Blackheads can be frustrating, particularly when they keep showing up in the same spot (like your nose or chin). But trying to remove them with your nails, harsh scrubs or sticky pore strips can do more harm than good. Pores are the small openings in your skin that contain hair follicles, but when they fill up with oil and dead skin cells, it can show up as blackheads. When this pore-clogging material reaches the surface, it becomes oxidised, leading to its dark colour. While blackheads are best removed by a dermatologist, you may have to go to town on them yourself if an in-office visit is still not applicable in your city. “Extractions should be usually done by a professional with sterile extractor tools. But when you have no choice left but to carry out the process at home, these are the steps you should follow in order to get desired results without damaging the skin,” says dermatologist and laser surgeon, Dr Apratim Goel.
How to use skincare products to fight acne
Before you go the home extraction route, using the right skincare products can help fight and prevent blackheads in the first place. Salicylic acid is able to slough off dead skin, and penetrate deeper into the pores to do a clean-up of the oil inside. Benzoyl peroxide cannot reduce acne, but it can help keep them from becoming inflamed by killing bacteria on the skin surface. Retinoids, while popularly used as anti-ageing ingredients, work like salicylic acid to improve cell turnover. They prevent cells from sticking together and clogging pores, making it a great ingredient to add as well.
How to extract a blackhead safely
First, warm the area
“Extractions can be done after a hot shower, or you could steam your face to soften the hardened oil within the pores, which makes it easier,” says Dr Goel. Before you get to work, identify what you have to remove. If you have a whitehead, popping it can cause further inflammation and pigmentation, so “only try this with a blackhead on the surface,” she says. “You can also apply a heavy moisturiser to temporarily keep the skin warm, which will make the extraction easier.” Another trick to try is placing a hot, damp towel on the area to keep the heat trapped and make the blackhead less stubborn to remove.
Then extract very carefully
Dr Goel says that using a comedo extractor is ideal, but doing a manual extraction is possible if you do it right. If you are using the former, use the round, curved ends to gently press on each side of the blackhead until it begins to release. “Apply slow and even pressure around the blackhead and once you are able to loosen it, lightly pinch with tweezers and pull it out from the skin to extract it. If the blackhead does not release easily, do not continue to attempt the extraction,” says Dr Goel as you might harm your skin and even create a wound.
For a manual extraction, wrap a tissue around each forefinger and gently squeeze around the target area to extract blackheads and clogged pores. Again, do not put a lot of pressure or squeeze to close to the blackhead is you might irritate it or push in inside further.
Finally, cleanse and soothe the skin
When done, clean the area by washing your face with a gentle cleanser. “You could swipe an alcohol-free toner on the area to tighten and close the pores,” says Dr Goel. Using ice to reduce inflammation and redness is a good call, plus the cool temperature causes vasoconstriction in the area and balances the previously enlarged pores. “Aloe vera gel works well to calm the area,” she confirms.
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