Hold Up, Pore Strips Could Actually Be Really Bad For Your Skin

Dermatologists explain how pore strips work and who should avoid them.

Despite what you may have heard, you can’t fix split ends, and antiperspirants don’t cause cancer. In Myth Busters, we debunk common beauty misconceptions and set the record straight.

For many of us, our first introduction to skincare is via pore strips. Before we fully knew about or understood fancy skincare ingredients (and let’s be honest, before our wallets could afford them), we applied these band-aid-looking strips onto our nose, took a silly selfie or two, and hoped for fewer blackheads and reduced pore size—and most of the time, it worked! Few things felt as satisfying as seeing all of the dirt that once sat on your nose accumulated on the back of a sticky pore strip.

Lately, though, we’ve been hearing a lot of controversy surrounding pore strips. Some love them for their quickness and efficiency while others swear it’s bad for your skin. To get to the bottom of this debate, we tapped three dermatologists to see if pore strips are safe to use or if we should stick using AHAs and BHAs to keep our noses blackhead-free.

Are pore strips bad for your skin?

Unfortunately, there is no simple yes or no answer to this question. Pore strips can be effective for people who have blackheads as they can temporarily remove top layers of dead skin cells and blackheads by using an adhesive. Blackheads form when a pore becomes clogged with dead skin cells and oil, and board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., explains that when the material inside the clogged pore gets exposed to air, it oxidizes and turns into a black color—hence its name. So, if you have visible blackheads and use a pore strip, you will notice a clearer-looking complexion after as it pulls out the accumulated dirt.

In addition to fewer blackheads, some pore strips might also make your skin appear more matte. Miami-based board-certified dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo M.D. says some pore strips even incorporate ingredients, such as charcoal, into the formula for their oil-absorbing properties.

However, all dermatologists we spoke to agree that pore strips are only a temporary solution and if it isn’t removed carefully, the act of pulling off the adhesive could damage your skin barrier, which is crucial for healthy skin. While that can immediately improve the appearance of your complexion, it won’t get to the root of the problem, which board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner M.D. says is excessive oil production and blocked pores. Remember, just because pore strips can work doesn’t mean everyone should use them. 

What skin types can use pore strips?

When used correctly, Dr. Ciraldo confirms certain skin types that will benefit from a pore strip—the perfect candidate is someone with a normal to oily skin type who is prone to blackheads. “They’re also good for people who want a one-and-done approach to ridding themselves of blackheads,” she says.

What skin types should avoid pore strips?

There’s a reason many people are skeptical of pore strips’ safety for your skin as they can be very harsh. “Those with sensitive or fragile skin may experience more irritation or trauma to the skin with pore strips, so I would not recommend them for these skin types,” says Dr. King. Sensitive skin can include anyone with rosacea, eczema, or seborrhea, which causes red, patchy, and itchy skin.

Acne-prone skin types should also avoid pore strips. “If you have a combination of blackheads, whiteheads, and red pimples, pore strips are probably way too aggressive for you,” says Dr. Ciraldo. She explains that whiteheads are covered by a layer of skin, like a barrier, which prevents penetration of the ingredients in the pore strips and can trigger inflammation or irritation when used. “Red, inflamed acne lesions will also get more irritated,” she says.

Additionally, if you’re using topical retinoids or other potent skincare ingredients, Dr. Zeichner recommends avoiding pore strips altogether. Since the strips remove the top layer of skin, it can make your skin more sensitive and potentially irritate it when using those harsher ingredients.  

What are some alternatives to pore strips?

If you want to get rid of current blackheads and prevent new ones from forming, it’s best to use a chemical exfoliant that uses active ingredients to dissolve dead skin cells. Some ingredients to look for are alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid, and beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid

Many skincare products highlight these ingredients and make them easy to incorporate into your routine. There are serums, cleansers, and toners, such as the iNNBEAUTY PROJECT Down to Tone Resurfacing Acid Toner made with salicylic acid and vitamin C to exfoliate your pores, reduce blackheads, and brighten your complexion.


iNNBEAUTY PROJECT Down to Tone Toner

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You can also try an exfoliant, such as the Dr. Loretta Micro Peel Peptide Pads, which is made with glycolic acid and peptides to reduce the look of large pores and fine lines.

are-pore-strips-safe-for-skin, dr-loretta-peel-pads

Dr. Loretta Micro Peel Peptide Pads

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So, like all things in skincare, there is no one-size-fits-all.