2019 has seen no shortage of skin care trends, but pore vacuuming is one of the most intriguing. You may have seen the satisfying videos on Instagram, showing a suction device extracting buildup from someone's pores and the resulting bottle of gunky liquid that's left. It's been praised as a quick fix for stubborn blackheads and oily complexions, but it raises a lot of questions. Does it actually work? And is it safe? We spoke to skin care experts to learn more about the treatment, and whether or not the pore vacuum trend is worth the hype. Let's start with the basics:
What exactly is pore vacuuming?
"Pore vacuuming is a method where a small suction is applied to the outer layer of the skin to pull up any dirt and debris from deep in the pore," says Marisa Martino, esthetician and co-founder of SKINNEY Medspa. Some treatments, like the one offered at her Medspa, also include Hydrafacial technology, which uses the suction device for deep exfoliation while simultaneously delivering a serum-like solution that hydrates, brightens, and plumps.
To vacuum or not to vacuum?
Pore vacuums are an attractive option for those who struggle with blackheads, because unlike pore strips or similar OTC treatments, the vacuum is able to reach deep in the pores to remove buildup. There's also no downtime afterwards, aside from some temporary redness and inflammation, making it convenient for busy schedules.
But as Hadley C. King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, tells us, pore vacuuming is far from a magic solution and there are a couple of caveats. "These devices theoretically can offer an effective way to pull out some already loosened blackheads," Dr. King says. "But if the pressure is too high, it can cause bruising, similar to a hickey, and/or dilated superficial blood vessels, which are known as 'broken capillaries.'" Because of these risks, she advises those with sensitive or rosacea-prone skin to steer clear.
So how do you get started?
You can visit a professional for pore vacuuming, or you can purchase an at-home device, like this popular one that retails for only $27. They're often sold along with serums or other products to prep the skin. If you're going to try out a pore vacuuming device or treatment, Dr. King recommends using salicylic acid and retinoids leading up to help loosen the buildup in your pores so that they will be easier to remove. Just be sure to stop using any products 48 hours before, as well as after, to avoid irritation. You can also help open the pores before a treatment by taking a hot shower or holding your face (carefully) over a pot of steaming water.
Are there other ways to safely extract blackheads at home?
It's tempting to pick at blackheads or reach for pointy extraction tools, but Dr. King warns of the dangers associated with this. "Squeezing blackheads can traumatize the skin, introduce bacteria, and damage the pore, which can spread debris and bacteria deeper into the tissue," she says. "The risk for inflammation, infection, and scarring increase." This can also cause your pores to appear larger over time.
A comedone extractor, which has a small loop on the end of a metal rod, is often used by dermatologists and is a safer option for at-home blackhead extractions, says Dr. King. "The loop gently retracts the skin around the blackhead and brings the contents to the surface," she says. "Unlike squeezing, the comedones extractor does not compress the sides of the pore, so there is less risk of breaking the pore walls." However, she warns, it's still crucial to be very careful so you don't cause any tissue damage.
The bottom line?
Dr. King stresses that blackheads are perfectly normal, and you shouldn't go reaching for a pore vacuum every time a new one appears. "Even if you succeed in removing some, some will continue to occur," she says. "And [the pore vacuum] does nothing to prevent the buildup of blackheads." Instead, she suggests regularly washing your face and using salicylic acid and retinoids to keep blackheads at bay.
Still, if you do seek the satisfying results of a pore vacuum, there's really no harm -- just as long as you don't go overboard. Be gentle on your skin and try not to use it more than once a week. Also important: After using a pore cleansing tool, be sure to apply moisturizer or something to soothe the skin. And please, in the name of all things skin care, be sure to disinfect your device between uses.
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