As one of the most conspicuous forms of acne, blackheads are a big nuisance to many. So what happens if you don't remove blackheads, pimples or other acne? Read on and learn when you should, and should not remove blackheads.

What Are Blackheads?

Blackheads are defined as the small dark bumps that form on the surface of the skin as a result of clogged hair follicles. This mild type of acne is usually located on the face but can also make appearances on the chest, back, neck, shoulders, and arms. The dark appearance is a result of oxidization, which occurs when the sebum is exposed to air.

What Causes Blackheads?

Blackheads are caused by a clog or a plug that develops in the opening of your hair follicles. Once dead skin cells and oil collect in the open of the skin follicle, it produces a bump called a comedo. When the comedo opens, exposure to the air causes it to look black - ultimately forming a blackhead.

There is a myriad of elements that can exacerbate the formation of blackheads:

  • If your body inherently produces too much oil
  • The hormonal changes that occur during puberty, menstruation, or while taking birth control pills
  • The buildup of the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria on the skin
  • Irritation of the hair follicles when dead skins cells don’t shed on a regular basis
  • Using overly thick or comedogenic skincare products such as; thick moisturizers, oils (such as coconut oil), makeup and some sunscreen
  • Medications such as corticosteroids, lithium, or androgens can also lead to blackheads.

What Happens If You Don’t Remove Blackheads?

So what exactly happens if you don't remove blackheads? For most people, the answer is: nothing. They will just remain until your body naturally gets rid of them. However, for others, they can actually develop into deep blackheads. For the most part, it depends on your genetics.

According to Dr. Michael Freeman, "The pores on our face, just like our ear canals, are designed to clean themselves. So for most people, leaving them to their own devices is fine, and just cleansing the face is enough. But there are a variety of reasons why pores can become blocked, causing blackheads to form under the skin. These blackheads are made up mostly of dead skin, and some dirt." and "It’s important to never squeeze a blackhead too much because you might cause the oil glands to rupture back into the skin, causing an even worse reaction.".

How to Prevent Blackheads

Prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are 7 proactive steps you can take to prevent blackheads.

  1. Daily Cleansing - As the number one line of defense against the formation of blackheads, daily cleansing can prevent the buildup of excess sebum, dirt, impurities, and other environmental pollutants. An over the counter, water soluble cleanser will not leave skin feeling tight and dry.
  2. Exfoliating with BHAs - Daily exfoliation can go a long way in smoothing out skin and helping to rid the face of blackheads. A leave-on product containing beta hydroxy acid (BHA) will work to penetrate the pores and peel away dead layers of skin. The most common of the family of BHAs is salicylic acid.
  3. Go to Bed Clean - It can be hard to resist the urge to fall into bed at night without thoroughly washing your face. However, nightly cleansing is crucial, especially if you wear makeup. Leaving makeup to sit on the face overnight can lead to clogged pores, increasing the chance that you will develop blackheads. The leftover makeup can also stick to your pillow, further contaminating your pores on subsequent nights.
  4. Topical Retinoids - Doctors must prescribe most retinoids. Retinoids are concentrated amounts of vitamin A, considered to be the gold standard of treatment for blackheads and whiteheads. These medications encourage the production of new skin cells so that the acne-causing oils and dirt are pushed out of clogged pores.
  5. Chemical PeelsChemical peels are one of the most common spa treatments available. Additionally, many dermatologists also recommend them and provide them in their office. A mixture containing alpha or beta hydroxy acid is used to slough away dead skin cells and unclog pores in an effort to clear up blackhead breakouts.
  6. Oil Absorbing Masks - These specially designed masks absorb excess oil, leaving the skin with a less shiny appearance and a fresher look. Look for masks containing bentonite clay for the most noticeable results. Although these masks are formulated to absorb oil and improve the outward appearance of the skin, they are not engineered to extract blackheads despite contradicting claims.

3 Best Blackhead Products

1. Stridex Maximum Acne Medication Pads

Stridex for Blackheads

Best for: Blackheads

These pre-moistened cleansing pads provide a concentration of two percent salicylic acid for maximum effectiveness. As the highest level of acne medicine available without a prescription, these pads deliver a thorough cleaning with each swipe. The textured pad is engineered to pull away dirt and oil deep into the pores.

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2. Paula's Choice SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Paulas Choice 2% BHA for Blackheads

Best for: Blackheads

This product has a loyal following of users thanks to its exceptional ability to unclog pores and even out skin tone. The active ingredient BHA helps to slough away old layers of skin cells, leaving a fresh and unblemished tone in its place. After applied, this leave on formula will  continue to work for hours.

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3. Paula's Choice RESIST Advanced Pore-Refining Treatment 4% BHA

paulas choice 4% bha for stubborn blackheads

Best for: Stubborn blackheads

This product is a good choice when other treatments are not delivering the desired results. The exfoliant properties, rich with antioxidants, help unclog pores and minimize their appearance. The leave-on treatment contains four percent BHA, delivering a powerful concentration of this essential acid. Because of the high level of BHA, this product may be too strong for use on the face but may be a good choice for stubborn blackheads located on other parts of the body.

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Benefits of Removing Blackheads

The main benefits of removing and preventing blackheads include; overall clearer skin and a more even complexion. Generally, the benefits of removing blackheads are purely cosmetic. Additionally, skip popping/squeezing them because it may irritate and inflame the skin. Stick to using over the counter products containing salicylic acid, and gently washing your skin regularly. Or, check out ways to get rid of blackheads permanently.


In addition to asking what happens if you don't remove blackheads, people also ask:

Should you have your blackheads professionally extracted?

For some, it may be beneficial to speak to a dermatologist, or a skincare professional such as an esthetician. These professionals have special tools that make it easier for them to extract blemishes.  Ultimately minimizing the chances of inflammation or irritation from occurring.

How much does it cost for a dermatologist to remove blackheads?

According to Dr. Tzu, a blackhead removal session when done by a dermatologist or licensed plastic surgeon, is around $137 a session. There is no downtime and besides the effect it has on your pores, it's also great for "light scarring, discoloration, sun damage, and stretch marks," according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Will blackheads go away without squeezing?

Depending on the severity of the blackhead, it may go away on its own or it may not. Some blackheads can last for months before they begin to go away. Squeezing the blackheads on your own is never a good idea because this can lead to more irritation or possibly cause an infection or more breakouts.

Should you pop blackheads?

When done properly and gently, popping blackheads can help to extract the plug and clear up the skin. A warm shower will soften the blackhead plugs and relax the pores, making the extraction process easier. Be sure to wash your hands prior to the extraction process so that you do not inadvertently introduce more bacteria to the skin.

Why won't my blackheads come out?

There are a number of reasons that may explain why the blackheads are not coming out. It is important to resist the urge to try to extract blackheads that are too deep. Applying too much pressure can bruise the skin. Instead, exfoliate the skin or use topical retinoids until the blackheads are ready to be removed.

Do blackhead masks work?

Although blackhead masks may temporarily improve the appearance of blackheads because of the way they rid the skin of the keratin plugs, they are not actually effective in digging down deep into the pores to treat the root of the problem. Using them too often can also irritate the skin, leading to more severe acne and blackhead issues.

What should you do after removing blackheads?

It is important to follow up with an effective exfoliation process after you have removed the blackheads. In order to reduce the possible inflammation and to kill the bacteria inside the pore, the exfoliant product should contain a BHA such as salicylic acid.

What Happens If You Don’t Remove Blackheads: Summary

  • Blackheads are small dark bumps that form on the surface of the skin as a result of clogged hair follicles
  • Blackheads form from hormonal changes, irritation of hair follicles, and using thick cosmetic products
  • For most people, nothing happens if you don't remove blackheads
  • For some people, they can develop into deep blackheads
  • You can prevent blackheads through cleansing and exfoliaiting
  • The main benefits of removing and prevent blackheads include; overall clearer skin and a more even complexion