The Delicate Art Of Unclogging Your Pores
Many of us have at a point in time found ourselves on a YouTube spiral that led to a binging of videos featuring people extracting their pesky blackheads, popping the suckers on camera, and granting its audiences a niche sort of therapeutic comfort.
Is extracting blackheads really as good a practice as it looks?
Dermatologists have concurred that extractions are beneficial for our skin. However, if done incorrectly, can actually cause more harm than good. It could be hyper fixating on a certain stubborn area and constantly targeting it or using the wrong technique that could set off an acne-like reaction, as bacteria is pushed deeper into the skin with the wrong pressure, inflaming your follicles and infecting them. That is why blackhead extractions if done carelessly, could lead to scarring or more outbreaks if pressure were applied too heavily or in the wrong direction.
If these scenarios are already painting a picture that is too familiar and regretful to you, fret not. We come offering useful tips on how to navigate the delicate practice of unclogging your pores to avoid scarring your precious visage!
But first, education of your skin to understand its characteristics better is key.
How does the gunk in our pores form in the first place?
Most of us live in environments in which we are constantly exposed to polluted air with exhausts from traffic, cigarette smoke, and manufacturing emissions that contribute to buildups of grime in our pores, in addition to the accumulation of dirt, perspiration, makeup, and excess sebum.
Sebum is the natural oil that your skin produces to keep itself hydrated and protected from certain bacteria, but an excess of it is the main cause of our most hated blackheads and acne pimples. That is why unclogging your pores is a beneficial practice to relieve your skin of the weight of grime accumulated over time.
Besides the common problems of acne and blackheads, do you also notice people with little white bumps on their faces? That condition is called milia, a buildup of protein under the skin that extractions can help remove as well!
However, before you decide to pick up that extraction tool, it is important to first familiarise yourself with the messages the external appearance of your pimples is sending. If it still looks red and swollen, the acne lesions are still active. Popping them then would either aggravate your infection or cause scarring, so keep those hands away!
So how is extraction usually carried out?
Extractions are usually done with specific tools, hands, or the service of a professional. Its main concept revolves around strategically squeezing the area surrounding a clogged pore to release the blockage inside. Regarding the use of hands, however, professionals have unanimously advised against using them unless you are absolutely certain that the little guy is ready and ripe enough to pop.
What is important to note when extracting your blackheads is to apply even pressure. While that might sound very much easy, those of us who have struggled with fighting the temptation to stab the most stubborn of clogged pores with angry fingernails might say otherwise.
What gets released from your skin in the process of extraction could either look like little hardened white or yellowish strawberry seeds or could come out looking squidgy and soft if you have a healthy skin routine going on and moisturize well.
There is no definite answer to the question of how often you should get extractions as it varies for people depending on different factors of age, skin type, and lifestyle. People with oilier skins (more excess sebum) would tend to get facials and extractions about twice a month, while people with less excess sebum feel fine with getting extractions just once a month.
Before you visit professionals or attempt a Do-It-Yourself, it is advisable to get to know your skin best before then, so that you can make informed decisions or advise your facialist or dermatologist based on its unique habits and needs.
Even with that being said, many experts have discouraged extracting your own blackheads and pimples at home. Dermatologists and facialists have very often welcomed regretful clients with scars and outbreaks on their faces aggravated by their own botched attempts of extraction at home.
Hence, it is important to note that extracting your pores is such a delicate process that can easily cause infection and scarring no matter how confident you are that your fingernails are clean, or the fact that you bought extraction tools specifically made for this.
The importance instead lies in the skill, eye, and training of the person carrying out the extraction on your behalf as well as their sanitization practices. Definitely identify red flags in places such as neighborhood facial parlors that are not reputable for their cleanliness and over a range of other services such as manicures for a big discount. Go for a more specialized place that would guarantee you qualified staff that have been professionally trained and have regulations in place.
Managing our expectations
With all that has been said, you should still manage your expectations of what extractions can achieve.
It is a widespread myth that it can help reduce the size of your pores overtime after all the gunk has been cleared out. Extractions are beneficial for clarifying your skin and preventing outbreaks, but it does not actually shrink your pores. With how most of us live in polluted cities, it is normal that pore grime returns in time. This is why extractions have to be practiced often.
Extractions aside, there are still other ways you can keep your skin clear, such as developing a skincare routine that includes exfoliating and moisturizing your skin well that would both minimize gunk buildup in the first place.
Incorporating skincare products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids or retinol can also prevent the formation of blackheads, and forms of Retin-A or retinol can make your skin cells less sticky to reduce your chances of developing them.
So start taking preventive care of your skin to minimize blackhead growth early, and leave the extracting to the professionals! Blackhead management is more of a journey than a final destination, so don’t get too excited about pressing nails into that pretty face!