Are Pore Strips (Like Biore) Bad for Your Skin? Here's What Dermatologists Say

The answer: It depends.

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 to reduce the appearance of clogged pores. Not only were they easy to use and available at every drugstore, but they also worked! And they were fun to use. There are few things more satisfying than removing the strip and seeing the leftover oil, dirt, and residue left behind.

But as we've gotten older and learned more about our skin, we've begun to reconsider the efficacy and safety of pore strips. We know that over-exfoliating and using harsh ingredients can be problematic, so are the adhesive strips that seemingly rip away the dirt on our noses a safe form of removing blackheads?

We asked two dermatologists to answer all of our questions about this skincare classic.

Are pore strips bad for your skin?

"Pore strips are not necessarily bad for your skin, but it is important to have realistic expectations when using them," says Marisa Garshick, MD, 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 keep blackheads from forming."

Problems can also arise depending on your skin type. "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, MD, a California-based board-certified dermatologist. Dry skin types might also find pore strips irritating or drying.

Additionally, there's a risk of overusing pore strips. They 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, pore strips aren't an effective long-term solution for blackheads and skin texture. But they are OK to use in moderation if you have an oily skin type or need a quick fix for clear-looking skin. "They are designed to draw out excess oil," says Dr. Garshick. "So they are often helpful for those with oily skin."

"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 a month."

What are some alternatives for pore strips?

Dr. Garshick suggests using a mild exfoliant or applying a retinoid to the area. "I find that these methods are more effective and successful at regulating your skin cell turnover and reducing the appearance of pores," she says.

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. AziMD Skincare Clarify Pads ($34; azimdskincare.com) 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 a week." One to try is Glamglow Supermud Charcoal Instant Treatment Mask ($60, sephora.com) 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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