How to Practice Self-Extractions From Home Safely, According to a Celebrity Esthetician
Updated: May 10
This is purely in the interest of harm reduction.
I have been receiving facials since I was sixteen and vividly remember being told by an esthetician that if a spa does not perform extractions — the manual removal of clogged pores, or blackheads, and pimples — that it is not worth your money. This is not exactly true. In France, for instance, it is illegal for estheticians to perform extractions without extra certifications.
Performed incorrectly, extractions can cause inflammation, scarring, or the spread of bacteria to other parts of the face. But performed correctly by professionals, extractions can be incredibly useful for those of us seeking to eliminate, minimize, or prevent clogged pores and breakouts — so long as it is done safely.
Celebrity esthetician Candace Marino AKA the LA Facialist, who works with celebrities including Miranda Kerr and sometimes Kourtney Kardashian, knows that during quarantine, many of us will attempt at-home facials — including the extraction of pesky clogged pores or pimples. To that end, she would like to acknowledge the grim reality that we can't keep our hands off our faces and to minimize the damage wrought by our own hands. "It's the equivalent of giving free condoms to teens," Marino begins. "I'm not encouraging it, but if you're going to do it, let's make it safe."
Marino is not, we repeat not, an advocate of self-extractions and strongly believes that they should be left to the experts. But since it could be months before our next facial appointments, she shares a few pointers below in the interest of harm reduction.
Here is your at-home pore protocol for practicing safe, self-extractions on the skin, according to celebrity esthetician, Candace Marino.
Wash Your Hands
This is a step we should all have down pat by now since we should be washing our hands frequently anyway. But this step is particularly important before touching your face, especially because we won't be using tools to perform the extractions. "Use clean fingers only," she instructs, "and leave digging devices to the professionals to avoid scarring, pigmentation issues, and potential injury."
Cleanse Your Face
Marino recommends a gentle cleanser with light acids for mild exfoliation, like SkinBetter Oxygen Infusion Wash, $38. This is a clinical-grade skincare line that is offered in dermatologist's offices, plus it is beloved by skincare line founder Aly Korchemniy and her friend, Instagram-beloved @thebeautynurse.
Other over-the-counter options are One Love Organics Botanical A Cleanser, $39, which is a personal favorite featuring botanically-derived salicylic acid in an oily skin-friendly gel texture. Mymiel Sun Fleur Poishing Cleanser, $28, is another acid blend that can combat hyper-pigmentation and is great for acne-prone skin, containing AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs.
DIY Steam, 5 min.
Facials generally begin with some steam to prone your pores for a deep cleanse. Since we are stuck at home, away from our favorite spas or the steam rooms at our gyms, you can also make your own steam — simply by boiling water and using a towel to trap the steam. Marino also recommends throwing some tea in for spa vibes. She suggests steaming for no more than five minutes, as longer exposure can lead to trans-epidermal moisture loss (TEWL). Also, those with melasma or hyper-pigmentation can forego this step.
If you want some skincare-specific steams, The Good Hippie Balance Facial Steam, $28, and Klei Spearmint and Lavender Calm Facial Steam, $28, are two complexion-specific options. For a spa-like steamer, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Pro Facial Steamer, $149, gives you the professional experience.
For the extraction itself, wrap your fingers in tissues or cotton — which will protect the opening from bacteria on your hands, while hopefully catching all bacteria removed without letting it touch the skin. Gently pinch the skin and push upward, only pushing in the direction you want the congestion to go. She warns that if you are pressing downward, it is sending the bacteria in the wrong direction — deeper into the skin — which will result in more inflammation and potentially spread the infection.
Marino reminds us to be gentle, to give the skin a break in between extractions, and to minimize the use of our nails. She also adds that you should leave super aggravated, stubborn spots alone, as well as hard, underground, cystic acne.
Repeat the cleansing process from step number two.
To reduce inflammation and to relieve any residual pain, an ice massage is an excellent way to go. She recommends using Stacked Skincare Ice Roller, $30. The esthetician-developed tool calms breakouts, soothes inflammation, and improves redness.
Toning primarily balances the skin's pH, aiding with skin barrier function, including protection against inflammation due to external aggressors, pollutants, and irritants. In this instance, it will also clear away skin debris to make way for the masks that follow. Marino suggests using Biologique Recherche Lotion P50W, which is the gentlest blend of alphahydroxy and beta hydroxy acids from the French skincare brand's cult-favorite Lotion P50 toners. Lotion P50W is even safe for sensitive, reactive skin types.
To learn more about why you should use a toner, read my article on MindBodyGreen here.
Mask It Out
Finish up your at-home extraction with a mask. Marino shares two masks that I have used in France (I actually placed an order for them yesterday). First up is the purifying Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant, containing healing witch hazel and balancing, anti-bacterial apple cider vinegar, and which has prompted several waiting lists in the United States. You can use it alone or mix it with the brightening Biologique Recherche Masque VIP 02 featuring the brand's proprietary, oxygenating formula. Both of these masks are regulars of mine here in Paris, both during facials and at home.
Want more tips from celebrity estheticians? Read this.
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