"Do you do extractions?" This is one of the most common questions we hear when clients are booking appointments. Short answer: "yes, if necessary". Long answer is a little more complicated.
First, we should really break down what it is you need extracted from your skin. We get a lot of clients coming in that complain of a "ton of blackheads" that need to be cleared out and they are expecting a lot of extractions. Typically, what most people consider to be blackheads, are actually "sebaceous filaments". Blackheads (open comedones) are a combination of sebum (oil) and compacted dead skin cells that get trapped in a pore and need help getting out, which of course, warrants extractions. Sebaceous filaments however, are simply oils in a pore that have been exposed to the air and have "oxidized", making them turn black in colour. Sebaceous filaments are typically found in the nose area and are tiny black specks. Blackheads tend to be a bit larger in size and will sometimes have a raised edge. Knowing the difference between the two will allow the aesthetician to determine what needs to be extracted and what doesn't. We will always extract a blackhead, but we won't extract sebaceous filaments because, well, it can cause more harm than good. Milia (closed comedones) are white bumps, that are commonly found around they eye area, but can be found anywhere on the face. Similarly to blackheads, milia are a combination of dead skin cells and sebum but are not open to the air, so instead of oxidizing and becoming black, they stay white in colour.
Traditional European facials have always included a part of the facial where the aesthetician would apply hot steam to the face, seemingly opening the pores then they would perform extractions for what seemed like a lifetime, while you writhed in pain and tried to pretend it didn't hurt. Trying to extract sebaceous filaments, no matter how much steam you use, or how much pulling on the skin you do, may not actually remove them. Causing that much trauma to the skin by attempting extractions on a tiny area of pores, is not actually worth it. Many times, the pores in this area can be very small, which makes extractions very difficult and because oil secretions are a natural function of the skin, the pores will just fill back up within 8 hours anyway. Excessive extractions can also leave the skin inflamed and cause broken capillaries.
Thankfully, skin care has come a long way since the European facial was created so many years ago. We no longer need to do painful extractions and can more often than not, clear out those sebaceous filaments with the right combination of products within a facial combined with the proper home care routine. Blackheads can be extracted with proper preparation and technique and without pain. If you want to avoid sebaceous filaments and blackheads, the right combination of at home skin care products can help you prevent them in the first place, reducing your need for extractions, or eliminating it altogether.
Although sebaceous filaments are in large part, determined by genetics, there are some things that you can do to minimize their appearance.. The following will help to reduce blackheads as well.
Make sure your skin is adequately hydrated: Those with a dehydrated skin may experience more sebum production in order for your skin to compensate for the lack of water. Once you have balanced the hydration in the skin, the oil secretions should decrease, thus preventing sebaceous filaments. So, make sure to wear a moisturizer!
Those with oilier skin may just be more prone to blackheads and sebaceous filaments, so choosing products that help to mattify the skin (decrease oil secretions) is very helpful
Make sure you are cleansing your skin twice a day (morning and night)
Regular exfoliation is a huge component to preventing both blackheads and sebaceous filaments, as it encourages cell turnover and healthy skin function overall.
As an aesthetician, I am really supposed to tell you to come in for a professional treatment and leave the extractions to the professionals. I'm not going to do that. Let's face it, we all want to do our own extractions and a lot of us can't get to the spa every time a blackhead pops up. Here are the steps to doing proper extractions at home:
Wash your hands
Cleanse your face at your sink with a proper facial cleanser
Get into a hot shower - not getting the hot water on your skin but allow the steam to soften the sebum - do this for about 10 minutes
Exit the shower and pat your face dry with a clean towel
wrap tissues around your fingers and attempt your extractions - you may also use dry cotton swabs, they work great!
If you try 3x on a spot and it still doesn't come out, leave it alone and try again in a couple of days
once your extractions are done, tone your skin
cleanse again and follow again with your toner, then apply your serum and moisturizer
Here are some fantastic products you can use at home to avoid the necessity of extractions, or aid in extracting if necessary.:
Charcoal Exfoliating Gel Cleanser
- this cleanser breaks down oils and draws out impurities using activated charcoal. It also contains a physical exfoliant to help removed dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, allowing for a healthier skin function.
Mangosteen Daily Resurfacing Cleanser
- This cleanser is formulated with lactic acid which gently exfoliates the skin each day, for a smooth, bright and clear complexion
Mangosteen Daily Resurfacing Concentrate
- This concentrate (serum) is fantastic to refine and tighten the pores as well as balance sebum production in the skin
Clear Skin Exfoliating Peel
- This product contains salicylic acid which is the only hydroxy acid that has the ability to exfoliate into the pores.
Stone Crop Oxygenating Fizzofoliant
- This is an exfoliant that is formulated with baking soda. This raises the pH level of the skin which allows for easier extractions.
If you need guidance on how to do extractions or if you really need them, make sure to contact your skin therapist.