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Blackhead Extractors: Miracle Tool or Skincare No-No?

Mar07

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Amalah, thanks to you I have fallen in love with all things Philosophy and, awhile back, you gave me some awesome advice about how to deal with the dark circles under my eyes. Sure, my bank balance is a little lower but I’m much happier when I leave the house each morning so it all balances out, right?
The other day I was watching one of those make-over shows on TV and saw a doctor use a blemish extractor during a facial. It seemed simple enough — clear out all that blackhead gunk and have clearer skin — and I thought, “Hey, I have problems with blackheads on my nose and never have any luck with those Biore nose strips so maybe I’ll give an extractor a shot!” My skin is generally pretty clear (thank you Purity face wash!) but my nose always looks, I dunno, ruddy? Unclean? Dalmatian-esque? I was all set to buy one online but then I started Googling and people on message boards were all “blahblahblah my pores looked hugemongous after extracting” and that doesn’t sound so great either.
So what are your thoughts on blemish extractors, Amalah? Yay? Nay?
-Miranda

Big old NAY from me, especially at home. I’ve had extractions done during facials, and honestly think they are more trouble than they’re worth. Painful, tedious, and the results last for…oh, all of 24 hours or so. They’re like an invasive Biore strip — sure does sound like a brilliant idea, but the results are temporary and kind of disappointing.
extractor.jpg
I do own an extractor, however — I bought it ages ago, thinking that I’d be able to extend the results of a facial at home. And frankly, it messed my skin up terribly. Inferior tool? Bad technique? Possibly, but it definitely taught me the value of going easy on my quick-to-overcompensate-in-the-oil-department skin. Forcefully squeezing out gunk below the surface has all the benefits of popping zits — which is to say, not many. And done badly (i.e. at home), it will often make things worse. You can spread bacteria, injure skin cells, cause infection, etc. I’d say it’s a technique best left for the professionals.
I keep my extractor on hand in case of emergencies — like a really prominent or painful blackhead ever appears. I have no problems with going after the occasional problem pore now and then. But if I find myself getting extraction-happy, I usually wake up the next morning with red, angry skin and a full-on pimple.
I’ve actually gone to spas that make a big deal over NOT doing extractions, and I’ve listened to estheticians rail against the practice. I won’t stop someone from doing extractions during a facial if it’s part of the deal, but I don’t really enjoy them. I don’t think they make my pores look bigger, but that’s probably because an esthetician knows to seal up pores post-facial with a cold compress (something I’m guessing the message-board chatters neglected to do). But no matter what I do afterwards — masks, toners, creams or cleansers — my chin and nose revert back to their vaguely congested, default state within a day or two afterwards.
Maybe if I had the time and money to get a facial and an extraction done every week I’d be able to keep the results, but…no. That’s not happening. I like getting a facial about twice a year, and then I stick to my own gentle and non-pinching anti-blackhead routine: a gentle for-all-skin-types cleanser, an exfoliating moisturizer for congested skin, and a pore-minimizing foundation primer.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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5 Responses to “Blackhead Extractors: Miracle Tool or Skincare No-No?”

  1. Meghan Mar 07 at 10:28 am Reply Reply

    Yay, I’ve been hoping you’d tackle this question. I almost wrote in with it myself, but I assumed your answer would be “NO! STAY AWAY!” so I kept my mouth shut. Until now.
    I bought one about a year ago, and my sisters were horrified. I thought it was the most amazing thing ever, I couldn’t believe how much gunk I got out of my nose (on the sides of the nostrils, gross!) Like Amy, I learned my lesson. It was oddly satisfying initially, but I found that it made my face a big hot mess when I went nuts with it.
    I’ve found that there are a few occasions when it is a necessity: I have a chicken pox scar near the area where my cheek/face meet my nose, and there’s a pore inside the scar that is prone to major blackheads. I don’t think there’s any other way to clean that sucker out. It’s also great for the incredibly painful blackhead/pimple that can occasionally form in the ear (yes, gross, and TMI, but I know I’m not alone). This is when you need a sister or trusted friend to help, don’t stick stuff in the area of your ear when you’re flying blind! My sister and I have helped each other out with painful zits in this exact spot. That’s love.
    Also, if you’re going to get yourself one, BE SURE TO DISINFECT WHEN YOU’RE DONE, & BEFORE YOU USE IT THE NEXT TIME!!! A cotton ball with some alcohol will do the trick, you do NOT want to be taking bacteria from one area and introducing it to another.
    Learn from our mistakes: use sparingly!

  2. heels Mar 07 at 1:12 pm Reply Reply

    I keep one around for, like Amy says, the occasional painful blackhead, but I find that its better use is for my husband who suffers from ingrown hair problems in his beard area.
    Worth having, but just like Meghan says: Use Sparingly!

  3. amymvr Mar 08 at 1:30 pm Reply Reply

    Oooh, that’s a good idea for the ear thing, I know, USE SPARINGLY. Promise.
    On the pores topic, I just pulled out a forgotten tube of Neutrogena Pore minimizing Gel Mask and have fallen in love with it all over again. My chin looks much smoother, nose is a bit better. It’s a relatively cheapeasy fix for a night where you’re goin out and wanna look better than usual. Notice how husbands say “I don’t know why you go to all the trouble – I see you when you wake up.” Don’t they know it’s really to impress other women? (OK, maybe to get some glance from guys – I just wanna be a MILF)

  4. Wendy Mar 09 at 10:05 pm Reply Reply

    Hi Amy! I’m an esthetician so I do use this tool during the extraction portion of the facial. I do NOT recommend any person (other than a professional) to use this. You can damage the skin and spread bacteria…just like you said.
    As you know, during facials your face gets steamed which helps open up the pores…which makes doing extractions much easier. I also have a rule…if you poke at it 3 times and it doesn’t come out, it’s not ready.
    I’ve seen too many ladies come in with scars from this tool. Just leave it to the pros please!!!!

  5. rader5 Aug 09 at 11:57 am Reply Reply

    I couldn’t disagree more. I was actually googling for ‘”pore extractor”, amazing’ to see if others have had the success I’ve had. Here’s what you do:
    1) take a shower wash your face, lots of hot water, I usually do a glycolic peel (30%) briefly before extracting.
    2) keep a hot towel over your nose before you use it, you need to open your pores.
    3) use the flat broad end (not round, not lancet), push hard and scrape along your skin. (Do not use the lancet, that’s why you all have bad results!) Yes push hard, but you want to try and do it only once or twice in a given area, the more you do it the more likely you are to cause bruising/peeling/discoloration.
    4) It’s ok to push hard, just watch every single pore squirt out oil and dirt. It’s disgusting I know, but there is no better way to throughly clean out your pores.
    5) Start out slow and gentle. Like anything cosmetic, you don’t want to jump into it.
    I do a facial reset once a week as pollution and sun and seriously do damage to your skin and PE is and essential part:
    glycolic peel
    microdermabrasion
    pore extraction
    noncomedogenic moisturizer with a bit of retin-a
    and after I’ve learned where my tolerances are I’ve never had any problems with it.
    Good luck with your pore extractors.

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