How to use blackhead extractors
If there’s one pesky skin imperfection we get asked about time and time again, it’s blackheads.
Those greasy little black spots are certified complexion-ruiners – and while a good, foaming face cleanser or clay mask can work wonders, sometimes you need to bring out the big guns.
Enter your new best friend, the blackhead extractor.
Here’s everything you need to know about these blackhead banishers – from DIY remover methods to the in-salon alternative…
What is a blackhead extractor and how does it work?
A blackhead extractor, sometimes called a comedone extractor, is a special tool designed to remove the dirt and skin cell plugs that cause blackheads.
Commonly used by dermatologists, blackhead extractors are also available for at-home use – but if you’re going down this route, it’s important to learn how to use them properly, as incorrect use can cause skin damage and scarring.
There are two main types of blackhead extractor tools. The first type has two heads. One side of the tool has a small spoon with a hole in the middle, designed to fit snuggly over the blackhead. As gentle pressure is applied to the area, the trapped sebum is pushed out and released from the skin.
This type of extractor also has a small, and very sharp, lancet that can be used to puncture a whitehead so the sebum can be released. Lancets are sharp and can be dangerous, which means they are best left to competent skin care specialists.
The other type of blackhead extractor has a cupped end on one or both sides of the tool. Each spoon-like end is a different size, to accommodate different-sized blackheads. Sometimes one end of the extractor is also angled so it can reach difficult areas, such as the crevices of the outer ear or the side of the nose.
How to use a blackhead extractor
Before you pick up the tool, it’s important to verify you are indeed working on a blackhead or a clogged pore. Blackheads can be confused with sebaceous filaments, which cover the oilier areas of your skin. These tend to have a tan or light grey tone (as opposed to the dark black of a blackhead). Normally they’re also smaller and less visible than a blackhead. Trying to extract sebaceous filaments can cause skin damage, so leave these alone.
Skin care experts also warn you should never push too hard on a blackhead, as this can damage skin cells. If the blackhead is difficult to remove, and does not become dislodged with gentle pressure, consider treating it with a topical acne cream instead.
Steps for blackhead extraction:
- Fully cleanse the skin with warm water to expand the pores and loosen the trapped sebum.
- Place the tool over the blackhead and press gently on one side, moving the tool across the affected area.
- Wipe away the sebum gently with a tissue.
- Cleanse the area again to ensure the pore doesn’t become infected.
- Disinfect the blackhead extractor by washing it in hot, soapy water.
bh’s Julia’s verdict
"Lately my skin has been quite congested, so I was very excited to try the blackhead extractor. At first it was a bit tricky and I was scared I would have to push too hard, so I cleansed my face and applied a warm face washer to open up my pores. This made it a lot easier to extract the blackheads.
I like this method of extracting blackheads but I think it’s really important to prep the skin first. It works a lot better to combine the method with a foaming cleanser first and warm water to open the pores up and lastly a pore minimising toner to tighten the pores. This gives the best results.
I would definitely use this tool again, but only when I have a large blackhead to extract. If I only have minor blackheads I would stick to my facial cleanser."
Extraction facials: The in-salon alternative
If the idea of extracting your own blackheads isn’t particularly appealing, but you still want them gone, try an in-salon treatment instead. bh’s Mel went to Dermalogica for a professional extraction procedure and facial. This is her verdict:
“As someone who has used DIY blackhead extractors without much success in the past, I was excited to have a trained professional do all the work for me. The benefit of having the professional treatment is also the educational aspect – I was able to learn about why I get blackheads in the first place, how to prevent them and what products I should and shouldn’t use, rather than squeezing and repeating the process at home without dealing with the source of the problem. Plus, who doesn’t love being pampered?
Not only did I have less blackheads after the treatment, the texture of my skin was also smoother thanks to all the cleansers and creams. It looked and felt more hydrated – so much so that as soon as I walked into the office, people started complimenting me on my skin! I would definitely do this again and am already looking forward to booking in another session.”
Have you ever used a blackhead extractor? What is your favourite method for banishing blackheads?