We've decided that it's human nature to want to pick, poke, and prod a breakout. Especially when it looks like it's time to be popped, we're armed and ready to squeeze it for all it's worth until it (hopefully) no longer exists. What we're often left with, however, are pockmarks and scars—permanent badges of shame letting everyone know we can't keep our hands off our face. But when extraction tools came on the scene, it seemed like the market was trying to tell us that picking at a pimple would be okay—so long as we did it with the metal double-edged tool. Ever the beauty skeptics, we decided to turn to some experts to get their take on the tool.
Keep scrolling to read their thoughts!
"The use of an extraction tool by a trained, licensed professional is generally safe, however, the ability for anyone to purchase an extraction tool has increased in recent years. Consumers can purchase extraction tools of all kinds at many mass retailers, but that does not mean at-home use of them is recommended," says Heather Wilson, director of brand development and esthetician for InstaNatural. She explains that using an extraction tool improperly can cause damage to the skin like scarring, bruising, and capillary damage (yikes!). It can also drive bacteria deeper into the skin, causing the breakout to become even worse.
Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, dermatologist and founder of Epionce Skin Care, also believes that extractions should be left to the pros and shared with us three reasons why damage typically occurs from doing it yourself: "Misuse of the device itself, using a device with a poorly designed structure, and deep rupturing of the lesion, which induces a severe inflammatory response." Even if you think you can easily remove a whitehead's contents, the slightest misplacement can cause serious issues. "A major difficulty is the proper alignment of the device to the skin contour and shape. Therefore, I believe this procedure has best results when performed in your dermatologist, cosmetic physician, esthetician, or skin care professional’s offices," says Thornfeldt.
So instead of reaching for an extraction tool and taking matters into your own hands, Wilson suggests doing the following four things:
"Look for alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid or lactic acids, or enzymes such as papaya or rice enzymes," says Wilson. These types of exfoliators are gentler than scrubs (more on that below). She adds that regular exfoliation is important for clearing current blackheads and preventing future ones from forming.
Skip the Scrubs
"Opt for an exfoliating brush instead. Harsh scrubs will slough off surface skin cells, but they cannot work deep into the pores to remove blackheads," explains Wilson. She adds that especially if you have acne-prone skin, scrubs can spread the bacteria, so opt for cloths or brushes to gently exfoliate.
"Don’t pick at inflamed acne! Although it's tempting, and I often hear clients tell me that the breakout is 'ready,' popping acne lesions has more potential to spread bacteria when forcefully erupted," says Wilson. She advises you instead to apply topical treatments with salicylic acid or charcoal to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria.
Use a Steamer
"For gentle at-home blackhead removal, you can invest in a small facial steamer to help soften the skin," says Wilson. Then, if any blackheads are coming to the surface, you can wrap your fingers in tissue and wiggle out any excess congestion.