I paid someone to pop my pimples. For three months, I went to an esthetician who went to town squeezing every blackhead, pimple, and clogged pore on my face. It hurt like hell and I left with scabs all over, but it was the most effective acne treatment I’ve ever had. Welcome to the world of extractions.
You probably have questions. I get it — doesn’t everyone always say not to pick your face or pop your pimples? I had questions too before getting extractions, so I did some research to answer the big ones.
First off, what are extractions?
Acne extraction is essentially professional pimple popping. In an interview with Everyday Health, dermatologist Dr. Amy J. Derick, MD, said, “Acne extraction is when blackheads or milia are extracted using a blade and an instrument, such as a comedone extractor. The extractor puts pressure on the contents of the blackhead to expel its contents.” Don’t you love that description? In pop culture terms, extractions are what made Dr. Pimple Popper famous (don’t act like you’ve never heard of her). They often accompany a facial and can be provided by estheticians or dermatologists.
Wait… Isn’t popping your pimples a bad thing?
Yes — when you do it yourself. If you squeeze your own skin, you run the risk of pushing some of what’s in your pimple even deeper, which can cause infection, inflammation, and acne scars. However, when a professional performs an extraction, they use sterilized instruments and precise methods to make sure that they clear all debris from your clogged pore.
With these two questions out of the way, let’s get into my experience with extractions and the results I have seen from my own personal Dr. Pimple Popper.
At the beginning of May, I was fed up. I had been on a prescription acne cream for six months and hadn’t seen the slightest improvement in my skin. Actually, it was getting worse. This cream was one of the many proposed solutions to my ongoing acne that has been around since I was 16. I felt like the Goldilocks of skincare — nothing was quite right for me. However, when my best friend started getting extractions, I was intrigued. And when I saw the results of her treatment, I was sold. I booked an appointment with an esthetician and was ready to have my face poked and prodded.
My first experience getting extractions was… weird. I was uncomfortable the entire time. It’s a no-brainer: someone stabbing your face with a (very small) blade and then pinching is going to hurt. It’s even worse if, like me, you have deep acne that has been sitting for a while. My appointment lasted for about an hour, and we only got to one side of my face. The esthetician told me that pretty much every pore on my forehead was clogged (so fun to hear!) and that I would require another appointment in three weeks to take care of the rest of the extractions. She put a drying face mask over the fresh extractions to help them scab and instructed me to clean my scabs with rubbing alcohol twice a day. I drove home with the face mask on (praying I didn’t pass anyone I know) and took it off an hour later. I was honestly terrified at my own face once I took off the mask. I looked like the “before” on a Proactiv commercial — covered in red dots.
To speed my recovery, I used an ice roller and continued to clean my tiny wounds with rubbing alcohol. After about a week, the scabs started to fall off on their own, revealing mostly healed, clear skin underneath. I had a little bit of pinkness and bruising that stuck around after the scabs had cleared, but I saw an immediate improvement texture-wise. I got excited to go back and just hoped my pain tolerance would get better.
I went back every three weeks for three months. With each appointment, the look of my skin improved and I had to get fewer extractions. All of my stubborn under-the-skin bumps on my forehead were gone and so were the whiteheads on my jawline. I continued my regimen of rubbing alcohol and ice rolling after each treatment. At my most recent appointment, my esthetician told me that I’m “not quite there yet” in the sweetest way possible. However, this is the best my skin has looked in forever, and that’s good enough for me!
As with any skin treatment, there are upsides and downsides. Acne is a deceptive jerk that doesn’t like to be told what to do. On the plus side, extractions have proven to be a pretty quick fix for acne. They would be perfect to get two weeks in advance of a big event like a wedding or photoshoot. Once the scabs fall off, your skin is good to go! Makeup really can’t cover the texture of acne, only the color, so extractions take care of the bumpiness. I also stopped picking at my own face, which I’m sure my skin is thanking me for. The downside is that there’s no guarantee that your acne won’t return. Sneaky pimples can come back after disappearing for a while, even with extractions. After being out of town and not getting treated for a few months, my pores are starting to get clogged again. However, if you can supplement extractions with a super bomb skincare routine, they might be your answer to constant clear skin. Time and cost can also be downsides to getting extractions. I paid $25 for each of my hour-long appointments. This can add up quickly, especially if you live in an area where skin treatments are more expensive. All in all, it’s worth a shot to try extractions. Just learn from my mistakes and don’t schedule a coffee date immediately after!