Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Meet the team >
  • 3

How to Choose the Right Acne Device

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

With most acne care products, price is not a good indicator of quality1. The most expensive products tend to be the least effective. When it comes to choosing an acne device for home treatment, however, you usually do get what you pay for. Let’s take a look at some of the options for home acne treatment and how well they work.

hand held acne device
With home acne devices, you normally do get what you pay for.


  • With most acne products, price is not an indicator of quality, but with acne devices, the most expensive brands usually offer better results.
  • Blackhead extractors are cheap and usually do more harm than good.
  • Acne heat extraction devices, also known as “zit zappers,” don’t do anything for blackheads or whiteheads. They can reduce swelling of pimples, but redness remains. If you have Asian or brown skin tones, use of these devices can cause permanent discoloration of the skin.
  • Blue and red light therapy kill acne bacteria2 and stop excess sebum production, respectively. But it’s important not to overdo.
  • At-home laser therapy systems3, which cost around US $1000 and up, usually give great results—assuming you have a skin type that could be treated with laser.

Blackhead Extractors

Blackhead extractors usually sell for US $5 or less in drugstores and pharmacies. They consist of a plastic syringe with an open tip surrounded by a rubber ring. The idea is to place the open end of the syringe over a blackhead and to draw the plunger back, creating a vacuum. The change in air pressure over the blackhead supposedly will loosen it, so it falls right out.

Without any preparation of the skin, these devices just about never work. If they are not placed directly over a blackhead, they just leave little red rings or tiny cuts on healthy skin. If they are placed directly over a blackhead, more often than not they will just leave little red rings or tiny cuts around the blackhead. This makes the blackhead more noticeable, not less.

You can prepare your skin4 by holding a warm (not hot), moist, clean washcloth to the skin for 10 to 20 minutes, or by using a glycolic acid (AHA) or salicylic acid (BHA) product on the skin. But if you take these steps first, the blackhead is just as likely to come out on its own as it is to come out with the help of the blackhead extractor.

Zit Zappers, also known as Acne Heat Extraction Devices

Several brands of acne heat extraction devices, including the ANSR Beam and Charger, Radiancy no! no! Skin, and the Zeno Hot Spot Blemish Clearing Device and other models in the same line, promise to get rid of pimples with a blast of heat. The “zapper” builds up heat in a replaceable cartridge that is then held to a pimple. There’s a slight (or sometimes not so slight) sting as heat kills the bacteria in the pore. Over the 24 hours, the pore subsides to the level of the skin so it is easier to conceal the affected area. Over the next two weeks, inflammation subsides in the pimple as it is replaced by healthy skin.

However, if you have Asian, brown, or black skin, the pimple will be replaced by healthy pigmented skin. Chances are that you will have replaced a pink spot with a brown or black spot5.

People who have fair, oily, non-reactive skin (that is, they don’t experience redness and inflammation easily) sometimes get good results with heating devices for the skin. People who have sensitive skin, or who have dark skin tones, usually do not.

Microdermabrasion Facial Rejuvenation, Facial Polishing, and Facial Brush Systems

Traditional microdermabrasion6 is a process of rubbing corundum or aluminum oxide crystals over the skin to remove dead skin and to stimulate the growth of collagen underneath the skin to smooth over scars and other imperfections. The results are not immediate, but the process is not painful. The only downside to at-home microdermabrasion is the possibility of getting crystals in your eyes, which can be avoided if you read and follow instructions.

Microdermabrasion kits for use at home range in price from US $14.97 to $299.99. Usually the difference between a less expensive model and a more expensive model is the inclusion of vacuum wand to suck used crystals and cellular debris off the skin as you do the microdermabrasion. Without this attachment, you have to get crystals off your face with careful, repeated cleansing. Aluminum oxide crystals left on your skin can cause skin irritation and get into your eyes. Most people find that the use of the wand makes the experience of microdermabrasion much more pleasant.

Blue and Red Light Therapy Devices

Visible blue light breaks down the cell membrane7 of acne bacteria. Visible red light helps shrink pores. Lamps providing blue and red light help stop the formation of new blemishes so the skin can repair existing blemishes, at no additional cost other than the initial purchase price of the lamp. Your initial outlay for the lamp or light box, however, will probably be between US $199.99 and $799.99 plus shipping and tax. The wavelengths of light used in acne treatment don’t cause cancer and don’t damage the eyes, but you may feel more comfortable using protective goggles for your eyes, which will cost another $14.99 to $59.99.

Blue and red light therapy works, although it is not an instant cure8. Users typically notice about half as many blemishes after 4 to 6 weeks. Further improvement depends on the rest of your skin care routine. It is still necessary to do daily cleansing and weekly exfoliation with alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids.

The key to success with any blue or red light therapy device for acne is to use it in moderation. The directions will tell you to use the device just 15 minutes a day. Using the lamp for an hour a day, or sitting so close to the lamp that you burn your skin, does not help you clear up pimples. It just dries out your skin so it becomes more susceptible to blackheads and whiteheads. Even if you spend your whole paycheck on a blue light lamp, you are not likely to get clear skin overnight. Blue and red light therapy help bring and keep acne under control, and they don’t have side effects if used as directed, but they are not a miracle cure for acne.

Home Laser Therapy for Acne

Many people who have acne go to the dermatologist for laser resurfacing of the skin9. It’s fast, it’s relatively painless, and it’s also quite expensive. It is not unusual to spend US $1,000 to $5,000 for a complete set of laser resurfacing treatments for acne-scarred skin.

Home laser therapy treatment kits offer a lower-cost alternative to treatment at the doctor’s office, but they not cheap. The SDL30 At Home Use Laser for Spider Veins, Pigmentation Problems, Acne Treatments, Scar Reduction, Rejuvenation and Face Lift, for example, is discounted on to US $1,197.95. It really works for all the applications being advertised—but what the product advertising does not mention is that some skin types should not be treated with laser at all. If you have black skin, for instance, laser treatment can cause permanent black pigmentation to form where acne blemishes are removed. And if you have Asian skin, laser treatment without appropriate antioxidant treatment can cause permanent brown spots.

Home laser therapy is fine if you happen to be a cosmetologist or aesthetician. For most users, however, the real issue is not whether you can make the machine work. You can. It is the unexpected side effects that may be the problem.

Most people who have acne find that the right set of acne products gets better results than an expensive collection of acne devices. For reliable acne products that come with a one-year money-back guarantee, buy Exposed Skin Care.


  1. Yang JH, Yoon JY, Kwon HH, Min S, Moon J, Suh DH. Seeking new acne treatment from natural products, devices and synthetic drug discovery. Dermatoendocrinol. 2017 Oct 4;9(1):e1356520.
  2. Dai T, Gupta A, Murray CK, Vrahas MS, Tegos GP, Hamblin MR. Blue light for infectious diseases: Propionibacterium acnes, Helicobacter pylori, and beyond? Drug Resist Updat. 2012 Aug;15(4):223-36.
  3. Do I Need Phototherapy for Acne? WebMD. 2019.
  4. Cynthia Cobb A. Blackhead removal: Things to consider [Internet]. Medical News Today. 2019 .
  5. Lawson CN, Hollinger J, Sethi S, Rodney I, Sarkar R, Dlova N, Callender VD. Updates in the understanding and treatments of skin & hair disorders in women of color. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2017 Feb 16;3(1 Suppl):S21-S37.
  6. Kravvas G, Al-Niaimi F. A systematic review of treatments for acne scarring. Part 1: Non-energy-based techniques. Scars Burn Heal. 2017 Mar 30;3:2059513117695312.
  7. Gold MH, Andriessen A, Biron J, Andriessen H. Clinical Efficacy of Self-applied Blue Light Therapy for Mild-to-Moderate Facial Acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2009 Mar;2(3):44-50.
  8. Pei S, Inamadar AC, Adya KA, Tsoukas MM. Light-based therapies in acne treatment. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2015 May-Jun;6(3):145-57.
  9. Kang A, Lyons A, Herrmann J, Moy R. Treatment of Moderate-to-severe Facial Acne Vulgaris with Solid-state Fractional 589/1,319-nm Laser. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019 Mar;12(3):28-31.
  • 3
Comments 2
Comments (2)
Add Comment
rachel Reply

FYI, the ANSR beam is a light therapy system (blue and red), not heat zapper. i tried it for a few months and i don't know that it really made any difference.

March 14, 2012 at 4:03 am Reply
Martin Reply

Hi Rachel, You are correct and I appreciate your attention to detail. Everybody, consider Rachel's comment an update to this article!

March 22, 2012 at 9:11 am Reply

Our Mission

To be your most trusted ally in your pursuit of clear, healthy skin.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!