There are a lot of misconceptions out there about blackheads. For example, did you know that they aren’t technically pimples? Or that it’s oxidation, not dirt, that gives them their signature black color? While there’s much confusion about where those pesky clogged pores come from, there’s an even greater misunderstanding about how to properly remove them. Case in point: those tried-and-true nose strips aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
In the latest episode of Dear Derm, board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohra, MD, busts some of the most common blackhead myths on the market, and lays out exactly how to get rid of them without doing any permanent damage to your skin. And her go-to, at-home tool? A $5 comedone extractor.
First things first, though, it’s important to understand what, exactly, a blackhead is. “A blackhead is a tiny pore filled with dead skin cells and sebum,” says Dr. Gohara. “When the dead skin cells and oils hit the air, they get what’s called ‘oxidized,’ and turn black… They are not dirt in the pores.” Even though they’re caused by oils in your skin, they can happen to any skin type—even sensitive and super dry. And unfortunately, they aren’t quite so easy to banish.
Enter: extractions, which can be effective… as long as you do them right. Instead of squeezing your face with your fingers (or, even worse, your nails), Dr. Gohara suggests calling in some backup with the help of an at-home comedone extractor. “They’re these little instruments that have a circular top, and you can apply a little bit of gentle pressure to the blackhead, and help to extract the contents” she says. As for how to use a blackhead extractor tool? Before you get down to business, start by cleaning the tool with alcohol so that you’re not introducing any new bacteria onto your face, then warm your skin with a wash cloth to open up your pores. Use a “less is more” mantra with the pressure you apply, and be sure not to press too hard or drag or scrape the tool, which could risk damage to the skin.
While this can be ultra-effective, extractions are only one piece of a multi-ingredient puzzle that you’ll need to integrate into your routine to beat blackheads once and for all. To find out what else you need, press play on the video above. And—spoiler alert—your go-to pore strips didn’t make the cut.
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