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Extracting blackheads at home is a controversial topic. Many professionals caution against it; however, when done properly it is a safe and budget-friendly way to get rid of those annoying blemishes. The key is to know the proper way to do it; if not, you risk irritating your skin and leaving lasting scarring. Keep reading to learn how to properly extract blackheads at home.
I recommend only extracting blackheads and never pimples.
- Blackheads are normally found in the T-zone area (forehead, nose, chin) and consist of oxidized oils which take up residence in your pores and look like tiny black dots. They are open comedones, which means that you don’t have to break the skin to extract them.
- Pimples, or whiteheads, are open comedones. When trying to extract pimples, you can easily cause inflammation and breakage in the skin, resulting in scarring.
Here are the steps to follow in for properly extracting blackheads at home:
Part 1: Prepare Properly
The key to properly extracting blackheads without scarring or inflammation starts with your preparation.
If you’re using any products containing Retinol (common in anti-aging products), you should stop applying them a few days before you plan to do the extractions. Retinol can make your skin extremely sensitive, which can cause it to freak out during the extractions.
It’s also recommended to perform the blackhead extractions immediately after a shower. Your skin’s temperature will be raised, which softens the hardened grime and oil within your follicles (pores). All you need to do is slather on some organic moisturizer and skip ahead to ‘Part 2: Properly Extracting the Blackheads’.
If you’re not performing the extractions immediately after a shower, or if you want to be extra careful, follow the three steps below and you should be good:
Start by using a gentle and organic cleanser. Cleansing removes all of the dirt and grime that is on your face and prevents it from re-clogging your pores after the extractions.
The way you cleanse your face is important, don’t rush through this part.
- Begin by rinsing your face with lukewarm water.
- Apply a dime-sized portion of the organic cleanser best suited for your skin type. You can view a list of recommended luxury and budget organic cleanser options here.
- Begin to rub the cleanser onto your face with upwards circular motions using your middle and ring fingers. Make sure to use upwards motions and move from the bottom of your face to the top to prevent drag and give your face a lift.
- Use a medium pressure to help stimulate your face muscles and thoroughly remove any tough grime and makeup. The massaging process should be emphasized and last a few minutes.
- Rinse with lukewarm water and pat your face dry with a soft washcloth.
Apply a light scrub to remove dead skin cells and purify your face. This step will help remove the tough top layer of the blackheads and making them easier to remove. It also helps with evening out your skins appearance and improving the overall look of your pores.
- To exfoliate, apply a dime-sized amount of scrub to the palm of your hand.
- Use the same upwards circular motions that you used for the cleanser, only this time use a light delicate pressure.
- Continue for about two minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry. You can also use a chemical or enzymatic exfoliation.
- You can read about our favorite scrubs and chemical exfoliators here.
Steam moistens your skins, opens up your pores, and softens the oxidized sebum (oil) clogged in them. This makes manipulating your pores and extracting the gunk inside much easier, both of which greatly reduce the risk of scarring and inflammation.
I’d recommend adding a few drops of essential oils such as chamomile and lavender or various herbs like rosemary, thyme, or rose petals to increase the benefits to your skin. As a bonus, steaming is also extremely relaxing.
- The easiest way to steam at home is to bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Drape a towel over the back of your head and slowly lean over the pot, letting your face hover directly above the steam.
- Be sure not so close that it’s painful, the steam should be warm, not hot.
- The towel will trap the steam and create a little steam room for your face.
- Stay like this for 10-15 minutes, taking brief breaks as needed.
The softening effect of steaming only lasts for two to three minutes, so you’ll likely need to take breaks from extracting to re-steam if you’re planning to treat your whole face.
I must add that steaming isn’t ideal for all skin types. If you have rosacea or extremely sensitive skin, you should stick to performing extractions straight after showers.
Part 2: Properly Extracting Blackheads
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, absolutely do NOT begin extracting blackheads if you have not cleansed, exfoliated and steamed your face. Please, you do not want to end up with scarring.
You may perform extractions with a tool or your fingers, either of these are good options, but the tool tends to be a bit more foolproof. Either method will leave little to no damage if done properly, but if done improperly, you could be left with scarring at worst or, at best, various red and darkened spots, which can take up to a month to heal.
Extracting Blackheads with a Tool
If you decide to use a tool, a comedone extractor is your weapon of choice. An effective, cheap option is the Utopia Care Blackhead Remover, which is sold for $7 on Amazon.
- To use the tool, place the loop end of the extractor over the blackhead that you’re trying to extract.
- Gently press down on the end of the extractor tool (the part of the loop across from the handle should be pressing down on the skin) and, while maintaining pressure, slowly move the tool up to and across the blackhead. T
- he blackhead should come out all in one piece like a plug.
You can attempt this from several directions, i.e. moving the tool horizontally, vertically, etc. over the blackhead, but if the blackhead doesn’t come out after three attempts, move on and leave it for another day. You’d rather be stuck with a stubborn blackhead than scarring or irritation that can last forever.
Extracting Blackheads with Your Fingers
First things first, never ever use your fingernails while performing extractions. Never.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in.
- To start, wrap a tissue around each index finger. Never use your bare fingers to do this or else you risk infecting your skin with various strains of bacteria that have taken up residence on your fingers and under your fingernails.
- Place one finger on each side of the blackhead and push down gently with a slight squeeze. Make sure not to place the fingers too closely around the blackhead, a wider spacing will allow the blackhead to be extracted easier from deeper levels of skin and also helps reduce irritation.
The blackhead should pop out easily in one piece. If it doesn’t come out on the first try, re-adjust your fingers to avoid creating marks. For example, if they were positioned at 9:00 and 3:00 before, this time place them at 6:00 and 12:00. Just like with the tool, after three tries, it’s smarter to abandon the blackhead for another day.
Cleansing the Area
After you’ve properly extracted a blackhead, use an antiseptic toner or essence to cleanse the area to prevent any additional spots from popping up from the expelled oils. A natural and effective option is Witch Hazel. You can apply this to your whole face, or just use a Q-tip to apply it to the affected area.
Part 3: Following the Extractions
Soothing and Hydrating Mask
Now that you’ve finished properly extracting your blackheads, it’s time to reward your skin with a nice soothing mask to reduce swelling, redness, and irritation. Some good DIY options are an oatmeal and honey mask or an avocado and egg yolk mask. Put some cucumber slices on those eyes and put your feet up for a half hour or so, you’ve earned it.
Protect Your Skin
After extracting blackheads, you’ll need to make a special effort to keep your face clean because you don’t want to overwhelm your skin or reclog your open pores. It’s best to perform the extractions right before bed, where your skin will have all night to heal before being faced with the day. If this isn’t possible, at least be sure to skip the makeup for a few hours.
That’s it! You’ve finished extracting your blackheads and are now left with a clean, blackhead-free face. Congratulations. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to leave a comment below.