I’ve struggled with acne since I was 12—excess oil, stubborn blackheads, large pustules, you name it. (I know, 12 sounds young, but acne can begin at an early age—as young as 7 to 12 years old, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.) There have been times when my skin was in such bad shape, I’d have to cancel plans with friends and actively avoid mirrors to prevent myself from bursting into tears.
Of course, that means I’ve tried various remedies over the years to get rid of my acne: extractor tools, exfoliators, face masks, pore strips, serums, moisturizers—you get the picture. After eight years of experimentation, I finally settled on a routine of Accutane (isotretinoin) and a twice-daily charcoal face wash followed by moisturizer. But (unfortunately) even that only mildly helped prevent breakouts.
Then, in my never-ending quest for clear skin, I came across the phrase “blackhead remover pore vacuum” online. I was immediately intrigued.
These blackhead remover pore vacuums aren’t necessarily new—they’ve been on the Korean beauty scene since 2016, and they’re pretty much exactly what they sound like: a mini vacuum-type device that suctions the oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria from blackheads on your face. Online reviewers have called the tool a “holy grail,” the recipe for a “perfect facial at home,” and have even claimed that it shows “instant skin improvement”—mostly stellar reviews, except for a few that claim the tool’s suction can lead to bruising. Still, I was sold. (What’s a few black-and-blue marks in exchange for clear skin?)
The author, before using the pore vacuum, and one month after.
Of all the blackhead remover pore vacuums on the market—and there are literally dozens—I went with the XPREEN Blackhead Remover ($30; walmart.com) because it’s customizable and cheap (some vacuums sell for as much as $200). The tool comes with adjustable suction settings and interchangeable probes to address all kinds of skin problems (blackheads, scarring, and loose skin). It also has an LED display, which helps you to clearly see blackheads and acne on your face, and intense pulsed light (IPL) beauty treatment, to help improve the appearance of uneven skin texture, enlarged pores, sun damage, and acne, per the product guide.
FYI: I also purchased this facial steamer ($37; amazon.com) per the product guide's recommendation because it’s stronger than standing under a hot shower or holding a hot washcloth over your face. Using a facial steamer apparently helps open up the skin and soften and loosen underlying debris to make suction more effective.
For my first use, I started with the facial steamer for about 10 minutes to open up my pores—then, I braced myself for suction-central. I used the circular attachment of the pore vacuum and its softest suction level, and slowly (and gently!) moved the probe along my nose and T-Zone.
It didn’t take long for a thick, sticky, yellow substance to appear in the cap of the pore vacuum—I could only assume this was all the skin debris, bacteria, and oil that had been plaguing my face for years. Once I was done suctioning, I washed my face, per the instructions.
I checked my face in the mirror about 30 minutes after my first use and my skin felt and looked extra baby-skin smooth. There was a purplish, hickey-like bruise on the left tip of my nose, but (luckily) by the next day, the bruise lightened enough so I could cover it with makeup—and the day after that, the bruise was totally gone.
It's recommended to use the device once a week for dry skin and twice for oily skin, so, I revisited my pore vacuum a couple of days later. This time, I increased the suction level and use tool across my entire face, starting with the chin and working my way up to the forehead in gentle strokes. After just a few swipes, the dirt and oil were once again visibly lifted from my pores, and my face felt super smooth, just like last time. (I did end up with some temporary red lines on my left cheek and under my chin, but, again, they weren’t any cause for concern).
So, are these miracle workers effective and worth all the hype? In my humble, acne-hating opinion: Yes! Although the device can leave some (temporary!) light-colored, painless marks, the results are worth it (and it’s extremely satisfying to see all the gunk that gets removed). Within a month of use, I noticed blackheads were completely gone from my nose—so yeah, I'd say that's an overall win for my skincare routine.
To buy: XPREEN Blackhead Remover, $30; walmart.com
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