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Face Mask Vogue, February 1999, photography Irving Penn

These are the best blackhead extraction facials in London

If you can’t stop watching blackhead extraction videos, these are the treatments you’ll love

When it comes to annoying skincare ailments, blackheads are definitely up there. No amount of short term exfoliators, Biore nose strips, or oil-free foundations can stop them from reappearing, but if you’re plagued with blackheads there is something that can be done to minimise the bastards: extractions.

 Blackheads happen to everyone because they’re nothing more than oil, dead skin cells and dirt build up. When all that junk clogs up your pores, the visible layer oxidises and looks black, giving your skin a wonderful grey tinge. “Blackheads are on the rise, now that we live in such highly polluted cities, they’re a pesky problem a lot of us can identify with,” says Rowan Hall-Farrise, head facialist at QMS Medicosmetics, who recommends getting professional extractions done once a month. Although every skin is different, Rowan warns that if you require extractions more than once a month, there could be an underlying issue. “This could be that you’re using the wrong skincare products,” she tells Dazed Beauty, “perhaps products which leave a residue on the skin or contain mineral oil. Products that strip the skin of its natural oils may be over-stimulating the skin’s sebum glands, leading to increased oil production and blackheads. Overusing moisturisers and face masks, and sleeping in facemasks too often can also cause blackheads.”

Whether you want to admit it or not, there is nothing more satisfying in the beauty world than squeezing a blackhead. Yes, it might be gross, but the feeling of seeing all that cheese-like gunk squirm out of your skin is unparalleled. But if there’s one thing all experts agree on, it’s that extractions are best done by a professional. As tempting as it might be, blackhead extractions are one of those things that you should never DIY. If not done properly - ie. if done in a Zara changing room because the lighting makes them look ten times worse - you risk causing inflammation, which can lead to more spots and scarring.

I put five of London’s most hyped extraction facials to the test to see which would deliver the clearest, blackhead-free results:

HydraFacial at Epilium & Skin, Marylebone

If you’ve seen those viral videos of vacuum suction extractions, then you’ll love the HydraFacial. Probably one the most hyped treatments available today, it’s been dubbed as the holy grail of facials. It uses a patented vortex technology nozzle that cleans, extracts and hydrates the face all in one. The therapist started by using the handheld machine to cleanse my skin with salicylic acid, which is ideal for congested or oily skin, and then used the nozzle to suck out blackheads all over my face - if you’re so inclined, you can ask to see how much crap gets sucked out. It’s surprisingly gentle, if not downright pleasant, so I was sceptical as to whether it was actually doing anything. After the extraction, the nozzle funnels a cocktail of hyaluronic acid, peptides and antioxidants to hydrate the skin. Let me tell you, my skin was glow-ing, and it was baby-butt-cheek levels of softness. I couldn’t stop stroking my face because I couldn’t believe that it was that soft. It’s a great option if you’re looking for an effective, no-nonsense treatment without having to worry about downtime or discomfort.

QMS Bespoke Treatment at Liberty

If you like your facials to cover all bases, look no further than QMS. An all-rounder, it was a perfect mix of hi-tech and holistic techniques. It can be daunting to let someone else poke and prod your face, but you feel safe in Rowan’s hands and immediately get a sense that she knows what she’s doing. After cleansing my skin and gently exfoliating it, she began the extraction. Instead of pressing down on the skin, Rowan uses a “lift and roll” technique which makes extractions essentially painless and removes any risk of irritating the pore and spreading bacteria. She followed up with the algae mask, which covers your entire face (eyes and mouth included) and feels like a heavy gel that then gets peeled off. It wasn’t unpleasant but definitely bizarre, and not the one if you’re claustrophobic. By the end of it, my skin looked clear, plump and refreshed afterwards - with no blackheads or red marks in sight.

Sunday Riley Ice Clear at Heshersons

I’ve tried my fair share of facials in my life, but never have I experienced a treatment with so much extraction. After cleansing my face and using steam to open pores, my therapist Iris (who designed the treatment specifically for Sunday Riley) was not kidding around - no pore was safe under her watch. Admittedly, I wasn’t too fond of the fact that she used a metal extractor (a small metal tool with a loop at one end that is pressed down on the pore), as they can damage the skin. After finishing each section of my face she gleefully showed me just how much guck was expelled - it was gross, but in a good way. To reduce inflammation and sensitivity she followed-up with a round of cryotherapy, which provided a welcome cooling effect, and then a blue light LED mask which is meant to prevent future breakouts and blemishes. My face was definitely bouncier, clearer and firmer, but it was also noticeably red and blotchy for a good 24 hours, so I wasn’t a fan of that. In terms of extractions, this treatment is definitely the most thorough, but it’s not for the faint of heart. If you can tolerate pain and don’t mind the downtime then this one’s for you, but it was a bit too aggressive for my liking.

Vaishaly Signature Treatment

Any skincare aficionado worth their salt knows the name Vaishaly. Loved by everyone, from industry insider Sali Hughes to celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, their signature treatment is an award-winning facial. As I had an event that evening and wanted to avoid any post-extraction redness, I asked my facialist to be as gentle as possible with the extraction. She very kindly obliged, and occasional wincing and discomfort aside, the extraction was quick and efficient, although she told me that it’s usually a lot more full-on. The therapist followed up with some very gentle microdermabrasion, and then a high-frequency treatment to increase blood flow and stimulate circulation. But the best part? The heavenly, almost sleep-inducing face, neck and shoulder massage that seemed to never end. By the end of it, my skin looked refreshed, bright and satisfied as if I’d just had the best sex of my life. If you have a low pain threshold and need something to comfort you after the self-induced punishment of blackhead extractions, this treatment won’t disappoint.

The Signature Facial at Skinwork

Hailing from LA, Skinwork’s Signature Facial came highly recommended and is found in the uber-cool Alex Eagle Studio in Soho. After my skin was cleansed the therapist went into some fairly run-of-the-mill (albeit effective) and relatively painless manual extraction. The highlight of the treatment, and the reason why it’s so beloved among industry experts was the galvanic mask, which looks strikingly like an S&M gimp mask. It’s meant to calm and tighten your pores while stimulating collagen production. We finished with an anti-oxidising peel and a very tasty post-treatment Beauty Elixir shot. My skin had that satisfying clarity and sheen to it, with no redness or puffiness in sight.