Are Pore Strips Bad for Your Skin? Here's What Dermatologists Say

·3 min read

Before we knew about all the face mask options out there — sheet masks, exfoliating masks, etc. — we used pore strips. They were our introduction to skincare as teens when we caught sight of our very first blackheads. Pore strips were the affordable and easily accessible skincare masks that many of us used in hopes to reduce the appearance of large, clogged pores. Not only were they easy to use and available at every drugstore, but they also worked! And they were fun to use. To this day, there are few things more satisfying than removing the strip and seeing the leftover oil, dirt, and residue left behind.

As we've gotten older and learned more about our skin, how it functions, and its needs, however, we've gotten more curious about the efficacy and safety of pore strips. We know that over-exfoliating and using harsh ingredients against the skin can be problematic, so are the adhesive strips that seemingly rip away the dirt on our noses a safe form of removing blackheads?

Ahead, we tapped two dermatologists to answer all of our questions about this skincare classic.

Are pore strips bad for your skin?

When used correctly, pore strips can be beneficial. "Pore strips are not necessarily bad for your skin, but it is important to have realistic expectations when using them," says Marisa Garshick, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist. "Many can help temporarily improve the appearance of blackheads, but they are not designed to prevent breakouts or blackheads from forming."

The issues with pore strips come when you're using it as the only form to remove blackheads, are not careful when removing them, or have sensitive skin. "If you have sensitive skin or you're on a strong exfoliant, like Retin-A, it can cause a reaction or even a burn on the skin," says Azadeh Shirazi, M.D., a California-based board-certified dermatologist. Dry skin types might also find pore strips irritating or drying.

Additionally, pore strips shouldn't be used as the only method for blackhead removal because the adhesive strip can harm the skin barrier. "There's some debate on whether or not they cause broken capillaries," says Dr. Shirazi. She explains that repetitive trauma to the skin, especially if you already have rosacea, can lead to broken capillaries in the long run, which can cause pain and discomfort.

Ultimately, while satisfying and instantly gratifying, pore strips aren't an effective long-term solution for blackheads and skin texture. However, they are okay to use in moderation if you have an oily skin type or need a quick fix for clear-looking skin. "They are often helpful for those with oily skin as they are designed to draw out excess oil," says Dr. Garshick.

"They offer short-term satisfaction of making the skin appear clean, but only on the surface," adds Dr. Shirazi. "I do favor them on the nose for those with little black hairs that are not clogged pores once every month."

What are some alternatives for pore strips?

"Even though using pore strips can be satisfying to remove, it's best practice to use a mild exfoliant or apply a retinoid to the desired area instead," says Dr. Garshick. "I find that these methods are more effective and successful at regulating your skin cell turnover and reducing the appearance of pores."

Chemical exfoliants, such as salicylic acid and glycolic acid, penetrate deep inside the pores to remove the sebum, dead skin cells, and debris that causes the appearance of large pores and blackheads. Dr. Shirazi recommends using exfoliating pads two to three times a week, like AziMD Skincare Clarify Pads ($31;, which are formulated with salicylic and glycolic acid to improve skin texture, reduce discoloration, and brighten the skin.

"Clay and charcoal-based masks also help clarify and absorb surface oil and debris to clean pores," she says. "I suggest using them once weekly." One to try is Glamglow Supermud Charcoal Instant Treatment Mask ($60, for its formula made with six exfoliating acids and activated charcoal to deeply clean and reduce the appearance of large pores.

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