This article was originally published on fabfitfun.com.
No matter how many face masks or DIY facials we perform from home, congestion caused by clogged pores, blackheads, and pimples can linger without manual extraction at the hands of an experienced esthetician.
“The benefit of extracting properly is to remove the build-up within the pore, and to help reduce texture that is caused by congested pores,” explains esthetician Candace Marino, also known as The LA Facialist, who works with celebrities including Miranda Kerr, Grimes, and occasionally Kourtney Kardashian.
“I believe extractions are best performed by a skilled facialist, but that being said, we have all experienced a blackhead or pimple that is irresistible, so I understand people wanting to know how to DIY.”
Since you can’t visit a professional at the moment, Marino is sharing her tips for properly performing your own extractions at home so you don’t damage your skin.
Know the risks
Before getting started, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of performing your own self-extractions. “The reason I’m not an advocate of self-extracting is that nine times out of 10, you are not getting the entire mass,” Marino says. This essentially means that when you extract puss, fluid, or a solid piece of oil that is not the whole shebang, you have subjected your skin to unnecessary trauma. This can result in skin damage, pigmentation, and scarring. “Scarring is a huge risk, especially when using extraction tools and devices,” she warns.
Know what to extract
“The only things that should be extracted are open comedones (blackheads) or pimples that come to a head and are clearly ready to go,” Marino says. She goes on to explain that nothing hard, red, angry, or cystic (i.e. beneath the surface without coming to a head) should be touched. “Extractions should be easy. If it needs to be forced, it’s not ready,” she advises.
For those stubborn pimples that can’t be extracted, Marino’s at-home protocol is to ice it, apply a spot treatment, and leave it alone. “Many acne spot treatments will reduce the inflammation and clear the breakout in less time than if you mess with it,” she adds, noting that Sircuit Skin FixZit Spot Treatment is one of her favorite topical spot treatments.
Before you get started, be sure to wash your hands. Then wash your face with a cleanser, preferably one that contains acids for mild exfoliation. Marino particularly likes SkinBetter Science Oxygen Infusion Wash, which both exfoliates and imparts a purifying, oxygenating effect. Exfoliating formulas help to clear debris from the surface of the skin and can even dissolve or loosen the matter you would like to extract.
Marino elaborates that the right skin care products can help eliminate the need for extractions altogether. “I find using the right products, like BHAs, are better than extracting because they go into the pore and dissolve buildup,” she says. Marino likes iS Clinical Active Serum, a high-quality AHA/BHA serum for improving skin texture, pimples, blackheads, and pore build-up. If you are in the market for a moisturizer that is transformative for pores, consider SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream.
Next up comes the steam, which does not “open” your pores, per se, but does soften them up and get them primed for deep cleansing. Marino adds that it is important to steam for only five minutes, as longer periods of time can lead to trans-epidermal moisture loss. While you can buy a facial steamer, like the Aira Ionic Facial Steamer, you can also just boil some water or tea and use a towel to trap in the moisture. We love The Good Hippie Balance Facial Steam for an at-home, floral blend.
Extract with tissue
Wrap your fingers in facial tissue to avoid spreading bacteria onto the face, then gently pinch the skin upward, only exerting pressure in the direction that you would like the extracted material to go. Sending the contents of the clogged pore or pimple downwards will exacerbate inflammation and can worsen the infection. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to try to catch the expelled contents in the tissue, if possible, without letting that bacteria touch the surface of your skin. Cleanse your skin again when the extractions are complete.
Next, Marino suggests grabbing some ice to treat the skin’s inflammation and to reduce any discomfort. Use an ice roller to help reduce inflammation, soothe, treat puffiness, and calm.
Follow up with a pH-balancing toner; Marino recommends Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 W, which is the gentlest version of the cult-favorite P50 line. It is important to not skip toning because it restores the skin to its ideal pH of 5.5, which allows the protective moisture barrier and acid mantle to function optimally.
Apply a mask
Finishing the extraction process with a mask can help to heal, purify, and oxygenate your skin. Marino recommends Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant, a beloved concoction containing barrier-fortifying B vitamins, apple cider vinegar, and witch hazel. This mask — which is frequently sold out — can also be combined with Biologique Recherche Masque VIP 02 to brighten, revitalize, and soothe. If you cannot find either of these, consider one that contains ingredients like BHAs, Zinc, sulfur, or retinoic acid. For instance, Sunday Riley Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask is a popular pick containing sulfur.