If I did a quick whip around the beautyheaven office, I don’t think they’d be a single person who hadn’t squeezed a pimple or blackheads. Admittedly, I’m guilty of it. Way before I became a beauty editor, I was treating my face to monthly peels, but my skin badly reacted and I broke out in cystic acne. At the time I didn’t realise the gravity of cystic acne and, eek, squeezed them. Unfortunately, I ended up with quite bad scarring around the chin area. Like Cher says, If I could turn back time I would never have squeezed with such abandon. Once you do, acne scarring can be hard to shake off.
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From one squeezer to another, I get how good it feels to squeeze and extract. So, I chatted to Dr Mei Tan, a Sydney-based dermatologist, on how to extract blackheads and pimples without leaving a scar.
What is the best way to extract blackheads?
Who would have thought a dermatologist would recommend a $7 beauty product, but Dr Mei says blackhead and pore removal strips can work well as an at-home treatment. However, if you know that’s not going to cut it, Dr Mei says to try laser. “I recommend non-ablative 1550nm erbium laser, which creates microthermal zones of heat to coagulate and extrude blackheads and other skin impurities.”
If laser isn’t an option, Dr Mei goes on to say a resurfacing treatment like a 10-20% glycolic gentle chemical peel or microdermabrasion, also helps to extract blackheads without scarring the skin.
Which skin care ingredients help with blackhead extraction?
When it comes to extraction consider retinol-based products. “Retinoids which are prescription topical medications such as tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene creams act against blackheads and whiteheads by causing them to dissolve,” says Dr Mei. “Apply them to the affected areas several times a week, before bed, to prevent or to gently lessen their appearance.”
Non-prescription products like topical azelaic acid and benzoyl peroxide can also work well as they act to destroy bacteria that causes blackheads and pimples.
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What are the biggest don’ts when it comes to extracting blackheads?
While the temptation is real, the message is clearly don’t squeeze. “Squeezing can drive some of the sebum downwards, further into the skin, instead of upwards, hence prolonging or worsening the breakout,” explains Dr Mei. “Plus extracting too aggressively could cause scarring.”
What is the best way to pop a pimple without scarring?
Since scarring is caused by inflammatory deep lesions such as cysts and nodules in the skin, it’s ideal to see a professional – GP or dermatologist to manage your acne early on. “Knowing what the correct topical prescription medications and oral medications to use from an early stage plus professional advice on how to manage your pimples will keep your acne under control or banish it,” explains Dr Mei. “Proper care will also prevent ongoing inflammation and scarring.”
It’s not uncommon for dermatologists to see patients who’ve tried to pop pimples at home, leaving them with scarring. So Dr Mei suggests trying to withhold from attempting to do this yourself. “I would advise seeing a dermatologist to have the lesion popped and injected with an anti-inflammatory medication,” explains Dr Mei. “This will calm it down and ensure that it does not recur.”
This involves making a 1mm incision in the skin, overlying an inflammatory lesion, and using a comedone extractor to express the pus,” explains Dr Mei. “Then I inject a very small amount of anti-inflammatory medication into the same lesion. However, sometimes it is best to wait a week or so after pimple extraction before injecting the anti-inflammatory, so I’ll have the patient let the lesion drain then come back in a week.”
What is the best technique to reduce acne scarring?
“Laser treatment, micro needling, subcision and radiofrequency micro needling procedures all work well,” says Dr Mei. “2-4 % Hydroquinone in a topical cream form works the best and is the least expensive to fade brown marks and discoloration.” But she also recommends an azelaic acid cream to help gently fade the red and brown gently. If you want to speed up the recovery time of scarring, she suggests chemical peels and microdermabrasion procedures.
Are you guilty of popping pimples and blackheads? What’s your go-to product for dealing with pimples and blackheads?