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While perusing the skin care sections of stores like Sephora, Walmart and Ulta Beauty, you’ve probably stumbled upon pore strips marketed as a remedy for pesky blackheads and gaping pores. They’re sold by brands such as Biore, COSRX and Peace Out, and come in shapes that specifically fit the nose, chin and forehead. According to board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD, pore strips can temporarily remove the top layers of dead skin cells and blackheads by using an adhesive. However, King noted that pore strips won't prevent the buildup of either over time.
So, are pore strips worth it? We talked to medical experts about the benefits of pore strips and whether or not they actually work.
What are pore strips and how do they work?
Board-certified dermatologist Harold Lancer, MD, said pore strips aim to remove debris that accumulate within pores, which includes dead skin cells, oil, wax, mixed yeast and bacteria. According to King, some of these clogged pores become blackheads, or appear black when the dead skin cells and oil stuck inside are exposed to air.
Pore strips are often made from a woven material that’s coated with an adhesive, allowing the strip to stick to wet skin. After it's applied to the face, the pore strip dries within 10 to 15 minutes, after which you pull it off, consequently removing anything that sticks to the strip.
Despite the ability to remove some debris, Lancer called pore strips “a very brief oasis for the acne-prone person.”They may reduce acne development for about one day, but they should be used as a part of a larger skin care program. King also noted blackheads are normal and will continue to occur.
How to buy pore strips
Lancer said pore strip use for individual consumers involves trial and error — what works for one person might not work for another. Depending on the type of skin you have, pore strips will vary in their effectiveness. Lancer recommended using pore strips sparingly in a skincare regime. Instead, he suggested using a mechanical exfoliant — like a face scrub or mask — to rid the skin of dead cells.
Pore strips can also have additives like fragrances or colorants, according to King. She suggested reading the ingredients on the box before purchasing a product, and said to be cautious about anything in question, especially if you have sensitive or allergy-prone skin. King recommended applying moisturizer to the skin after using a pore strip, which can help combat dryness.
10 best pore strips
King called Biore’s pore strips “classic” and noted that if used routinely, they may reduce the overall appearance of pores. Instead of adhesive, Biore’s strips rely on water-activated cationic bonds, a so-called “magnet” for blackheads, according to the brand. The strips are available for the nose, face and chin. Biore also sells strips infused with Blue Agave and Witch Hazel.
King said that charcoal is porous and may help to absorb excess oil (though she noted any beneficial effects of the ingredient are marginal). Both she and Lancer previously recommended the Boscia Pore Purifying Charcoal strips, but they are currently sold out. One top rated alternative is Livaclean’s charcoal pore strips, which received a 4.1-star average rating from nearly 300 reviews on Amazon. Although they cost approximately $16, you receive 60 pore strips per pack.
Jolvka’s pore strips are marketed toward men and can be used on the nose, forehead and chin. They contain salicylic acid, an additive that King said penetrates into pores to remove sebum. Salicylic acid helps prevent pores from becoming congested and can help remove clogs that have already formed, making these pore strips great for those with acne-prone skin.
Although reviews for these peel-off strips are limited — they have a 4.3-star average rating from four reviews — innisfree is a popular skin care brand and the brand claims its strips are dermatologist-tested. They utilize volcanic clusters from the Jeju Island off the coast of South Korea to help extract dirt and grime trapped inside the pores. Each pack comes with six pore strips designed for the nose.
This 2-in-1 nose kit from Yes To utilizes a charcoal cleanser that is infused with a combination of salicylic acid and tomates to help reduce blackheads. The single-use nose mask comes in a small package, which is useful if you need a quick skin fix on the go. Lancer said single-use face masks and pore strips like this one may be valuable to individuals with limited access to their usual skin care regimens, like frequent travelers. After using a cotton swab to spread the mixture onto the nose, place the accompanying pore strip on top and let it sit for approximately 10 minutes.
Designed for the nose, this pore strip is infused with charcoal, antibacterial volcanic ash and antioxidant-rich bamboo extract, additives that work to reduce the size of pores. It also contains aloe, sacred lotus flower and allantoin, a chemical compound known for hydrating and protecting skin from irritation. These ingredients soothe skin and reduce redness that may occur during treatment.
To thoroughly treat blackheads, this product contains three strips that together leave pores clean and smooth. The first strip dissolves sebum to open up pores, prepping skin for the second strip, which removes blackheads and dead skin. The third pore strip cleans and soothes skin while tightening pores, utilizing ingredients like sage, peppermint oil and tea tree oil.
Peace Out’s pore strips lift dirt, excess sebum, oily wax and dead skin cells up from within pores. They are infused with vitamin A, which minimizes and refines the appearance of pores after they’re cleaned. Peace Out packs include four pore strips that specifically target blackheads and four that contain DMAE, a compound that works to diminish the look of enlarged pores. The brand also offers Peace Out Acne Serum, an acne product that contains salicylic acid and helps treat blemishes.
Each bright yellow Starface pore strip is infused with aloe vera extract, which helps calm any potential inflammation caused by removing the pore strip from the face. Starface claims this product is gentle enough for those with sensitive skin to utilize in their skin care routines. The pore strips are also Leaping Bunny certified and free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, fragrances and dyes, according to the brand.
These pore strips are made with non-comedogenic hemp seed oil, meaning it does not cause acne. It also features tea tree oil, which offers both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits to the skin, and witch hazel extract, which can help calm redness and regulate oil production.
How to use pore strips
Pore strips work best for people with non-sensitive skin that is oily and prone to blackheads.
- King does not recommend using pore strips if your skin is sensitive, or if you have conditions such as rosacea, eczema or seborrhea, each of which could react negatively to both the common types of adhesive in pore strips and to the friction entailed in using them.
- King does not suggest using pore strips more than once a week because the adhesive can cause irritation to skin.
- King said to follow instructions on the box carefully, and to make sure you don’t leave the strips on for too long — if the strip has completely dried out by the time you peel it off, it's more likely to traumatize or tear skin.
Lancer added that pore strips cause the normal skin cell barrier shield to be removed, which can lead to unwanted inflammation for those with sensitive skin.
3 skincare alternatives to pore strips
If you’re looking for an alternative to pore strips or products to help enhance their efficacy, consider these three drugstore recommendations.
For those who struggle with blackheads and whiteheads, King suggested using a product with salicylic acid — like this face scrub, which also contains charcoal to help draw oil out of skin.
Wipe your face with these pads after working out to avoid the buildup of dirt and oil in pores. The pads contain salicylic acid to combat acne, and King said they are a great product to use on the go or while traveling.
King said retinoids are an important component of any skin care regime. Retinoids increase the turnover of skin cells and reduce their "stickiness," making them less likely to clump together and clog pores. This adapalene gel is available over the counter.