Even if you've never used a nose strip before, chances are you’re familiar with them. The iconic Bioré commercials or Mia Thermopolis (aka Anne Hathaway) in The Princess Diaries wearing one in all her awkward teenage glory are just two examples of where you would have seen the popular blackhead treatment in action. Much like sheet masks and pimple stickers, pore strips — often known simply as "nose strips," due to the facial feature's overwhelming popularity in this skin-care genre — are much like sheet masks and pimple stickers in that they're bizarrely satisfying to use. This, coupled with their alleged ability to remove buildup from pores, is precisely what makes them so appealing.
Sejal Shah, a New York City-based dermatologist and founder of Smarter Skin Dermatology, compares nose strips to a strong Band-Aid — one that works by wicking away all the pore-clogging dirt, grime, and debris when it's ripped off. To get a clearer idea of how nose strips work, and more specifically if they actually work, we spoke with three trusted dermatologists who are experts on the subject. Additionally, the Allure team weighed in with their thoughts, too.
Before we do a deep dive, let's quickly address what a blackhead is because it's the primary reason people use nose strips. "Blackheads form when the opening of a hair follicle becomes clogged or plugged with dead skin cells and oil," Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, previously told Allure. "This material gets oxidized by the air and appears black, hence the name blackhead," she explained. It's this excess buildup that can make the skin look gritty or textured and that nose strips aim to suction out.
How Pore Strips (Are Supposed To) Work
"Nose strips or pore strips remove top layers of dead skin cells and blackheads by using a very strong adhesive," says Shah, who notes that this is how they're similar to Band-Aids, which most of us know from experience have a tendency to pull out hairs (and sometimes skin) when they're removed. Nose strips will extract anything on the surface of your nose — including hair, dirt, and oil, but Shah says what they won't do is prevent the buildup and blackheads from occurring in the first place.
Adam Friedman, an associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, backs Shah's position: "Strips will not stop black or whiteheads from happening or shrink pores," he explains. "They are simply a temporary cosmetic fix."
Do They Actually Remove Blackheads?
In terms of their effectiveness, Friedman explains that this depends on how you use them. For instance, he says if one applies them without wetting the skin on the nose with warm water first or fails to ensure the strip sticks to all the creases of the nose, you likely won't get great results. "One also needs to leave them on for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the adhesive to bind to all the gunk on your skin," he adds. When used properly, though, nose strips can clear the pores temporarily and make them appear smaller, Shah says.
Shari Marchbein, a New York City-based dermatologist, points out that strips need to be used repeatedly, as often as once or twice a week as pores can quickly get clogged again. "Pore strips can help (very) temporarily to improve the appearance of pores, but there is no permanent change or improvements to the skin achieved with such a strip," she says.
The Pore Strip Fan Club
Logistics aside, there's something about nose strips that simply makes them highly gratifying to use. Allure's digital editor, Jihan Forbes, can attest to this. "While I'm not sure if any pore strips really take out everything, they do get rid of a lot, and I enjoy using them and seeing all the prickly little gunk they pull out afterwards," she says. "Sorry, not sorry." The strips she swears by are Bioré Deep Cleansing Charcoal Pore Strips, which use charcoal powder to act as a magnet that lifts stubborn buildup from the skin.
Our commerce community manager, Lauren Swanson, also finds the pore strip process oddly rewarding. "I personally love nose strips just for the pure fact that I get a disgusting amount of satisfaction from looking at the stuff they pull out," she says. "It's so gross, yet so interesting."
If you want more proof of how pore strips work, check out this in-depth review by our digital beauty reporter, Devon Abelman, who put skin-care brand Peace Out Pores' treatment strips to the test and shared her honest opinion.
Nose strips can serve as an excellent way to remove unwanted buildup and blackheads from your skin, but it's important to use them correctly in order to see real results. Moreover, you should still be cleansing daily and exfoliating regularly to keep blackheads and excess sebum at bay as nose strips aren't an end-all solution, but rather a temporary quick fix.
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