It’s not every day that I open Instagram Stories and watch footage of a woman appraising a plastic bottle filled with debris sucked from her pores, but that’s exactly what happened on an otherwise low-key afternoon not long ago. The woman in question was Katie Sturino. When I asked her what the heck my eyes had just witnessed, she told me it was a treatment at the spa Sia’s Beauty in which a vacuum is used to collect dead skin sells and other debris.
Later that same week, I coincidentally received a PR email about Dermalinfusion, a non-invasive resurfacing treatment that simultaneously exfoliates, extracts gunk and infuses serums into your skin using a diamond head wand. As with Katie’s microdermabrasion facial, at the end of this treatment you are presented with a jar of all the dirt, debris and blackheads that emerge from your pores.
I’d never heard of something more disgustingly satisfying. It’s basically a Boire Pore Strip on steroids! I squirmed with a strange combination of revulsion and glee at the thought. I wanted in. Maybe. Okay, yes, definitely. I was too intrigued to stifle the impulse, but I was also a little nervous at the prospect of plunging pores-first into a phenomenon I’ve informally dubbed “Clickbait Beauty.” I use this term as a journalistic catch-all for the multitude of beauty trends I’ve witnessed rising to prominence as a result of some kind of especially click-worthy or eye-catching attribute — an incredible “before and after” side-by-side (e.g. eyebrow microblading), an alarming special effect (.e.g bubbling charcoal masks or Hanacure masks) an Instagrammable visual (e.g. lollipop lips), flashy-but-possibly-unsubstantiated technology (e.g. Dermalinfusion, potentially?), etc.
I’m a sucker for hyped-up beauty stuff, but I also have very sensitive skin and need to tread carefully. When the offices of Monica Halem MD kindly agreed to let me come in and try Dermalinfusion with their medical aesthetician, Cynthia Rivas, I reasoned that my face would be in safe hands (literally) at a legitimate dermatology practice. (Fingers crossed?)
On the day of the treatment, Cynthia escorted me into a small back room and instructed me to lay down on a comfy bed. She then began to wash off my makeup as she talked me through the procedure. She explained that infusing the skin with serum at the exact moment of exfoliation results in maximum penetration and better absorption, which I would have been much more interested in had I not been entertaining the voice inside my head shouting SHOW ME THE BLACKHEADS!!!!!
When Cynthia started using the diamond head wand thingy on my face, it felt like someone was running a slightly suction-y toothbrush up and down my skin. She told me that, as it exfoliated and extracted, it was also shooting brightening and moisturizing serums into my pores.
OKAY BUT SHOW ME THE BLACKHEADS!!!!! (I’m telling you, that voice was remarkably persistent.)
After suctioning my entire face, lips and neck, performing a few manual extractions and then suctioning everything again, Cynthia applied a light moisturizer and told me my treatment was complete. SHOW ME TH–
“Do you want to see what the machine sucked up?” She asked. I nodded my head vigorously as she lifted up a glass bottle filled with serum backwash. Floating inside the liquid were thousands of visible bits of debris. It looked like a fish tank that had never been cleaned. I was transfixed. As for my skin, it looked very, very smooth and bright, like a freshly polished doorknob. There were a few patches of redness here and there, but my skin errs on the side of sensitive so that didn’t surprise me.
The next morning, I woke up to skin that was way less red and very much still in polished-doorknob mode, which I could have easily stared at for minutes on end had I not been immediately distracted by MY LIPS. They looked plump. Plumper than I have ever seen them, in fact — not in a bee-sting emergency kind of way but in an “I bit my lips just a little and now I look like Brigitte Bardot, oops!” kind of way. I vaguely recalled Cynthia saying something about how infusing the serums into my lips would make them look temporarily fuller, but wow. This was no joke.
Overall I was quite pleased with the results. My skin definitely looked, and more importantly felt, cleaner, tighter and bouncier, and my lips looked like pillows for angels the whole next day. The cost of the treatment usually ranges from $150-$300 depending on the location, so this definitely won’t be a regular thing for me, but I am happy to report there’s more to it than just a cool (gross?) Instagram gimmick — at least in terms of its immediate, short-term impact.
I asked Cynthia if she had any advice for how to maintain the effects of the treatment longer-term, or replicate its results at home. She recommended using an exfoliator that contains glycolic or lactic acid followed by a clay, charcoal or mud mask AND a hydrating mask. She also suggested using a microneedling device before applying serums to help them penetrate better.
Are there any other Clickbait Beauty trends you want me to investigate? I can’t resist. Sound off in the comments.
Collage by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.