What Is a Blackhead Extractor?
A blackhead extractor, also called a comedone extractor, is a special tool used to easily and safely remove the plugs that cause blackheads. Estheticians, dermatologists and other skin care specialists use blackhead extractors. They can be purchased by the general public in many drug stores, though improper use can cause permanent damage to the skin.
Blackheads form in sebaceous follicles, the channel-like structures in skin where hair forms. Each sebaceous follicle contains a hair bulb and a sebaceous gland. Sebaceous glands form the waxy oil that keeps skin and hair lubricated. Occasionally, a sebaceous gland overproduces sebum. Other times, skin debris, such as dead skin cells, clog the pore where the follicle opens to the skin's surface. Makeup and comedogenic skin products can also clog pores.
The clogging material, or plug, often contains sebum, debris, skin cells and bacteria. Exposure to air causes oxidation, which turns the plug black.
Blackheads appear as small bumps on the skin with a black center (the plug).
Extractors with Lancets
Some blackhead extractors have two heads. On one end is a small spoon, or cup, with a hole in the center. The hole is just large enough to fit over the plug of a normal-sized blackhead. Exerting gentle pressure on the cup usually forces the plug out of the follicle.
Some blackhead extractors have a lancet on the other end. Surgeons use these extremely sharp medical devices to make small cuts and punctures. Skin care specialists use lancets to puncture the domed covering of a closed comedone, or whitehead, in order to release the trapped sebum. Misusing a lancet can cause a permanent scar.
Single and Double Scoop Extractors
Some blackhead extractors have only one cupped end, while others have two cupped ends. Double spoon extractors usually offer two cup sizes, one for smaller blackheads and the other for larger plugs.
Another version of the double spoon extractor offers one end that is angled up. Some blackheads are difficult to reach with a straight instrument. The angled end makes it easier to unplug hard-to-reach blackheads, such as those found inside the ear.
Pressing too hard on the blackhead extractor or dragging the tool across the skin can initiate an inflammatory or immune response in the skin. Be gentle.
For best results, soften skin prior to using a blackhead extractor.
Occasionally, a plug will be too impacted to release, even with a blackhead extractor. In those cases, consult a skin care specialist.
Improper use of a blackhead extractor can cause permanent injury to the skin. Tugging and pulling on the sensitive skin around an irritated blackhead can further damage the skin.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that doctors typically prescribe either over-the-counter or prescriptive medicines for the treatment of acne. Using a blackhead extractor occasionally according to the instructions can keep skin clear. A dermatologist should monitor extensive or recurrent outbreaks.
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