How to Remove Blackheads

Blackheads can safely be removed at home or by a certified esthetician

An extraction is the clearing out of material that is clogging a pore. This sounds like a good thing, but also one that runs counter to the "don't pop or pick at blackheads and blemishes" advice you've undoubtedly heard.

There are safe ways to remove blackheads and non-inflamed blemishes. You can have extractions safely done during a professional facial treatment or you can do it yourself at home. The keys are using sterile tools and following the proper steps to protect your skin. If you don't, you may cause more harm than good.

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

Extractions done by an esthetician
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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 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. They may also exfoliate your skin. This also helps prepare the pores for easier extracting.

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. Either way, the goal is to extract 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.

What Kinds of Blemishes Can Be Extracted?

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 most states, estheticians can't perform this procedure.

Do Blackhead Extractions Damage the Skin?

Extractions don't cause skin damage when they're done correctly, though your skin may be slightly red for a very short time afterward.

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.

How To Extract Blackheads at Home

With care, you can safely extract blackheads and blemishes at home. This is easiest just after a shower when your skin is warm and the gunk inside the pores is softer.

It's always a good idea to ask your dermatologist or esthetician for tips before you try extracting blackheads at home. This will help ensure you're clearing your pores safely and effectively.

Some general tips:

  • Use clean hands and very gentle pressure to squeeze the sides of the blackhead.
  • Don't be tempted to squeeze your blackheads with your fingernails. Instead, use two cotton swabs or tissue-wrapped fingers.
  • Take extra care when using a comedone extractor. These devices can put a lot of pressure on the skin if you use them incorrectly.
  • If the blemish doesn't come out, don't force it. Leave it for another day. 
  • Never squeeze or try to "pop" a red, inflamed pimple. This can cause scarring.

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 strips (like Biore' pore strips)
  • Manual blackhead removal devices (which help you put pressure on the skin around the blackheads)


Summary

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. Ask your esthetician or dermatologist for advice before beginning.

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?

    Usually nothing. Your body will eventually get rid of it. However, in some cases, they can turn into deep blackheads, which are more difficult to get rid of and more likely to leave scars.

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2 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, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Acne.

  2. National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine: InformedHealth. Skin care for acne-prone skin.