Those little white bumps on your face may tempt you to pop them — but don’t just squeeze your skin to force out sebum plugs, unless you’re willing to accept the scars to come. Whiteheads, or closed comedones, have a layer of skin over them that makes extractions less safe to perform than open blackhead extractions. They’ll go away on their own, if you can wait — but if patience isn’t your strong suit, have a professional perform the extraction or, with extreme care, you can extract the whitehead at home.
Coax It Out
Not all whiteheads will be ready to pop right away, and picking at them will just make your skin more irritated. A “ripe” pimple will erupt with very little applied pressure, so if yours doesn’t budge right away, it’s not ready. Instead, draw the sebum plug to the surface by softening your skin. Soak a soft washcloth in warm water and gently press it against the whitehead several times throughout the day and right before you extract for 10 minutes. The pore may relax and loosen the plug just enough for extraction. If the plug still does not come out, repeat the compress application.
You’ll see comedo or complexion extractors at an esthetician’s salon, and they are sometimes sold for home use, although they are difficult to use on yourself. Worse, you can’t even fully extract whiteheads — the remaining debris low in the pore rises in 30 to 50 days. Extractors are designed for blackheads, and may cause damage to the skin if used on whiteheads.
Ideally, to reduce the possibility of scarring, have a professional esthetician or dermatologist perform the extraction procedure for you.
If you decide to extract the whitehead at home, after a warm compress, soak two halves of a cotton pad in non-alcoholic skin toner and wrap it around your index fingers to cushion and disinfect the skin. Press gently on each side of the whitehead until the plug protrudes from the pore. Do not squeeze or dig at the skin, or you risk unnecessary scarring. If nothing happens after two repeated compresses, the whitehead is not ready. Continue applying compresses throughout the week and attempt the extraction again.
Clean up the wound after extraction to prevent further infection. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and gently swipe it over the pore — but avoid the rest of your face, as alcohol can cause more acne. Help calm inflammation with a clay mask that contains chamomile, then apply toner and moisturizer once the mask is washed off. Do not touch the area until after the skin heals.
References and ResourcesDr. Whitney Bower: Procedural Treatments for Acne
Marie Black Studio: Is There a Safe Way to Extract a Pimple?
The Seattle Times: Fight Acne By Creating a Diversion