Safe Blackhead Removal

Extract blackheads and protect your skin by following these steps

Blackhead removal involves squeezing the skin with your fingers or a tool to extract material that is clogging a pore. This can clean out the skin, but it can also cause damage if not done correctly.

You can have blackhead extractions safely done during a professional facial treatment or you can do it yourself. The keys are using sterile tools and following the proper steps to protect your skin.

This article discusses the blackhead removal process, how extractions are done at a day spa, and the right way to do them at home.

Extractions done by an esthetician
 101 Dalmatians / Getty Images

Blackhead Removal Process

Facial treatments at day spas or salons are usually performed by an esthetician. This is someone who has been trained to provide cosmetic skin treatments.

Extractions of blackheads and non-inflamed blemishes, also called comedones, are often part of a facial.

The blackhead removal process generally follows these steps:

  1. The esthetician will prepare your skin with light steam. This softens the plugs of debris and expands pore openings so the clogged material come out more easily.
  2. They may then exfoliate your skin. This also helps prepare the pores for easier extracting.
  3. Next, the esthetician uses cotton- or tissue-wrapped fingers to apply gentle pressure to each blackhead or blemish. Some estheticians may also use a small metal tool called a comedone extractor to release the blackhead plug from the pore.

After your treatment, you'll see an immediate change in your skin. You will no longer have blackheads, and your skin will look smoother, especially if the blackheads were large and obvious.

Done regularly, extractions can also help reduce breakouts. That's because removing small pore blockages prevents them from turning into larger, inflamed pimples.

How to Extract Blackheads at Home

With care, you can safely extract blackheads at home.

This is easiest just after a shower when your skin is warm and the gunk inside the pores is softer. You can also prep your skin with a face steamer, if you prefer.

You will need to follow the same steps that a professional would. But when extracting your own blackheads, you may be tempted to go a bit further than is safe or skip some steps.

To remove blackheads safely, be sure that you always:

  • Wash your hands before beginning.
  • Use very gentle pressure to squeeze the sides of the blackhead.
  • Avoid squeezing your blackheads with your fingernails.
  • Make sure your fingers are wrapped with cotton or tissue.
  • Take extra care when using a comedone extractor. These devices can put a lot of pressure on the skin if you use them incorrectly.
  • Leave blackheads that won't budge for another day. If one doesn't come out, don't force it.

Never squeeze or try to "pop" a red, inflamed pimple. This can cause scarring.

Your skin may be slightly red for a very short time after removing blackheads. This is just because of the pressure put on the skin during the extraction. You're more likely to see this if your skin is sensitive.

Blackhead Removal Products

Many products are available to help you remove blackheads.

They include:

  • Face washes, lotions, masks, clays, peels, exfoliants, and gels that help dissolve them
  • Sticky pore strips
  • Manual blackhead removal devices (which help you put pressure on the skin around the blackheads)

A dermatologist or esthetician can help you choose what works best for your skin type.

Be sure to follow product instructions, since using something too often or too forcefully could end up doing more harm than good.

Prescription retinoid creams can prevent blackheads from forming in the first place.

Can I Extract Other Blemishes?

Only non-inflamed blemishes can be extracted with this procedure. This includes:

  • Blackheads
  • Closed comedones

Extractions work for blackheads and blemishes anywhere on the skin, including:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders

Inflamed blemishes like acne papules should only be extracted by a healthcare provider.

Milia typically can't be removed during a facial. These are small cysts that look like tiny whiteheads. They form when a protein called keratin gets trapped under the skin.

Milia need to be removed with a sharp tool called a lancet. In some states, estheticians can't perform this procedure by law so be sure to do your research first.


An esthetician can remove your blackheads during a facial treatment. This is a safe procedure that can help your skin look smoother and prevent breakouts.

Blackheads and closed comedones can be extracted. Inflamed acne and milia need to be treated by a healthcare provider.

You can extract blackheads at home as long as you use gentle pressure and avoid squeezing the skin with your fingernails.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should blackheads be removed?

    In most cases, yes. That can keep them from becoming worse, which may be a cosmetic concern and make them harder to get rid of.

  • What happens to blackheads if they're not extracted?

    In some cases, they can turn into deep blackheads, which are more likely to leave scars.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine: InformedHealth. Skin care for acne-prone skin.

  2. Steventon K. Expert opinion and review article: The timing of comedone extraction in the treatment of premenstrual acne--a proposed therapeutic approach. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Apr;33(2):99-104. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2494.2010.00610.x

  3. Kim JY. Disposable syringe punching: An aseptic alternative to a comedo extractorJournal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2020;83(3):e175-e176. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2019.11.062

  4. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Acne.

  5. Filaire E, Vialleix C, Cadoret J-P, Guénard S, Muller C, Dreux-Zigha A, Berthon J-Y. Characterization of Reactive and Sensitive Skin Microbiota: Effect of Halymenia durvillei (HD) Extract TreatmentCosmetics. 2019; 6(4):69. doi:10.3390/cosmetics6040069

  6. Leyden J, Stein-Gold L, Weiss J. Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for AcneDermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2017;7(3):293-304. doi:10.1007/s13555-017-0185-2

  7. Ohio Administrative Code. CRule 4713-8-03 | Standards relating to competent practice as a cosmetologist.

  8. American Academy of Dermatologists. How To Treat Different Types of Acne.

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.