This Is How To Use An Extraction Tool Without Messing Up Your Skin

You can't hide anything from an aesthetician. Every single time I go for a facial, they wash my makeup off, examine my bare face, and they know. There's no point in lying: They know I'm not really "prone to ingrowns" between my brows (I just pick the skin). They can tell the dark circles under my eyes are exacerbated by my wine consumption. And they always, always call out the clogged pores I've tried to extract myself.
That was the case last weekend, when I went for a facial at the Erno Laszlo Institute. (P.S.: If you ever get the chance, GO. It was the most thorough, relaxing treatment of my life.) Eliana Restrepo, the aesthetician tending to my skin, immediately zeroed in on a small whitehead on the bridge of my nose. "You tried to get this," she said matter-of-factly.
"No, I mean, I just barely squeezed..." I trailed off. I had thought the evidence of my aggressive late-night surgery on the thing with an extraction tool had disappeared, but Restrepo said that since I had ripped the skin, but hadn't succeeded in getting all the sebum out, she'd now have to make it worse to make it better. Oops.
In the grand scheme of understanding extractions, Restrepo explained that the first thing to know is that our pores are actually hair follicles. While we don't think of the ones on our face as being the same as the ones on our scalp or legs, since the hair is soft and often imperceptible, they actually are. "Hair grows in all different directions, but when you squeeze a clogged pore yourself in front of the mirror, you only squeeze horizontally. When a professional does it, they can tell what angle to go at it from," she said. Makes total sense.
In my defense, I've had plenty of derms and facialists tell me it's never a good idea to do my own extractions — I get it, I do — but I'm being realistic here: If something pops up, I'm going to pick it. Blackhead extraction tools, I figured, are a better alternative to my fingers, right? "Maybe," says Restrepo, "but no one uses them correctly." Ahead, get a how-to straight from the pros.