I’ve had exactly two microdermabrasion treatments in my life. The first time was an abbreviated session at an event where the aesthetician essentially vacuumed my pores, then held up a container with all the gunk she’d sucked out like it was a prize. The second time was about a month ago when Château Glow gave me a HydraFacial, which is more or less a microdermabrasion treatment that uses serums and moisturizers to cleanse, extract and hydrate at the same time. No gunk was shown, but I could feel the extractions happening in the best, most satisfying way possible. I’d go back every single week if my wallet would allow.
Given all the beauty products and treatments I try (in the name of research), I’m lucky that my skin is resilient enough to remain nearly unscathed. But there are certain things I always notice no matter what my skincare routine is at the moment, like the dark, large-looking pores on my nose and a dull, flat complexion if I’ve gone too long without a facial. I’ve tried pore strips, at-home peels, face steamers, you name it, and nothing seems to do the job quite like the pros. But wouldn’t it be easier if I could just vacuum my own pores from the comfort of my bathroom, even if no fancy serums were involved?
Right on cue, pore vacuums began popping up all over the internet and Instagram, touting similar results as an in-office microdermabrasion session. Skeptical, I immediately ordered the PMD Personal Microderm, charged it and attacked my nose under my bright fluorescent bathroom lights—again, purely for research (and really good skin). And PureWow's beauty director Jenny Jin did the same. On the latest episode of The Glow Up, Jenny tests out two of the most popular pore vacuums (including the PMD) and chats with Dr. Pimple Popper for her expert take on the trend. Check out the video above, then read on for a rundown of my experience:
What exactly is a pore vacuum?
First, the basics: As far as these at-home devices go, the term pore vacuum is pretty accurate. Basically, it’s a small device that’s meant to suck the dirt and dead skin right out of your face. It surprisingly fit in the palm of my hand, unlike a real microderm tool, which is bigger and more powerful. The PMD includes six different attachments (three for face and three for body, in case you have time to go over your limbs with a tiny suction tool), which range from low to high levels of exfoliation, depending on what your skin can take. Mine isn’t super sensitive, but I started with the lowest level face attachment to get acclimated (I bought the PMD Classic, which has only two suction levels).
And how does it get rid of the gunk?
The device I used combines patented spinning disks with varying levels of suction that help extract dark gunk from pores, therefore making the pores appear smaller and the skin glowier. Because there’s a level of exfoliation involved, it also claims to help reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and blemishes by removing dead, dull skin from the surface. This means that skincare products applied after you use the pore vacuum can sink into skin easier for maximum benefits.
So, do pore vacuums actually work?
In a word: kinda. The device I tried definitely exfoliated my skin and made it glowier, while helping to remove some of the dead skin and buildup that was making my pores look enlarged. I noticed fewer blackheads on my nose after a few minutes of dragging the device down the bridge, but it didn’t work miracles. There were a few similarities to the sensation felt at an in-office treatment (kind of like a kitten licking your skin with its scratchy tongue), but it was missing that simultaneous hydrating effect that a HydraFacial provides. I’m also doubtful that a regular old pore vacuum would be quite as effective, since there’s no exfoliation element to it. However, this $26 Lonove Blackhead Vacuum, similar to the one I tried, has more than 1,200 five-star reviews that nearly all start with “This really works!”
As mentioned, I’ve used my fair share of pore strips, which are about as cringe-worthy as ripping off a Band-Aid and leave my nose red and in need of a good scrubbing to remove the sticky residue. This device wasn’t uncomfortable, nor did it leave anything on my skin, so that’s a win. On the contrary, it actually felt kind of good. But I was a little too scared to go for the full-throttle suction and exfoliation for fear of red marks or broken capillaries (horror stories I’ve heard), which could explain why it wasn’t as life changing as I’d hoped. I plan to continue using the device weekly regardless, because it’s not doing any harm and I like how glowy it left my skin, even if it didn’t miraculously make my pores vanish. Next week, I’ll throw caution to the wind and amp up both the exfoliation and suction…in the name of research, of course.