The Expert Way To Get Rid Of Blackheads

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.

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 DIY-extractions that'll keep your pores clean and clear without harming the skin. Of course, a professional is always preferred for manual extractions, but if you're in a jam, and it's not realistic to get to an aesthetician, then properly doing it at home — emphasis on properly — can be a good stopgap until you can get to an appointment for a more thorough cleansing. Follow the guidelines below to take matters into your own hands the right way.

What you’ll need:
Some basic “tools” found in almost everyone’s home: cellophane/plastic wrap, two washcloths, facial tissue, and a heavy moisturizer. Plan to perform manual extractions immediately after a shower when the skin’s temperature has risen. The naturally heated skin will soften the hardened oil within the pores, making for easier extractions.
How to perform extractions: After showering, apply a thin coat of the heaviest moisturizer you have directly to the area you’re looking to extract. Using a rich moisturizer will create a temporary occlusive seal to keep the heat trapped in the skin, which for extraction purposes, is necessary. Next, tear off a small piece of cellophane/plastic wrap and cover the area. Then, apply a hot, damp washcloth to the area (on top of the plastic wrap) and apply a second hot washcloth directly over the first one. Hold it to the skin for five minutes. (The plastic wrap and washcloths help the skin to retain its heat longer.)
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.

After five minutes, remove the washcloths and plastic wrap and keep the skin moist by applying a bit more moisturizer.

The next step is to wrap tissue over each of your forefingers and gently squeeze to remove blackheads or clogged pores. When squeezing, avoid positioning the fingers too close to the blackhead or clogged pore, as this will make getting it out more challenging. Widen your fingers out a bit so that the blackhead can be extracted more easily from a deeper level of the skin.

To avoid creating squeeze marks, go easy and be sure to relocate the position of your fingers. For example, first position fingers at 3:00 and 9:00, then 5:00 and 10:00 and then 2:00 and 7:00. My general rule is three strikes and you’re out. Meaning, if the blackhead doesn’t come out after three tries, don’t do it any longer or you’ll risk harming the skin or potentially damaging a capillary.

When finished, wipe the skin with an alcohol-free toner and then apply a cooling gel mask to reduce any redness. Or, you can use a clay-based mask to purify the pores.

Once the pores are clean, it’s important to incorporate products into your routine that use acids, such as beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), to absorb directly into the pore lining and keep them cleaned out, as well as preventing the oil from filling back up so quickly. Skin-care products with pore-clearing BHA acids might include cleansers, serums, and at-home pore cleaning peels. Be sure the products are gentle and do not contain SD alcohol 40 or denatured alcohol. I do not recommend you use any acid-based products for at least 24 hours after manual extractions.
Keep in mind that blackheads will slowly re-appear over time, so it’s important to either get regular monthly facials to get the pores manually cleaned or keep on top of them yourself.

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