Once upon a time, facials were only for the rich and the brave. You would pull up, sign over $100 or more, and feel the warm embrace of a waffle knit towel while an esthetician stroked your face for an hour. Then would come extractions, the technical name for a pro going pore by pore to squeeze out gunk and blackheads. Now you can just walk into Sephora and get your pores vacuumed—yes, vacuumed—for free.
Earlier this year, Sephora announced it would start offering complimentary Perk Hydrating Facials in 100 stores across the U.S. The only catch being that you also have to buy $75 worth of products during your trip, which, honestly, you’d probably do there anyway. Unlike regular extractions, the Perk “pore vacuum” promises to be quick and painless. It’s also the absolute grossest thing ever, because all of the stuff it sucks out your skin goes straight into a jar of blue liquid for you to see. So, like I said, gross; but also intensely satisfying—not unlike a pimple-popping video.
Naturally I needed this thing on my face right away, so I headed to the Herald Square location in New York City ready to be $75 and a jar of dead skin lighter. My first question was how Sephora could keep things relaxing—and hygienic—in such a busy location. There’s nothing like a screaming toddler getting handsy with eyeshadow swatches to ruin the mood you traditionally get with a facial.
But when I arrived, my Sephora Skincare Advisor (SSA), Veridiana, assuaged my fears. The Skincare Studio, where they perform the treatment, looks like one of the store’s mirrored testing banks, but instead of being centrally located, they place the bank next to a wall. The logic is that your advisor can block out the traffic (and people dodging in for tissues), so it feels like more of an intimate experience. I was literally the first and only shopper in the store, but Veridiana started by demonstrating how they sanitize the machine’s mechanism before every use, which was great. Even just the thought of someone else’s pore junk intermingling with my own is too horrible to entertain—I want to see my skin trash, and mine only (I’m mostly kidding, though I do appreciate un-skewed results).
Next came a brief consultation to talk through my skin concerns. I’ve noticed some small, under-the-skin, not-quite-pimples on my cheeks over the past few weeks, and while I’m still not entirely sure what’s up with them, we agreed that it looks like some kind of congestion. Drawing on the wide world of Sephora’s skin care arsenal, Veridiana returned with a Biossance oil cleanser and a foaming Ole Henrikson cleanser (double cleansing was her number one recommendation; and after seeing the things she’s seen, below, I understand why). Rarely do I remember product recommendations after walking away from a service, and in my defense, skin care’s usually a wait-and-see kind of thing. But Sephora’s app now comes in handy for more than making rash purchases. Your SSA notes what products are used in the app’s “Digital Makeup Guide,” and then if your skin turns out fabulous, it’s not a mystery what worked so well.
I’d walked in barefaced, but Veridiana cleansed my face anyways with a short face massage before the big guns came out. Working from bare, just-cleansed skin makes the end results all the more
gross interesting. The real magic is in said guns, the two vials of serum that came out next. Packed in sealed plastic bags, the first is a mild lactic acid solution that dissolves the cellular glue holding dead skin to your face, while the second is a calming serum that soothes the residual redness. The vacuum “pen” then sucks up the loosened surface cells. I’d been expecting to leave splotchy thanks to extractions, but Veridiana said that’s a common misconception. Only licensed estheticians can perform extractions, so Sephora makes sure to steer clear of the word. Instead, the “vacuum” aspect comes in the mechanism of the serum dispensers’ heads, which suck off the grime and pollution that are on your skin with the power of suction.
All in all, the vacuuming took four minutes. And then I saw this…
…And mentally barfed. It looks like an outtake that was too gross for The Shape of Water, between the sludge and dirt and mysterious wisps of mucous-looking stuff. Veridiana LOL’d and said, “That’s New York City,” while I zoomed in and got different angles and let my inner nature photographer run wild. I have no regrets, look at this nightmare content:
I’d do it again in an instant. Not even just for that, although that’d be enough. When I got to work, three people commented on how great my skin looked. The little bumps remain, but I’m impressed, Sephora. For free-but-really-$75, I’ll happily pass up extractions for vacuumed-up pollution goo. What’s more, I’ll now live in horror of the things the air throws at your skin. Double-cleansing, do me right.