An extraction is the process of clearing a clogged or compacted pore by manual or mechanical means. Extractions are often performed as part of a facial. Most people need at least a couple of extractions during each facial, though you may require more extractions if this is your first facial.

Comedones (blackheads) are the most common reason for extraction. A blackhead is not necessarily "dirt in the pores" as many people think. It is a pore that has become clogged with excess sebum and dead skin cells. The dark spot which is visible on the surface of the skin is oil which has oxidized and darkened on exposure to the air, like when you slice an apple and allow it to sit out for a while.

Pustules and pimples can also be extracted, depending on their size and depth. This often requires the use of a lancet to gently lift and remove the very top layer of the pustule to allow the contents to be easily extracted.

Some pores may not be ready to be extracted on the first attempt and may require several treatments before they can be cleared.

What to expect

First, the esthetician will cleanse your skin. Often a desencrustation fluid or enzyme is applied to the skin with steam for a few minutes, to soften the skin and prepare it for easier extractions. The esthetician may also use an ultrasonic device known as a skin scrubber, to loosen the impacted pores.

Extractions are performed under a magnifying lamp with a bright light, so that your esthetician can easily see the pores that need to be deep-cleansed. Eye pads or protective eyewear will be placed on your eyes to protect them from the bright light. The esthetician wears gloves, and applies gentle pressure around the pore to extract the contents. This may be done using the fingers (wrapped in gauze or cotton) or a special metal implement designed for this purpose.

After the extractions

Following extractions, an antiseptic/antibacterial product is generally applied to bring the skin back to its normal acid pH, and to aid in preventing post-facial breakouts. High frequency current may also be applied to the extraction area to kill bacteria and calm the skin. Often, a soothing mask is applied following extractions to help calm the skin, reduce redness and heal blemishes.

Why you should leave extractions to your esthetician

Many clients with acne are tempted to pick or pop. To achieve healthy, clear skin, it is important to keep your hands away from your face and let your professional esthetician do these extractions. Home extractions can damage your pores and spread bacteria, making the skin worse instead of better—you can break the pore wall inside the skin, pushing bacteria out into the surrounding tissue and spreading the breakout. Your esthetician knows how to clear the clogged pores without spreading infection and inflammation.

Your esthetician

Your skin care treatments should be provided by a properly trained professional. Don’t hesitate to ask your skin care therapist about their background, training, and experience, especially as it relates to the treatment you are considering. Members of ASCP have been validated as meeting their state’s licensing credentials and/or core training requirements, and agree to follow a code of ethics which ensures you’ll be treated responsibly and with the utmost respect. ASCP also provides its members with comprehensive resources that allow them to keep up with changing trends, making certain you’ll receive the most up-to-date therapies available.