I'm An Esthetician & This Is What I Really Think About Extractions

The answer your skin has been looking for.

by Shani Hillian
Originally Published: 

The purpose of a traditional facial is to purge your pores and press the reset button on your skin. That almost always entails extractions — the old-school pore-expunging method that many have a love/hate relationship with. I get the hate. In my training days as an esthetician over 15 years ago, extractions were truly one of the only ways to help purify a client's pores during a traditional facial.

Nowadays, there are so many professional beauty product lines, skin care tools, and tech-y facial add-ons (think microdermabrasion and chemical peels) that you can turn to instead for clearer pores, which begs the question: Are extractions still necessary? Or should the extraction facial become a bygone beauty practice? Keep reading for the lowdown on whether extractions are good or bad for your skin and my honest opinion on whether they’re worth the mess.

What Are Extractions?

Extraction is the process of clearing impacted pores, which can be done either manually or mechanically (via a physical face scrub, extraction tool, or blackhead vacuums). They are often performed by estheticians and dermatologists to remove impurities and rid pores of sebum (oil), dead skin cells, acne-causing bacteria, and environmental debris, all with the end goal of a more even, clear complexion that functions optimally.

The Benefits Of Extractions

The benefits of facial extractions include less congestion, better product absorption and efficacy, fewer blemishes, and a glowing complexion (after the skin heals). If blackheads, whiteheads, and other varieties of small pimples are not extracted, it'll hamper the health of the skin's natural function — and lead it to lack radiance and clarity.

So they definitely have their place. “People who get a lot of sebaceous buildup in the T-zone area or anyone who has a lot of blackheads can benefit from extractions,” says Lakeisha Dale, a licensed esthetician and owner of Melaskin Studio in New York City.

The Cons Of Extractions

One downside is one that you’re probably familiar with if you’ve ever experienced an extraction: They can be painful. And that’s why some of my clients opt out, which I completely understand. They can also make your skin look worse before it looks better. But on top of the uncomfortable maneuvering of the skin, tugging, pressing, and pulling at pores can fatigue them and over time reduce collagen, weaken the skin’s elastin, and even break a few blood vessels.

Furthermore, if you overstimulate the face with too much steam (skin is typically prepped with steam before extractions) or too many extractions, it can cause even more blemishes to occur and potentially lead to hyperpigmentation.

The Verdict

So, do I think extractions are bad? Absolutely not. They serve a specific purpose and truly help at resetting skin and bringing it back into balance. That said, skin care specialists should perform extractions on a need-to-need basis rather than performing them on every client. Dale agrees, noting that a skin analysis should be done first. “Deciding to [extract] the common areas where people have the most sebaceous buildup will suffice,” she says. Also of note: According to Dale, if your skin is inflamed or you’re dealing with an impaired barrier, you should wait on extractions until your complexion is calm and repaired. Otherwise, you can cause further harm to your skin in its vulnerable state.

As an esthetician, I will say that preventative care is key if you want healthy, balanced skin. You can do so many different things at home to balance your skin’s oil production and minimize whiteheads, blackheads, and acne-causing bacteria, eliminating the need for extractions entirely. I’m a huge fan of oil cleansing, which is based on the chemistry of “like defeats like” and rids the skin of unwanted oil while balancing the natural sebum production in the skin, all without disrupting the skin barrier. Lymphatic drainage is another technique that can be performed daily as the massage will help drain toxins and impurities from the skin. You could also turn to clay-based masks to draw excess oil, bacteria, and debris from the pores, helping to decongest the skin.

If you’re down to incorporate extractions into your beauty regimen, it’s good to get them four times a year at the start of each season so your skin’s prepped and ready for the changing weather. Whatever you do, though — leave the manual extractions to the professionals.

Studies referenced:

Ayer, J. (2006). Acne: More than skin deep. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 82(970), 500-506.

Fox, L. (2016). Treatment Modalities for Acne. Molecules, 21(8).


Lakeisha Dale, a licensed esthetician and owner of Melaskin Studio in New York City

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