When those pesky black dots—you know the ones—show up on your face, you’re likely to find yourself Googling blackhead extractions. No matter how diligent you are with your skin care routine, it can seem as if those annoying pore-pluggers won’t budge. We feel your pain! In the past, you may have even taken matters into your own hands by attempting to practice pimple popping and blackhead removal on your own—to no avail.
If you think extractions may be the only thing that can save your skin, keep reading to learn exactly what blackhead extraction is, the ins and outs of an extraction facial, and how to maintain your results to reduce the appearance of those annoying black dots.
WHAT IS A BLACKHEAD?
Before you learn about extractions, it’s key that you actually know what blackheads are. It’s possible that you think you have blackheads when that’s not even the case. Sebaceous filaments are another skin concern that’s often mistaken for blackheads.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), actual blackheads appear because your pores become clogged with oil. Besides oil, dirt and debris also fill the pores. If the pore stays open, that’s when you see a blackhead. If it closes and comes to a head, a whitehead forms instead. Keep in mind, per the AAD, the dark spot that marks a blackhead isn’t dirt nor can you scrub it away.
WHAT IS A BLACKHEAD EXTRACTION?
The AAD states that blackhead extractions are when a dermatologist uses sterile instruments to remove blackheads from your skin safely. During the extraction, your dermatologist uses the equipment to clear clogged and obstructed pores. The AAD also shares that blackheads can return after extraction, so it’s important to follow a skin care plan to prevent blemishes from returning.
CAN YOU EXTRACT YOUR OWN BLACKHEADS?
The truth is, you should only trust a professional—like your dermatologist—with facial extractions to avoid spreading bacteria and possibly causing trauma to your skin. Just like pimple popping, extractions gone wrong can lead to scarring and can make acne worse.
WHAT IS AN EXTRACTION FACIAL?
Besides dermatologists, licensed aestheticians also perform blackhead extractions. The process is about the same and will involve sterile instruments, but they’ll incorporate addressing your blackheads into a full extraction facial. Facials can differ depending on who is giving them, but the general process goes something like this:
STEP #1: CLEANSING
Your aesthetician will start the process with a thorough cleansing, or even a double cleansing, using cotton pads, wipes, or sponges.
STEP #2: SKIN ANALYSIS
Using a bright magnifying lamp, your aesthetician will examine your skin to determine your skin type and assess any skin care conditions, including acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and sun damage. Then, your esthetician will select the appropriate products and treatments for your skin.
STEP #3: STEAM
A machine that dispenses a thin vapor of warm water will be held over your face to prep the skin for extraction.
Editor’s note: You can read about the benefits of facial steaming in our article, Is Steam Good for Your Skin?
STEP #4: EXFOLIATION
Next up: exfoliation. Either a mechanical exfoliant or chemical exfoliant will be used to remove dead skin cells. If your aesthetician opts for a mechanical exfoliant, they’ll likey massage a gentle face scrub over your skin. A chemical exfoliant, on the other hand, may come in the form of a serum or toner.
STEP #5: EXTRACTIONS
Finally, the step you’ve been waiting for: blackhead extraction. Your aesthetician will use sterile instruments to remove blackheads from your skin. This process may be a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be too painful.
STEP #6: FACIAL MASSAGE
After removing your blackheads, your aesthetician will gently massage your face to stimulate your skin and facial muscles. And no, you don’t want to skip this part—facial massages feel amazing!
STEP #7: FACE MASK
Applying a face mask that suits your skin type is next on the extraction facial agenda. In your case, your aesthetician may go with one that minimizes the appearance of pores.
Editor’s note: To get a similar face mask experience at home, check out the L’Oréal Paris Pure-Clay Exfoliate & Refining Face Mask, which addresses deep clogged pores to help minimize their appearance.
STEP #8: HYDRATE
This step consists of the application of a toner, serum, and moisturizer. Most aestheticians will apply sunscreen if your appointment is during the daytime.
STEP #9: ADVICE SESSION
After your extraction facial is complete, the aesthetician will share skin care tips along with product recommendations to address all of your skin care concerns.
WHAT TO DO AFTER AN EXTRACTION
If you receive your extractions as part of a facial, you should follow your aesthetician’s advice on what to do afterward. They’ll fill you in on any aftercare. You’ll also want to keep in mind what we mentioned above—that extractions don’t magically prevent blackheads from returning. You’ll want to develop a complete skin care routine for managing blackheads.
After an extraction, it’s important to consider that your skin may be tender. We recommend going makeup-free for the rest of the day and laying off applying additional products for a little while.
Now that you’ve learned about blackhead extraction, you may be interested in expanding your knowledge of other types of acne. Next, read our article, Can You Remove Whiteheads? Everything You Need to Know.