Step 1: Soften the Pores With Steam
Just like in most facials after you cleanse the skin, you’ll want to introduce some heat. (Although Marino noted this step is “not recommended for anyone with melasma or hyperpigmentation.”) This can help soften the pores and make it easier to extract the debris perched up inside.
You can buy a ready-made steamer like the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Pro Facial Steamer ($149) to make the process easy, or you can go the more cost-effective route. Simply boil hot water on the stove, throw some tea in the water to amp up the spa-like sensorial experience, and “hover over the pot with a towel over your head to trap in steam for five minutes,” she said. “Don’t do any longer or it can cause transepidermal water loss and dehydration.”
Step 2: Extract With Cotton Rounds
The first rule of thumb to extracting your blackheads “with caution and care,” as Marino put it, is to step away from the pore extraction tool. “Put down the knife – leave digging devices to the professionals to avoid potential permanent scarring or pigmentation issues and injury,” she said. “Use clean fingers only.”
Instead, wrap your finger in tissue or rounds like these Solimo Cotton Rounds ($3), and then gently (!) pinch the skin together and press upward. Press only in the direction you want to congestion to go (if you’re pressing down onto the skin “you’re making things worse, and potentially spreading bacteria under the skin”).
You’ll also want to leave aggravated or super stubborn acne alone. “Hard, angry, or underground is no go.”
Step 3: Wash Away Lingering Debris
Next, and to “keep the face free from cellular build-up and environmental sludge,” you’ll want to cleanse the skin. Marino recommends a face wash with light exfoliating acids like the Oxygen Infusion Wash ($38) to keep pores clean.
Stay away from overly drying ingredients, like benzoyl peroxide, since overuse can create a rebound effect and kick sebum production into overdrive.
Step 4: Put It on Ice
Finally, you’ll want to cool the skin. For immediately after the at-home extractions, Marino recommended a facial roller device. “The StackedSkincare Ice Roller ($30) is ideal for immediate inflammation reduction and pain,” she said. Then, in the next few days, reach for a hydrating, calming, and soothing serum like the iS Clinical HydraCool Serum ($94) to address any redness that may pop up afterward.