There are many treatment steps that go into a customized facial – but one rises above them all in terms the questions we get, the expectations that are set, and the sometimes strange untruths that linger out there. Of course, we’re talking about extractions.
Here, we answer the top six questions we get about the process of removing those pesky blackheads from your gorgeous faces.
“A lot of facials I’ve had start with a steam machine – why don’t you use them?”
There are different ways to prepare the skin for extractions and they all have their pros and cons. Our method of prep uses a steam compress with facial massage. In short, the facial massage relaxes the pores (despite common myth, pores technically do not open or close like a door) and the steam relaxes the sebum, or oily secretions of your glands that gets stuck in your pore, that forms a blackhead.
But let’s digress for a moment on the steam machine with which you might be familiar. While a steam machine is a tried-and-true way to relax the sebum in pores, its cons are that it can dry out the skin and the skin can clam up the moment it’s turned off. “If you spend just a few seconds too long in the facial steamer, it can have a similar effect to spending too long in a hot shower,” said Christie, Skin Therapist. “It will dry you out and irritate sensitized skin. The towel method is much gentler yet effective.” Some clients can also find the steam-in-the-face claustrophobia-inducing. And in the gross department, depending on water quality or how often the machine is cleaned out, steamers can harbor bacteria.
Another benefit of our method (which, by the way, is also used by top establishments around town)? It doesn’t falsely loosen things up. The steam machine is exactly that – a machine. Our method is, not to sound too artisanal, handcrafted. The massage lets us feel where the skin is at. The towels limit the loosening of the sebum to a reasonable amount. The result? Nothing gets extracted that isn’t ready to come out. That means happier skin that is less red after all is said and done.
Also, who doesn’t love a human massage your face versus a plastic armature spouting hot air at you?
“Can Skin Therapists remove my whiteheads while removing my blackheads?”
When we perform extractions, we focus on the blackheads, not whiteheads, for a very important reason. Blackheads are technically called open comodones, which simply means that the live at the “top” of your pore and are exposed to the outside world (which is why they turn black; the air exposure oxidizes them). Extracting them is the process of nudging the gunk out – and doesn’t involve ‘breaking’ the surface of the skin.
Whiteheads, on the other hand, are a closed blemish (technically a closed comodone) that builds up pus underneath the surface (i.e., what we more commonly call a zit). Since it’s not open to the outside world, removing a whitehead means breaking the skin to do so, and entering the healing process like any wound goes through.
“If you pop a whitehead prematurally, the infection below the skin's surface can break up and spread, causing more breakouts to pop up in the same area,” warned Amy, Skin Therapist. “This is among many reasons we recommend not popping your own pimples at home, because you may end up popping a pimple that isn’t ready, or with the wrong technique.”
Now, through the course of a facial, sometimes a whitehead can be worked on to the point where draining and disinfecting it is safely done by pros. But it’s very much a don’t try this at home one…
If you believe whiteheads will be gone the day after facial without a trace, that would be magical solve a significant annoyance of humankind. We can only dream.
“Trying to remove a blackhead out of dry skin is like digging a plant out from dry soil – everything just crumbles. To pull a plant out of the ground cleanly, you need to first moisten the soil,” said Katya, Skin Therapist.
“Do extractions hurt?” or “I feel like it should hurt more. No pain, no gain, right?”
Yes and no. First, we have to bust the myth of “no pain, no gain” here. “Some clients think that the more extractions hurt, the more effective they are,” said a Skin Therapist. This just isn’t true. We all have different pain thresholds and skin sensitivities, but the notion of needing to be beat up is preposterous. The fact that surprises most clients is that “we can almost guarantee that the more hydrated you keep your skin, the less uncomfortable it will be. Ease of extractions really has to do with how prepped your skin is beforehand and the prep work and technique of your Therapist.”
“After extractions, I’ll have the smooth, blemish-free skin of my dreams, right?”
While we’d all love this to be true, it’s unlikely that you’ll always walk away without a hint of the good work your Skin Therapist has performed. Sometimes this means your face may have a few mild red spots from where a particularly pesky blackhead was living. Oftentimes marks are more apparent if your skin is dehydrated, as it’s more difficult to push the extraction out. The good news? Since extracting blackheads does not equate to breaking the skin (i.e., it's not an open wound that has to heal), these spots are typically gone by the next day.
“Why don’t you use a tool?”
We use a gloved hand and there is a precise technique to safely nudging the gunk out of your pores with our fingers. Our hands tell us a lot – what’s ready to come out, how much pressure we’re putting on your skin, and how far to go. Tools don’t give you that feedback. For some people, tools hurt. Tools can leave marks. And furthermore, for whiteheads or other blemishes that require breaking the surface of the skin to drain, tools like a lancet (or small blade), are technically not legal for use in many states and facilities. We don't do contraband!
Why did you leave some blackheads on my face?”
Ah, we could go on for days about this. And we totally understand why you ask this question. We define our approach to extractions as progressive, not aggressive. This means that we always want you to leave with healthier skin, and sometimes that means leaving some blackheads.
“People sometimes assume that we can get every single blackhead removed during their appointment, but sometimes that isn’t the case. If you’re dehydrated, some blackheads become too stubborn to remove cleanly. And if it’s your first facial and there is a lot of buildup, it may take multiple sessions to work on everything.”
Every step of the facial is important to get your skin balanced, hydrated, and healthy. We don’t run six miles after not jogging for months because it’s jarring for the body. Same goes for extractions. On some folks, we could go on for many more minutes, but we lose the critical attention elsewhere.
Above all, we listen to the skin here. And we’re always honest with you about what is coming out easily and what might need a little more time and TLC.
“Can I do anything to make the process easier on my skin?”
Yes! Preparing to get the most out of a facial is a lot like taking a test – studying a little each day is better than a last-minute, all-night cramming session the night before.
Staying hydrated and moisturized before your facial is the absolute best thing you can do. That means drinking water and amping up your moisturizing routine, morning and night. Supple, hydrated skin will make your extraction experience easier and more effective. The gunk literally slides right out, cleanly.
Another way to put it? “Trying to remove a blackhead out of dry skin is like digging a plant out from dry soil – everything just crumbles. To pull a plant out of the ground cleanly, you need to first moisten the soil,” said Katya, Skin Therapist.
We're sure you've got more and we didn't cover it all. Reach out to us at email@example.com and we’ll answer them, or just pop into the shop and ask a Skin Therapist. If you haven’t already guessed, conversations about this subject are always welcomed.