Updated 4/6/20 Blackheads are the bain of our existence. Here’s everything you need to know to get them cleared out in the privacy of your own bathroom mirror.
How to Prepare for At-Home Extractions
First, the prep!
Grab Your Tools
- Cellophane/plastic wrap
- Two washcloths
- Facial tissue (Kleenex)
- A rich, heavy moisturizer
- Blackhead extractor tool (if you prefer not using your fingers)
Take a Shower
For the best results, I recommend you extract blackheads and clogged pores 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 Safely Extract Blackheads and Clogged Pores, Step-by-Step
Now, the real work begins. Here are step-by-step instructions for extracting your own blackheads and clogged pores—WITHOUT scarring your skin.
Step 1 — Apply a Moisturizer
After showering or washing your face, apply a thin layer of the heaviest moisturizer you have available to the area where you’re wanting to remove blackheads and clogged pores. Using a rich moisturizer will create a temporary, occlusive seal to keep the heat trapped in the skin, which makes extractions more seamless.
Step 2 — Soften the Skin
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. Layering the washcloths will ensure that the heat is retained in your skin. For safe extractions and the easiest removal, it’s important to have the skin as soft as possible.
Step 3 — Re-Apply Moisturizer
Remove the washcloths and plastic and keep the skin moist by applying a bit more moisturizer. More than likely, it will have wiped off onto the washcloth.
Step 4 — Extract
For extractions, you can use either your fingers or an extractor tool. Here are instructions for each.
How to Extract Using Your Fingers
Wrap a tissue around each forefinger and gently squeeze to extract blackheads and clogged pores. The goal with squeezing is to avoid positioning the fingers too close as this will block the blackhead from coming out. Widen them out a bit so that the blackhead will be extracted from the deeper levels 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, then 5:00 and then 10:00, then 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.
How to Extract Using an Extractor Tool
There are blackhead extractor tools available online. I like one that 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 well-trained, but this tool might make it easier for you.
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 tip 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.
Step 5 — Clean the Affected Area
When finished, wipe the skin with an alcohol-free toner. You can also massage an anti-bacterial facial cleanser onto the affected area to clear out the pores. Finish by applying a soothing, anti-bacterial gel mask to reduce any irritation and clean out the pores further.
Note: Do not use any acid-based products for at least 24 hours after manual extractions.
FYI, here’s why pore cleaning strips don’t work.
How Can I Prevent Blackheads From Coming Back?
The truth is, blackheads WILL slowly re-appear over time (unfortunately!), so it’s important to use the right products for prevention. There’s a lot to know about keeping pores clean, but in the meantime, here are a few tips for keeping those pesky blackheads at bay.
Use Salicylic Acid to Keep Pores Clear
Once the pores are clean, it’s important to incorporate products into your routine that use salicylic acids. Salicylic acid will help cut down the oil in your pores to prevent them from filling back up so quickly. Be sure the products are gentle and do not contain SD alcohol 40 or denatured alcohol.
Prevent Oil from Oxidizing
A blackhead is simply oil that has come to the surface and oxidized because of contact with the open air. This oxidation is what causes blackheads to turn black. To fight this process and keep the oil from oxidizing so quickly, use an antioxidant like vitamin C. Here’s an interesting experiment I did to show how antioxidants effectively prevent oxidation!
So there you have it, a safe and effective way to extract blackheads and clogged pores from the comfort of your own home. Good luck with those extractions!
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”