Should my esthetician do extractions on my face?

Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Extractions can add an element to facials that is more uncomfortable than relaxing. See more pictures of ways to get beautiful skin.

Sixty million people in the United States have acne, and it's not just for teens: One in five American adults has it, too [source: GoodGlow]. The most common form of acne is comedonal, otherwise known as blackheads and whiteheads. These comedones are the result of a hair follicle getting clogged with oil, or sebum. Blackheads are open to the air, and whiteheads are pretty much closed.

These types of blemishes can cause trouble from the time puberty strikes. Lots of people seek some sort of help, most of them turning to over-the-counter medications sold at drugstores and supermarkets. But some go the often-more-expensive dermatologist or esthetician route. Those who choose to see an esthetician -- a skin-care expert with some level of professional training --are typically looking for an acne-oriented, or clinical, facial. One question comes up over and over: to extract or not to extract?


Since extractions are invasive, it's a serious question. When doing extractions, an esthetician manipulates the pores, either with fingertips or a metal tool, to remove the sebum that's causing the acne. Some extractions can even involve a tiny incision or a prick with a pointed tool called a lancet.

There's no doubt that extractions can be a major ally in the quest for smooth, clear skin. Getting that sebum out of the pore can flatten the bump, reduce the irritation and make pores appear smaller.

So, why the controversy? Shouldn't we all be extracting our little hearts out, ending up with perfect complexions? On the next page, we'll get to the sebum-filled heart of the matter and find out why it's important to think carefully before undergoing extractions.



Getting In Your Face with Extractions

Most facials are relaxing, luxuriant and painless. They involve steam, lotions, buffing, exfoliating and gentle massage, and most skin care practitioners can perform them well. Clinical facials, however, are a slightly different story. They can be uncomfortable, and they require a higher level of expertise. The difference is the extractions.

Extractions require some skill to do correctly. Finger or tool placement, appropriate pressure, and squeezing technique are all learned during hands-on training, and not all estheticians are equally adept. What's more, the skin must be properly prepared before beginning extractions. This process often includes steam, exfoliation, and treatment afterward with a mild disinfectant and a pore-minimizing wash, usually in the form of toner or cool water.


Done well, this process can lead to clearer skin. But extracting incorrectly, such as with pressure that's too firm or in the wrong direction, can lead to increased irritation, broken capillaries and additional acne problems. In a worst-case scenario, inappropriate extractions can even cause infection and scarring. Poorly performed extractions can also be pretty painful: When done correctly, extractions may be a little uncomfortable but shouldn't hurt.

These are good reasons not only to avoid performing your own extractions at home -- amateurs rarely do extractions correctly -- but also to check the credentials of the person performing your facial. Depending on where he or she practices, your esthetician may need a license from a state cosmetology board or board of health. He or she should be accredited by a legitimate cosmetology organization, and a little research might be in order to make sure the person working on your face has the appropriate level of training and experience.

In matters of the face, the safest route is the smart one. If researching an esthetician doesn't sound appealing, it might be wise to avoid the local day spa. Instead, just visit a dermatology office for your extractions, where it's pretty likely you'll find a suitably qualified doctor or esthetician to pop your zits.

For more information on extractions, facials and general skin care, check out the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Dakar, Sonya. "Ask the Expert: Are Extractions During a Facial a Good Idea?" Spa Magazine.
  • Definition: Extraction. BellaSugar.
  • Do It Yourself Extractions. Sharnell's Skin Care & Beauty. March 21, 2008.
  • Extractions - squeezing out the blackheads and whiteheads from skin pores. The Park Ridge Center for Plastic Surgery.
  • Spa facials: the benefits and warnings. Daily Beauty. Dec. 11, 2009.