To Extract or Not to Extract

Acne extraction is quite like defusing a bomb. You have to know what kind of bomb you are dealing with and kill it without detonating it. Acne comes in many forms and stages. So what can you extract and when is it best to extract? Blackheads are comedones that have oxidized oil protruding out of a pore. Extracting blackheads usually come out as harden pellets of oil. Whiteheads or milia are comedones that are a bump under the skin. They usually house soft debris of oil. These are the ones you may attempt to extract. Extracting comedones are done with an extractor.

An extractor tool is used to extract comedones. Commerical extractors comes with an extractor head (like key hole) on one end and a lancet (like a mini spear) on the other end. Extract comedone with an extractor makes extraction a lot easier.

An inflamed pimple is called a pustule or papule. These are red, swollen and angry. You can extract these but they have to be ripe. Inflamed acne ripe for lancet extraction are those with a yellow/cream colored tip on red spots. If you aren’t confident in dealing with inflamed pustules, you can turn to the experts. Spas and dermatologists offer extraction services. Cystic acne are usually big, sitting beneath the skin like a boil. They are not necessarily red but usually are. Even esthecians and dermatologist do not recommend extracting these.

White and blackheads may be extracted with an extractor. However, you should not extract black or whiteheads if they are close to an inflamed pimple or pustule. There oozing pus could infect and aggravate the inflamed pimple. If that is the case, you should treat the area with antibacterial and zit-zapping masks for a week to let calm the inflamed papules. Using BP can also help ripen zits. You can also scrub the surrounding area of where the black or whiteheads are, but carefully making sure to leave out inflamed zits.

Here is a few homemade treatments to try which help loosen clogged comedones and ripen inflamed pustules.

Natural scrubs:

1. 1 tblsp brown sugar + 1 tblsp natural yogurt + 1 tblsp honey

2. 1 tsp Green tea (Matcha) powder + 1 tsp loose green tea + 1/2 tsp water

3. 1 tsp backing soda + 1/2 tsp water

Natural Anti-acne Masks:

1. Egg white from 1 egg + 1 tblsp honey honey + juice from 1/8 lemon wedge or 1 small lime

2. 1 tblsp natural yogurt + juice from 1/8 lemon wedge or 1 small lime + 2 drops of tea tree essential oil

I also use EXPOSED acne treatment cream with BP and green tea and their clarifying mask with sulfur and resorcinol to soften blackheads and ripen cystic acne fast.

When you think it’s time to extract, get ready a sterile environment. You should have cotton pads and rubbing alcohol or surgical alcohol. It is also advisable to steam prior to extraction in a face steamer or over a pot of boiling water. Adding a few drops of tea tree essential oil in your steamer gives your steam an antibacterial boost. Sterilize all your equipment (flame over extractor and/or wiping with alcohol). Wipe the area you are about to operate on with alcohol as well.

Disinfect your duo head extractor. Extract blackheads using the the loop end. Loop over the blackhead and press gently, with even pressure in one direction. If the blackhead won’t budge, leave it for the next time. Wipe the area with alcohol swabs to finish. Do not force it out, it will enlarge  your pores and may even cause scarring.

Extract whiteheads with the loop end placed at the side of the whitehead. Extract whitehead using a gentle rocking motion to nudge the contents out. Extracting whiteheads can also be done with the lancet end. With the lancet end, pin-prick the whitehead right on the top. Do it in one precise and quick action. Use your fingers wrapped in alcohol-laced tissues/cotton pads and gently squeeze out the debris within.

You should stop pressing before you see clear fluid. Wipe and disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol. You can also pin-pricking with the lancet on inflamed acne that have ripen (with yellow/cream tops) in the same manner as you do a whitehead. Remember to always disinfect your skin before and after extraction. Clean and sterilize your extractor before putting it away.

You can use a soothing toner to tone back the pores.

Cystic acne should never be extracted. This is because they are buried so deep beneath the skin. Extracting cystic acne will irrevocably damage many skin layers, making total scar repair difficult.

Amy J. Derick, MD, certified dermatologist at Derick Dermatology in Barrington, Ill does not recommend extraction as a long-term acne solution. This is because of the “disadvantage [of the] pore contents re-accumulat[ing],” she says. Using the extractor may also cause widening of pore size and more dirt accumulation in the end. I recommend extraction for emergencies only. Keeping a good skin care routine with diligent gentle scrubbing and masking one to two times a week is a much healthier long term solution. Eating a healthy low GI diet, with enough exercise and sleep helps prevent an acne crisis from occurring.

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