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Yup, We Need To Talk About Your Love Affair With Pore Strips

If you're gonna use them, at least do it the right way.
blackhead pore strips
PHOTO: Shutterstock

On the universal list of strangely satisfying beauty products, you'll find pore strips stuck somewhere between pore vacuums and oil-blotting papers. People who use pore strips love 'em, and honestly, I can see why: While some devices and treatments take a long time to give you any kind of result, these little paper-mâche-like strips are instantly gratifying.

One problem though: Despite the people who swear by pore strips for clogged pores, there are just as many people who will argue against them for being damaging to the skin. If you're feeling caught in the middle, let me present you with the facts so you can make the right choice for yourself and your nose. I turned to board-certified dermatologist Morgan Rabach, MD, of LM Medical NYC, to learn all about pore strips, whether or not they're a gimmick, and all the best ways to remove blackheads ASAP.

Do blackhead strips really work?

The shape of pore strips varies based on the area of the face they're designed for, like the nose or the chin, but they all essentially work the same way: Pore strips use a strong adhesive that sticks to your face to pull off the outer layers of dead skin (and, with it, sometimes the superficial clogs in your pores).

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Although they might allow the pores to temporarily appear smaller—because they've removed some of the pore blockages on the surface—Dr. Rabach notes that pore strips don't change the biology of pores, nor do they reduce the oil that causes blackheads. So, are they a quick fix? Kinda. Are they the fix? Not so much.

Are nose pore strips good or bad?

There's no denying the instant gratification of pore strips, and it's this specific quality that makes them useful every so often in a pinch, like helping to temporarily clear some blackheads before an event or to help your makeup apply a bit more smoothly. But it's important to remember that in the end, your pores will just fill back up again—usually within a day or two—making pore strips a non-substitute for a good skincare routine.

It's also important to note that pore strips can cause irritation (especially in those with sensitive skin) by ripping off too much of your skin, aggravating your skin barrier, and potentially leading to even more breakouts in the end. So no, the occasional pore strip likely won't destroy your skin, but it shouldn't have a consistent slot in your normal routine.

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Should you pull off pore strips fast or slow?

If you're gonna use them, at least use them correctly. Because pore strips work by peeling off the outer layers of skin, they can cause irritation and even broken capillaries if they're ripped off too harshly, according to Dr. Rabach. Always follow the instructions for the best usage advice, and try to be as gentle as possible when peeling them off (this isn't waxing, so need to rip).

Dr. Rabach suggests only using them once a week (if you must!), avoiding the use of retinol and chemical peels before slapping on a pore strip, and always, always use caution if you have sensitive or eczema-prone skin. And if you currently have an open wound or acne? You're gonna want to avoid them completely or risk making things worse.

Do dermatologists recommend pore strips?

As Dr. Rabach said, pore strips can have their place, but they don't take the place of a solid skincare routine. Incorporating ingredients like retinol, alpha-hydroxy acid (like glycolic acid), and beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) into your routine will help chemically exfoliate your skin, regulate your oil production, and slough off dead skin so that there's less buildup to begin with, and thus, less of a need for pore strips.

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But if after all this you still want to give them a try, Dr. Rabach's best advice is to choose a strip that has a good fit and doesn't contain any fragrance or dye that could lead to further irritation—because tell me, what's the point of having a blackhead-free nose if you now have red, inflamed bumps instead?


This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.