Are Blackhead Extractors Safe to Use? We Asked an Expert
The summer is upon us, and with glorious sun also comes plenty of sweat—and clogged pores. If you deal with blackheads regularly, you don't need us telling you how frustrating they are to get rid of. The good news: Handy tools called blackhead extractors work wonders in bringing these pesky spots to the surface. The bad news: Using them incorrectly might do more harm than good. Below, we've tapped Morgan Rackley, an esthetician and owner of Luminous Skin Atlanta, for her best advice on how to use these tools safely at home.
What are blackheads?
Blackheads are a type of acne, also called open comedones, but not technically pimples. "Rather than white/yellow fluid-filled bumps, blackheads look flat and dark, hence their name," explains Rackley. "Blackheads are very common and occur when follicles in your skin get clogged due to excess oil and irritation."
What is a blackhead extractor?
A comedone or blackhead extractor is a stainless steel tool designed to remove the dirt and oil that cause blackheads and whiteheads. "It works by gently pushing the clogged sebum out of the pore," explains Rackley. A comedone extractor can come in multiple forms—there are the traditional stainless steel extractors with two "loops" on either end of the tool, the extractors that look similar to tweezers, and then more modern "pore vacuums" that use suction to suck out gunk from your face.
Are blackhead extractors safe to use?
According to Rackley, a comedone extractor is safe to use, but with the proper precautions. "If using a comedone extractor at home, I recommend using only the rounded side—some come with a pointed side to open the blackhead/whitehead, but unless you're a professional, you run the risk of cutting too deeply and causing injury when using this side," explains Rackley. "One other important thing to remember is that if you see blood, stop—you got it all out! You might think you can squeeze just a little bit more out, but I promise you that there's nothing else and you risk bruising and/or additional injury." And remember that for particularly stubborn breakouts, it's always wisest to consult a pro who is best able to prevent damage and injuries caused by comedone extractors.
How to Use a Blackhead Extractor
To avoid having to press too roughly, Rackley recommends prepping the breakout with a warm compress. "This will help soften the skin and open up the pores, allowing for an easier extraction," she says. You should also clean the comedone extractor with alcohol.
Next, select the wire loop you'd like to use. The smaller the loop the better since it will concentrate the pressure on the affected area. "Make sure your skin and tool are clean, place the tool around the blackhead, and gently press to release the sebum and dead skin clogging your pore." If nothing immediately comes out of the breakout, stop pressing and let it rest for a while before trying again. You can follow up with a quick cleanse of your face once you're done.
Best Blackhead Extractors
If you have a blackhead that needs to be popped ASAP and you can't make it to the derm, these are the best comedone extractors for when you're in a pinch.