoliant (like any of the BHA options mentioned above), which will help keep pores clear of blackhead-causing debris. Regularly using retinoids and/or benzoyl peroxide products can also be super effective. You can establish a routine using two or all three of these ingredients, but note that products containing these ingredients should not be applied at the same time. This is particularly true of benzoyl peroxide and retinoids, as these ingredients cancel each other out when combined.

Does Differin Gel remove blackheads?

Yes, Differin Gel can help treat and prevent blackheads, as well as other forms of acne. Adapalene (the active ingredient in Differin) helps increase cell turnover rates, which prevents acne from forming while also improving overall skin tone and texture.

The Bottom Line

Blackheads can be tricky to get rid of and prevent, but a targeted skincare routine can make a huge difference. If you’re battling blackheads, consider incorporating one (or a few) of these effective products into your skincare routine.