Updated 12/1/17. Manual extractions to remove clogged pores and blackheads are a common step in a professional facial but did you know there’s a way to safely remove them yourself at home? Here’s my expert skin care advice for do-it-yourself extractions to keep your pores clean and clear without harming the skin.
What you’ll need:
- cellophane/plastic wrap
- two washcloths
- facial tissue (Kleenex)
- heavy moisturizer
- *blackhead extractor tool (if you prefer not using your fingers)
For the best results, it’s recommended to remove blackheads immediately after a shower since the skin temperature has been raised. This will soften the hardened oil within the pore, making for easier extractions.
How to perform extractions:
After showering, apply a thin layer of the heaviest moisturizer you have available to the area you’re wanting to extract. By using a rich moisturizer, it will create a temporary occlusive seal to keep the heat trapped in the skin, which for extractions purposes is necessary.
Next, cover the area with cellophane/plastic wrap and apply the first hot, damp washcloth. Then, get the second washcloth nice and hot and apply it over the other one. The top one will help the one below (that’s touching the skin) to retain its heat longer.
Remove the plastic and keep the skin moist by applying a bit more moisturizer as more than likely, it will have wiped off on to the washcloth.
How to extract blackheads using your fingers: Wrap tissue around each forefinger and gently squeeze to remove blackheads or clogged pores. The goal with squeezing is to avoid positioning the fingers too close as this won’t allow the blackhead to come out. Widen them out a bit so that the blackhead will be extracted easier from the deeper level of the skin.
To avoid creating squeeze marks, go easy and be sure to relocate the position of your fingers. For example, position fingers at 3:00 and 9:00 and then 5:00 and then 10:00, 2:00 and 7:00. My general rule is…three strikes and you’re out. Meaning, if it doesn’t come out after three tries, don’t do it any longer or you’ll risk damaging the skin or potentially breaking a capillary.
*There are blackhead extractor tools available online such as this one. I like that it has a curved tip. If you’re not confident that your fingers will do the trick, then consider using one of these. As an esthetician, my fingers are trained well, but this tool might make it easier for you.
How to use an extractor tool: Hold the tweezers in one hand and place the open tips on both sides of the blackhead you plan to extract. With the tweezer body perpendicular to the area to be extracted (curved part of tips in contact with the skin) and using the round, curved ends, gently press on each side of the blackhead until it begins to release. Apply slow and even pressure and once you are able to, lightly pinch the tweezers and pull the blacked out from the skin to extract it. If the blackhead does not release easily, do not continue to attempt the extraction. We’re going for what I like to call, responsible squeezing.
When finished, wipe the skin with an alcohol-free toner and then apply a cooling, anti-bacterial gel mask like Rapid Response Detox Masque to reduce any redness and clear out the pores further.
So there you go! A safe and effective way to remove clogged pores for those who wish to do it themselves. Blackheads will slowly re-appear over time, so it’s important to get either get regular monthly facials to get the pores manually cleaned or do them yourself. My first suggestion would always be to see a skin professional for manual extractions but I do realize that this may be more practical for many.
How do you prevent blackheads from coming back?
Use products with Salicylic Acid to keep pores clean. Once the pores are clean, it’s important to incorporate products into your routine that use acids, such as AHA’s and BHA’s to absorb directly into the pores and keep them cleaned out, as well as preventing the oil from filling back up so quickly. Skin care products with blackhead-clearing acids include cleansers (see AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser), Beta Hydroxy (BHA) serums (see BHA Clarifying Serum) and at-home pore cleaning peels (try Triple Berry Smoothing Peel). Be sure the products are gentle and do not contain SD Alcohol 40 or Denatured Alcohol. Note: Do not use any acid-based products for at least 24 hours after manual extractions. Read my complete guide to exfoliation.
Prevent the oil from oxidizing. A blackhead is simply oil that has oxidized and turned black, so if you can prevent the oil from oxidizing, the oil will not turn black (or at least as quickly).
Antioxidants used in skin care products have many benefits such as encouraging collagen production, lightening discoloration (brown spots) and slowing down the production of skin-damaging free radicals, but one surprising benefit is their ability to prevent oil from oxidizing, hence the name antioxidants meaning ‘anti oxidation’ Here’s an example of how antioxidants prevent oxidation. You know when you cut an apple into slices and after a while, it turns brown? What would you do to prevent it from turning brown (oxidizing)? Simple…just squeeze lemon juice, which is high in vitamin C, onto the apple and the apple will not turn brown as quickly. Well, the same rules apply to the skin and blackheads. Now I can’t speak for all antioxidant products but I can tell you for certain, our Vitamin C & E Treatment uses three forms of stable, no-sting Vitamin C which makes this product not only suitable for preventing blackheads, but for sensitive skin too. Check out this experiment I did when I applied a vitamin C serum skincare product to an apple!
Tip: Do not use vitamin C products if the color of the product in the bottle has started to turn brown as this is an indication the vitamin C is oxidizing. Also, the darker the color of the product (such as dark orange or light brown), the less vitamin C is available in the formula so it’s not giving your skin the best antioxidant protection your skin needs to lessen the appearance of wrinkles—or reduce the dark color of blackheads.
In summary, blackheads will always want to return but you can definitely minimize their appearance by if you’re committed to staying on top of it with using the right kind of products along with regular, safe extractions.
Speaking of doing extractions yourself at home, not all things are meant to do at home. Here are some at-home skincare trends that I DON’T recommend you try.
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