Nonprescription medications can treat blackheads. These may include: Salicylic acid: This is available over-the-counter for blackheads as a cleanser or lotion. It helps remove the top layer of damaged skin. Salicylic acid dissolves dead skin cells to prevent your hair follicles from clogging. Azelaic acid: Barley, wheat, rye and other various grains naturally contain azelaic acid. It kills microorganisms on your skin and reduces swelling. Benzoyl peroxide: This is available as an over-the-counter product (such as Clearasil®, Stridex® and PanOxyl®) as a leave-on gel or wash. It targets surface bacteria, which often aggravates acne. Lower concentrations and wash formulations are less irritating to your skin. Irritation (dryness) is a common side effect. Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives): Retinoids, such as Retin-A®, Tazorac® and Differin® (which is now available without a prescription), break up blackheads and whiteheads and help to prevent clogged pores. You may notice a change in skin color or peeling. Using retinoids every other day or using them at the same time as a moisturizer can reduce these side effects. If your blackheads don’t go away with nonprescription medications, your healthcare provider may recommend: Prescription-strength retinoids: Prescription-strength retinoids are stronger than nonprescription retinoids. Oral antibiotics: Oral antibiotics reduce the bacteria that cause blackheads. Microdermabrasion: A dermatologist uses a specialized instrument to “sand” your skin. Removing the top layers of your skin frees the clogs that cause blackheads. Chemical peels: Chemical peels use a mild chemical solution to remove layers of skin and reduce blackheads. Laser skin resurfacing: Laser skin resurfacing directs short, concentrated pulsating beams of light at your blackheads. The light beams reduce the amount of oil that your sebaceous glands produce.