The Internet Is Using This Bathroom Staple to Remove Blackheads—Here’s Why You Should Be Careful

Updated: Mar. 01, 2024

Experts reveal the truth about the latest DIY pore cleaning craze.

floss picksSirichai Puangsuwan/ShutterstockUnlike other types of acne, you can actually attack blackheads pretty easily with DIY methods. We’ve tried all kinds of home remedies for blackheads, but a new method caught our eyes.

Some bloggers claim you can use basic dental floss to clear your complexion. Instagrammer Sukhi Mann (@sukhimann_) went viral with a video extracting blackheads with dental picks.

In the video, Mann soaks a towel in hot water, then holds it against her face to open her pores. Then she drags a floss pick over her nose and reveals all the gunk she was able to scrape out. “This option is cheaper and less likely to scar you than using a metal extractor,” she writes. Mann wraps up by using mouthwash as a toner.

We were totally mesmerized by the amount of gunk Mann got out of her pores. But she wasn’t the only one to try it, either. YouTuber OnTheCheapTip tried the trick with both floss picks and regular dental floss and actually liked the traditional kind better.

But despite the ultra-satisfying pimple-popping videos, we couldn’t help but wonder if it was actually as safe as, says, Dr. Pimple Popper’s advice on getting rid of blackheads. Turns out, it’s fine but not great.

The method probably won’t do any damage—and is certainly better than trying to DIY with a sharp needle—as long as you’re careful, says Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in California. She says the floss picks are probably better than regular floss because you’ll have better control over the pressure.

That said, it’s probably not as effective as it seems, says Dr. Lee. “It will only work on blackheads that are very superficial, and those are likely to be removed anyway through light exfoliation,” she says. Most of the work is actually done when the steam opens the pores, says board-certified dermatologist Diane Madfes, MD. She adds that a simple paste of oatmeal or crushed aspirin will do the trick just as well—and is actually better for your skin. But before you scrub, read up on these exfoliating mistakes.

Dragging dental floss across your face is way more abrasive than a simple scrub, which can cause a few problems. For one thing, stripping that whole top layer off your skin with floss will make you more sensitive to the sun, says Dr. Madfes. But the real catch is that getting rid of all those oils actually work against you. “When you strip the oils from the skin, the body gets the message … ‘I’m getting dry’ and it ends up increasing the production,” she says. And oily skin is the last thing you need. Try these beauty secrets for oily skin instead.

Plus, if you work too hard at your pores, you’ll end up irritating your skin, says Dr. Lee. So your blackheads will be gone, but you’ll have a rash instead.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the Listerine “toner” in the Instagram video, Dr. Madfes says to skip it. “You’re stripping the skin a little and again stimulating increased oil production,” she says. Splash cold water on your face to close the pores instead, and learn the truth behind other myths about oily skin.

No matter what you use to remove blackheads, nothing will be more effective than prevention. Instead of wasting your time scrubbing your pores clean, Dr. Lee recommends using a retinol product to help your skin’s turnover. A dermatologist can give you a prescription, but even an OTC retinol should do the trick. Use one at night with the rest of this nighttime skin care routine. “It’s a great preventative treatment so you don’t have to use pore strips or get extractions,” says Dr. Lee.

Looking for more? Learn the truth behind another viral blackhead remedy: skin gritting.