“Don’t pop your pimples” is the golden rule of skin care. Any facialist, dermatologist, or beauty editor (hi) will tell you to avoid the temptation to squeeze your whiteheads at all costs. But when it comes to blackheads extractions, the commandments aren’t so cut and dry.
According to board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, extracting your blackheads at-home is actually A-OK… as long as you’re doing it the right way. Admittedly, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about blackheads, which can make figuring out how to get rid of them a complicated undertaking. Exhibit A: Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t technically pimples…or dirt. They’re actually tiny pores, known as “open comedones,” that get filled up with oil and dead skin cells, and oxidize (or in layman’s terms, turn black when they hit the air).
Clearing away blackheads is a multi-step process that requires using the proper cleanser, regular exfoliation, a solid retinol regimen, and—yup—extractions. “One of the most important ways to get rid of blackheads is to extract them out,” says Dr. Gohara. “I’m not giving you the carte blanche to go at them with your nails, but I definitely think there are ways we need to extract blackheads.” She’s a fan of using at-home comedone extractors, like this one, or procedures like chemical peels, which use acids to clear away the dead skin cells that cause blackheads, or hydrafacials and microdermabrasion, which literally suck them out of your complexion.
One blackhead removal technique that Dr. Gohara thinks gets a little bit too much credit? Pore strips. “I’m not mad at nose strips, but they’re not my favorite thing in the world,” says Dr. Gohara. “They make the blackhead look better for that second, but by the time the next morning rolls around, you’re back at square one.” Plus, they don’t play well with other blackhead-fighting products like alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids and retinol, which means that if you’re not careful, they my wind up ripping off your skin.
“There’s no magic bullet when it comes to blackheads,” says Dr. Gohara. “You have to commit yourself to a certain routine and procedures to help extract them.” To find out what, exactly, that is (plus the ingredients that’ll keep them from happening in the first place), press play on the video above. And stop squeezing those blackheads with your nails, k?