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Extractions 101

Everyone has pores on their skin, small openings that let out sebum and sweat. Pores are also the openings of the hair follicles. Cosmetic products, environmental factors, and your skin type can cause pores to become clogged and inflamed. One way to clear clogged pores is through extractions.


During a facial, a licensed esthetician will usually perform extractions to help clarify the pores and to make skin look smoother and healthier. As there is a risk of scarring and damage to the skin if the extraction isn't performed properly, estheticians typically learn how to perform them during their skincare courses. Learn more about the basics of extractions.


Clogged Pores: Blackheads vs. Whiteheads

Blackheads and whiteheads are two examples of acne that develop because of clogged pores. As you can guess from the name, blackheads look like black dots while whiteheads look like white bumps on the skin.


Although they look different, blackheads and whiteheads have a lot in common. Both develop because a pore has become clogged with sebum, a type of oil produced by the skin. In the case of blackheads, the pore is "open," allowing oxygen to reach the trapped sebum.


The oxygen causes a reaction with melanin, a type of pigment. The melanin turns the clogged pore dark. Contrary to popular belief, blackheads aren't full of dirt or grime -- their dark appearance is simply pigmentation.


Whiteheads are sometimes known as closed pores. When a whitehead forms, bacteria and sebum become trapped in the pore. Oxygen doesn't reach the material inside of the pore, so it doesn't change color.


Blackheads and whiteheads are just two examples of clogged pores that an esthetician can extract during a facial. Another example is a pimple, which is a whitehead that has become irritated. Pimples are usually red due to irritation or inflammation.


What Happens During an Extraction

During an extraction, an esthetician will clear the pores, removing the material that is causing the clog. You can use your hands to extract pores or a special tool during the process.


Manual extraction usually involves applying gentle pressure to clogged pores with your fingertips. There are an art and science to manual extraction, which you'll learn during an esthetician training program. It's much more complicated and involved than simply "popping a pimple."


For one thing, your fingers will usually be wrapped in sterile cotton or gauze before you touch a client's skin to perform the extraction.


There are also multiple steps to take before extracting a pore to prepare the skin. You'll cleanse it, steam and soften it, and use an exfoliant or scrubber to loosen the pores. To help you see the pores clearly, you'll most likely have bright lights and magnifying mirrors in the treatment setting.


If needed, you might use a metal tool, called a comedone extractor, to clear the pore. A comedone extractor has a looped or angled tip to help you remove the sebum and other material clogging a pore. Since there is a risk of damage to the skin if the extractor isn't used correctly, learning the proper technique and handling of it is a must if you hope to offer extractions to your clients.


Can Clients DIY Extractions?

The usual advice is that people shouldn't attempt to do extractions themselves at home. One of the first things people learn about good skincare is that popping pimples is a no-no.


To keep their skin looking healthy and to avoid the risk of injury, it's best to advise people not to DIY extractions. If they use too much force or pressure, they can cause darkening of the skin around the clogged pore or inflammation. There's also the chance that they'll spread bacteria from the pimple to other areas of the skin, making the problem worse.


Offering extractions as part of the facials you give clients lets them reach their skin care goals and can give them a boost of confidence. If you're interested in becoming a licensed esthetician or want to improve the services you offer clients, Cortiva Institute for Massage Therapy & Skin Care School can help. Learn more about our skincare classes and training program today.

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