The Purge: What Happens During Facial Extractions?

What are facial extractions?  We know extractions is the removal of something, but what is that something coming out of your face? 

An extraction is the process of clearing a clogged or compacted pore by manual or mechanical means. Extractions are often performed as part of a facial. Most people need at least a couple of extractions during each facial, though you may require more extractions if this is your first facial.

Comedones (blackheads) are the most common reason for extraction. A blackhead is not necessarily "dirt in the pores" as many people think. It is a pore that has become clogged with excess sebum and dead skin cells. The dark spot which is visible on the surface of the skin is oil which has oxidized and darkened on exposure to the air, like when you slice an apple and allow it to sit out for a while.

Pustules and pimples can also be extracted, depending on their size and depth.  Some pores may not be ready to be extracted on the first attempt and may require several treatments before they can be cleared.

What to Expect!

Your skin care treatments should be provided by a properly trained professional, because there are very specific methods to extractions. 

First, the esthetician will cleanse your skin. Often an enzyme is applied to the skin with steam for a few minutes, to soften the skin and prepare it for easier extractions. The esthetician may also use an ultrasonic device known as a skin scrubber, to loosen the impacted pores.

Extractions are performed under a magnifying lamp with a bright light, so that your esthetician can easily see the pores that need to be deep-cleansed. Eye pads or protective eyewear will be placed on your eyes to protect them from the bright light. The esthetician wears gloves and applies gentle pressure around the pore to extract the contents. This may be done using the fingers (wrapped in gauze or cotton) or a special metal implement designed for this purpose. 

Following extractions, an antiseptic and antibacterial product is generally applied to bring the skin back to its normal acid pH, and to aid in preventing post-facial breakouts. High frequency current may also be applied to the extraction area to kill bacteria and calm the skin. Often, a soothing mask is applied following extractions to help calm the skin, reduce redness and heal blemishes. To achieve healthy, clear skin, it is important to keep your hands away from your face and let your professional esthetician do these extractions. Home extractions can damage your pores and spread bacteria, making the skin worse instead of better. You do not want to break the pore wall inside the skin, pushing bacteria out into the surrounding tissue and spreading the breakout. Your esthetician knows how to clear the clogged pores without spreading infection and inflammation.

Are Facial Extractions Good or Bad for You?

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, used to remove the very top layer of the pustule to allow the contents to be easily extracted.

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? We'll get to the sebum-filled heart of the matter and find out why it's important to think carefully before undergoing 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.

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 painful.  When done correctly, extractions may be a little uncomfortable, but it shouldn't really hurt.

Again, these are good reasons not only to avoid performing your own extractions at home, or going to a non trained professional, because they rarely do extractions correctly. So, remember to check the credentials of the person performing your facial.

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