Think about your cheeks for a second. When you talk on the phone, does your phone touch your face? When you’re bored in class or at work, do you ever rest your cheek on your hand? Due to their location on your face, cheeks gather lots of dirt and debris—making them a top spot for blackheads to pop up.
Blackheads, especially those on your cheeks and face, might be a pesky occurence that you’re trying to figure out. Use this guide to learn more about what causes blackheads on your cheeks, how to get rid of them, and how to prevent them from coming back.
What Are Blackheads?
What Causes Blackheads on Cheeks?
Blackheads on your cheeks are caused by a few different factors. Erica Palmer, head of Bioré Skincare R&D, explains that when blackheads form on our cheeks “the opening of the follicle (or pore) is blocked, and dead skin cells or keratinocytes that are normally shed are collected in what now becomes a little container for them.” This container, full of dead skin cells and other debris, is an open comedo. “When the material in an open comedo is exposed to air, it becomes oxidized and turns black, thus creating blackheads,” adds Palmer.
Blackheads on your cheeks are open comedones that can appear as a result of sebum overproduction and clogged pores, just like other blackheads on your face. Let’s look into 8 specific factors that can cause blackheads on your cheeks.
2. Large Pores in the Cheek Area. Palmer notes that “The cheeks and nose, chin and glabella (the area between the brows) have larger, more productive pores,” which means that blackheads are more likely to form on these areas. Cheeks tend to collect blackhead-causing material, like dead skin cells, so blackheads can sometimes appear in groups. Palmer tells us not to worry about multiple blackheads as they are not a more severe form of blackheads and are “simply adjacent (clustered) pores that become clogged.
3. Touching Your Face in Excess: Your hands can come into contact with millions of germs throughout the day. Avoid touching your face to prevent blackhead-causing material from making its way onto your skin. In addition to your hands, your hair can also contribute to excess dirt and oil on your skin, so tie your hair back to keep it out of your face.
“Your hands can come into contact with millions of germs throughout the day. Avoid touching your face to prevent blackhead-causing material from making its way onto your skin.”
5. Consuming Alcohol: Alcohol dries out our skin and can lead to an excess of dry skin cells on your face. Flaky, dry skin can get into your pores and cause blackheads.
6. Smoking: A clinical study conducted by the San Gallicano Dermatological Institute found a direct correlation between smoking cigarettes and acne (more specifically, non-inflammatory acne, like blackheads). In their study, researchers found that smoking increases the body’s production of sebum while also reducing its production of vitamin E, an essential nutrient for your skin.
7. Makeup and Sunscreen: Depending on your makeup routine, you might put foundation, concealer, sunscreen, blush, highlighter, and bronzer on your cheeks. To prevent blackheads, choose non-comedogenic makeup (makeup designed not to clog your pores) and wash off all your makeup before going to bed.
8. Not Washing Your Pillowcase as Often as You Should: While you sleep, excess oils, dirt, and leftover products from your skin and hair can seep into your pillowcase and lead to future breakouts. Prevent breakouts while you sleep by washing your pillowcase weekly.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads on Cheeks
Learning how to get rid of blackheads can be a challenge, so it's vital to find a skincare routine that works best for your skin. A combination of regular cleansing and toning with Salicylic Acid, as well as gentle exfoliation, can help you find relief for blackheads. Healthy lifestyle choices can also make a big difference in your skin’s condition. Here’s how you can get rid of blackheads at home or through professional care.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads at Home
1. Wash Your Face Regularly
Ideally, cleanse your face in the morning and evening with a face wash with Salicylic Acid to help treat and prevent blackheads. In regards to heat, it’s a myth that pores open and close. The truth: despite what your mother told you, you can’t steam your pores open.
“Pores do not have muscles around their opening to allow them to open and close,” says Palmer. However, steaming the skin can help loosen up underlying debris, making blackheads easier to extract.
3. Exfoliate Consistently
Exfoliate your skin weekly with a gentle scrub to help keep pores clean. This step will remove the outer layer of skin cells and help get rid of dead skin that may be contributing to blackheads on your cheeks.
Palmer recommends to “look for products containing spherical, effective exfoliants, which smooth skin without damaging or tearing. Salicylic Acid and even some retinoids can help with skin cell turnover helping to minimize pore clogs.”
4. Try a Face Mask
Face masks are great ways to cleanse your pores and keep your skin clean so that blackheads don’t form.
5. Use Pore Strips
Pore strips aren’t just for your nose! You can also use these strips to remove dirt, oil, and blackheads on other parts of your face, like your cheeks and chin. You can use a face pore strip for those areas.
Professional Blackhead Treatments
During medical facials, a skincare expert uses professional techniques to cleanse, extract, and moisturize your skin. These kinds of facials often use steam to remove blackheads and whiteheads without inflaming other parts of your skin.
2. Light Chemical Peels
Dermatologists and estheticians often offer chemical peels as part of a facial, but you can also find budget-friendly chemical peels for at-home use. To unclog pores, look for light peels containing Salicylic Acid and lactic acid. However, peels make your skin more vulnerable to UV damage, so make sure to wear sunscreen with a higher SPF for the week following your peel.
3. Professional Extractions
For extractions, we always recommend visiting a professional dermatologist or esthetician. When you go to a professional, they will use special tools and techniques to remove blackheads. They know how to do it, and we should let them! If you choose to get your blackheads extracted, keep your pores clean by cleansing daily and following with a toner. However, if seeing a professional is not an option, the safest and quickest way to remove blackheads on your cheeks is with a pore strip.
If you absolutely can’t resist doing your own pore extractions, make sure you take a long shower to soften your skin and the comedone. Protect your skin from damage by covering your fingernails with a piece of cloth before extracting your own blackheads. If the comedone does not come out easily, do NOT keep attacking it! Blackheads can quickly become pimples when the keratin material is pushed through the lining of the follicle.
How to Prevent Cheek Blackheads
“The same ways that we maintain our health in other areas are also smart for maintaining our skin, do avoid smoking, do avoid going out in the sun without UV protection and make healthier food choices,” says Palmer.
Preventing blackheads requires daily maintenance and finding the right products for your skin. First, for a deeper clean, try a charcoal face wash because it helps draw out excess dirt and oil that causes blackheads. Then, follow up with a Witch Hazel or Glycolic Acid toner to tighten pores.
Preventing blackheads requires daily maintenance and finding the right products for your skin.
We hope these tips from our Bioré R&D team help you keep your pores free from blackheads and put your best face forward.
- Blackheads are clogged pores, or hair follicles, that can be congested with a mixture of dead skin cells, debris, and an oily substance known as sebum.
- Many people touch their face with their hands or phone, so cheeks can be a top spot for blackheads. Dry skin on your cheeks can also clog your pores and lead to blackheads.
- Using the wrong makeup and sunscreen can clog pores and contribute to blackheads. Make sure to wear non-comedogenic (or non-pore clogging) products to prevent blackheads.
- Alcohol, smoking, and a poor diet can make blackheads worse by drying out your skin and increasing the sebum production.
- Help prevent blackheads with a combination of cleansing and toning in the morning and at night, as well as weekly exfoliation and regular facials.
- For deeper removal, dermatologists and estheticians can perform professional extractions to remove blackheads from your skin. However, if seeing a professional is not an option, the only other way to instantly remove blackheads is with a pore strip.