How pore strips really work, according to dermatologists

Pore strips aim to shrink pores and remove blackheads from skin. But do they really work? Dermatologists weigh in.
Pore strip for nose, pore strip for chin and pore strip for forehead to remove blackheads on the face of a woman.
According to Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, pore strips can temporarily remove the top layers of dead skin cells and blackheads, but they won't prevent the buildup of either over timeGetty Images; Peace Out Skincare
By Zoe Malin

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While perusing the skin care sections of stores like Sephora and Rite Aid, you’ve probably stumbled upon pore strips, a product that’s marketed as a remedy for pesky blackheads and gaping pores. They’re sold by brands such as Biore and Peace Out, and come in shapes that specifically fit the nose, chin and forehead. According to Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, pore strips can temporarily remove the top layers of dead skin cells and blackheads by using an adhesive. However, King notes, pore strips won't prevent the buildup of either over time.

So, are they worth it? We talked to medical experts about the benefits of pore strips and whether or not they actually work.

IN THIS ARTICLE How do pore strips work | How to use pore strips | How to buy pore strips | Best pore strips | Alternatives to pore strips

What are pore strips and how do they work?

Harold Lancer, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, says 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, a pore that appears 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, King says blackheads are normal and will continue to occur. Lancer calls pore strips “a very brief oasis for the acne-prone person,” meaning they may reduce acne development for about one day, but they should be used as a part of a larger skincare program.

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 as well as to the friction entailed in using them.
  • King does not suggest using pore strips more than once a week because their adhesive can cause irritation to skin.
  • King says 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 adds that pore strips cause the normal skin cell barrier shield to be removed, which can lead to unwanted inflammation for those with sensitive skin.

How to buy pore strips

Lancer says 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 recommends using pore strips sparingly in a skincare regime. Instead, try 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 suggests reading the ingredients on the box before purchasing a product, and says to be cautious about anything in question, especially if you have sensitive or allergy-prone skin. King recommends applying moisturizer to skin after using a pore strip, which can help combat dryness.

Overall, experts say pore strips are a short-term solution to getting rid of blackheads and minimizing pores. And if that’s what you’re looking for, we compiled some of the best options on the market.

8 best pore strips

1. Biore Original Deep Cleansing Pore Strips

King calls Biore’s pore strips “classic.” They get rid of built-up dirt, oil and blackheads. 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. The strips are available for the nose, as well as for the face and chin. Biore also sells strips infused with Blue Agave and Witch Hazel.

2. Peace Out Pore Treatment Strips

Peace Out’s pore strips lift dirt, excess sebum, the oily wax in skin, 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 recently launched Peace Out Acne Serum, an acne product that contains salicylic acid and helps treat blemishes.

3. Boscia Pore Purifying Black Charcoal Strips

These pore strips are made with charcoal, an ingredient that King says is porous and may help to absorb excess oil, though she thinks any beneficial effects of the ingredient are marginal. Lancer believes these pore strips are attractive to some consumers, but he says there is no major advantage to charcoal pore strips.

4. HydroPeptide Bambusa Blackhead Banisher Pore Perfecting Nose Mask

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.

5. Jolvka Blackhead Remover Pore Strips For Men

Jolvka’s pore strips are designed specifically for men and can be used on the nose, forehead and chin. They contain salicylic acid, an additive that King says 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.

6. Neutrogena No-Pull Cleansing Pore Strip to Facial Scrub

When you place these pore strips on wet skin, they dissolve into a face scrub that cleans dirt and oil out of skin. Instead of pulling the strip off — an action that King says can traumatize skin — you scrub your skin with the exfoliating cleanser, which contains salicylic acid. This 2-in-1 pore strip treats blackheads and helps prevent new ones from forming.

7. Sephora Collection Pineapple Nose Mask

This nose mask aims to minimize pores like a traditional pore strip, but you don’t have to pull it off your face. It’s infused with pineapple extract to help tighten and even out skin texture. The single-use nose mask comes in a small package, which is useful if you need a quick skin fix on the go. Lancer says single-use face masks and pore strips like this one may be valuable to individuals with limited access to their usual skincare regimens, like frequent travelers.

8. TonyMoly Strawberry Nose Pack

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.

3 skincare alternatives to pore strips

St. Ives Blackhead Clearing Face Scrub

For those who struggle with blackheads and whiteheads, King suggests using a product that contains salicylic acid, like this face scrub, which also contains charcoal to help draw oil out of skin.

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Face Pads

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 says they are a great product to use on the go or while traveling.

Differin Gel

King says retinoids are an important component of any skincare 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.

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