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Here’s one thing anyone with a nose or chin can agree on: Blackheads suck. And now, more peeps than ever are attempting to suck them straight out with the help of pore vacuums.

These handheld, pore-sucking devices have quietly been around for a minute. The rise of pimple-popping content helped them skyrocket to the top of YouTube recommendations and online shopping carts lately. But do you need another gadget in your bathroom?

Do pore vacuums work?

Depends on your definition of “work.” They can totally help remove oil and gunk from your pores, but it’s not a permanent solution. Expect satisfying results, but don’t expect your nose to look like an Insta filter.

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pore vacuum on face
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Image source: Getty Images

It’s pretty simple — pore vacuums are handheld suction devices with interchangeable tips. When placed over a “congested” area of the skin, the suction helps release keratin plugs, the dermatology name for blackheads.

“Blackheads form as a result of keratin (dead skin cells), sebum, and dirt,” says Dr. Zenovia Gabriel, a board certified dermatologist and hormonal skin care expert with Zena Medical in Newport Beach, California.

Ever wonder what makes them black? “The blackhead is an open hair follicle or pore in which the contents of the pore are oxidized, causing the dark head to appear.”

Pore vacuums started as an at-home alternative to in-office skin treatments, like the hydrafacial that uses a super powerful, FDA-approved microdermabrasion device. Those pro-level results come at a price, though.

Now, you can find a personal pore vacuum for your medicine cabinet at nearly every price point.

  1. First, wash that gorgeous face. Preferably with a deep cleanser, according to Zenovia. You can also steam your face with a personal steamer or in the shower to loosen up any debris.
  2. Dry your face really, really well.
  3. Choose a clean, sanitized nozzle, turn your pore vacuum on, and set it on the lowest suction setting.
  4. Gently place the suction tip on the affected area and begin targeting clogged pores, moving the vacuum with purpose in smooth, elongated patterns.
  5. Keep moving around the affected areas, making sure not to leave it on any one spot for too long.
  6. All done? Admire your work (isn’t that half the reason you bought this thing?) and clean any debris from the nozzle. Sanitize it with alcohol and resist the urge to pick up the vacuum again for another week.

Zenovia suggests finishing off your self care moment with a hydrating, non-oily moisturizer to protect and repair your skin barrier. Look for one with hyaluronic acid and niacinamide.

Yes, but with a caveat.

“Acne is a multi-factorial issue,” says Zenovia. “Blackheads and other pimples need topical medication to eliminate and control. There is no one device that solves the whole issue of acne or blackheads — you need a combination approach.”

Blackheads be gone — for now

You’ll notice fewer black dots wherever you use it, but those benefits will last until those pores get clogged up again.

“To keep your pores clear of pimple-forming gunk, keep them clean and happy with acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, clindamycin, retinols and sulfur-based product,” Zenovia says.

A skin care routine that consists of a retinoid and chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid or glycolic acid gets an A+ in blackhead prevention and treatment.

Retinoids and hydroxyacids should be held for at least a few days before using the pore vacuum. Otherwise, you can get significant redness or discoloration, irritation, and skin injury

What about whiteheads?

Whiteheads, like blackheads, are also just congested follicles or pores that are super close to your skin’s surface.

Zenovia gives pore vacuums for whiteheads a thumbs up — as long as it’s a superficial pimple and not one of those super deep monster ones that drag on for what feels like a year. Shop for pore vacuums online.

Not if you’re gentle. Keeping the vacuum on one spot for too long or turning the suction up too high can cause bruising, broken blood vessels, or dilated blood vessels that can make matters worse and lead to even more inflammation, according to Zenovia.

If your skin is sensitive, rosacea-prone, or if your acne is severely inflamed, skip pore vacuums altogether.

Switch to an oil cleanser. Sounds counterintuitive, but the oil in your cleanser will cling to and dissolve excess surface oil, a major blackhead culprit.

Add chemical facial exfoliators to your routine. Once you clear pores with the vacuum, you’ll need the right combo of ingredients from chemical facial exfoliators to keep them clear. Glycolic and salicylic acid, according to Zenovia, are blackhead-preventing overachievers.

Get your mask on. Masks made from clay, charcoal, and turmeric are go-tos for getting deep into pores and clearing them out.

Give skin gritting a go. Skin gritting, made popular by a Reddit blackhead routine, is a three-step weekly regimen that involves oil cleansing, a clay mask or exfoliant (or both!), and another oil cleanse. The grit under your fingers is the dislodged keratin plugs — i.e., blackheads. Gross/awesome.

Rip off a few pore strips. Who doesn’t love a good pore strip reveal? And since you’re doing so much to soften up those blackheads, this should be super satisfying. Just don’t overdo it — once a week is enough.

Pore vacuums, like Hansel, are so hot right now. They’ve got that satisfying thing that pimple-popping video diehards and pore strip users love. They’re available at nearly every price point. Shop pore vacuums online from your favorite skin care brands.

Pore vacuums use gentle suction to dislodge and remove the collection of dead skin cells, sebum, and dirt that clog pores and become blackheads.

They definitely dislodge debris (as evidenced by the collection of grime on the nozzle), but it’s not a once-and-done solution. Once you clear the pores, you’ll need to use the right combination of skin care products to keep them from getting re-clogged.

Pore vacuums are generally safe to use on blackheads and whiteheads, but not deep-rooted or very inflamed pimples.

Be gentle. The biggest risks come from holding the vacuum in one spot for too long and turning the suction up too high. The result is bruising and broken blood vessels.

Pore vacuums are just one part of the equation. An effective blackhead-prevention regimen includes a retinoid plus a chemical exfoliator like glycolic or salicylic acid. You can also pair it with other known blackhead remedies like skin gritting, masks, and pore strips.

Remember that using these products together can cause significant redness or discoloration, irritation, and micro-trauma to your skin. Retinoids/retinol and AHA/BHA should be held for a few days before using the vacuum. The vacuum shouldn’t be used more than once a week.