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Do Pore Strips Actually Work?

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K S Lane is a student of science and is deeply passionate about educating others on her favourite topics.

Using a pore strip is one of the most satisfying things that you can do in terms of skin care. Applying it, feeling it start to stick as it dries and then finally pulling it off to reveal your newly cleansed pores leaves one with a lingering sense of being clean for hours and sometimes days after. It’s easy to see why they’re so popular, and why so many people think that they actually work. After all, you can see all the disgusting stuff they rid your skin of with your own eyes! However, these apparently miraculous little strips aren’t actually all that they’re cracked up to be.

Pore strips feel great to use. But does their satisfying nature disguise the fact that they don't actually do anything?

Pore strips feel great to use. But does their satisfying nature disguise the fact that they don't actually do anything?

What do they claim to do?

Most brands of pore strips (Bioere, Boscia, GLAMGLOW, ect.) claim to remove blackheads on your nose and help prevent them in the future. They say this is achieved through the cleansing effect of slapping a sticky strip on your nose and ripping it off again, which will remove harmful oils from your face and unclog your pores.

What are pores?

Pores are tiny holes in your skin that can collect oils and other nasty stuff as you go about your daily life. In some people and some places they’re large and visible, and in some people they’re tiny. When pores are clogged they can form what we know as blackheads, which occur when the residue in them is exposed to the air and oxidises, turning dark and crusty. Gross.

So, do pore strips actually work?

Sort of, but not really. Pore strips are very effective at removing the top layer of the sebum (aforementioned oily stuff) in your pores, making your skin feel smoother and softer. However, their effectiveness pretty much stops there. They’re usually not great at removing serious blackheads because by the time a blackhead is visible to the naked eye it’s already hardened and clings rather stubbornly to your face-holes when you try to rip them out. Furthermore, while pore strips are technically 'pore cleansing' they have no real long-lasting benefit. They don’t prevent future blackheads because they can’t pull out the more deeply embedded oils, meaning that while you may have softer and smoother skin for a few days those pesky pimples are going to reappear again in the near future.

This diagram shows how pimples can form when a pore is blocked by excess secretion from the sebaceous gland or by a hair follicle. Blackheads form in a similar way, but the ick is exposed to oxygen and turns a dark colour.

This diagram shows how pimples can form when a pore is blocked by excess secretion from the sebaceous gland or by a hair follicle. Blackheads form in a similar way, but the ick is exposed to oxygen and turns a dark colour.

But they look like they work!

They absolutely do, which is why they’re so popular. They stir our natural fascination with the gross like nothing else can, aside perhaps from popping pimples. The disgusting little gems visible on a pore strip after use are called keratotic plugs, which is a fancy way of saying the oily stuff in your face-holes. However, as aforementioned, pore strips are only effective on the top layer of the plugs. It may look like you’ve cleansed your face of ick, but actually there’s much more embedded deeply in your face that the strips would never be able to reach.

What about the ones with charcoal? Those are different, right?

Not necessarily. Cosmetic companies claim that the addition of it in pore strips and face masks helps to absorb more oil and leaves your skin free of blackheads. However, like the more ordinary pore strips, charcoal ones just can’t get to those deep down oils. Some people testify that they work better and some say they do nothing, and in my experience such a diverse range of reviews for a product that claims to do the same thing for everyone generally means the item is bogus. Unfortunately there isn’t really a definitive answer for this one yet as not much research has been done, but given what a hot topic of conversation it is I’m sure more information about charcoal in pore strips will come to light in the future.

Many people struggle with blackheads daily. The golden answer to their removal and prevention, unfortunately, doesn't lie with pore strips.

Many people struggle with blackheads daily. The golden answer to their removal and prevention, unfortunately, doesn't lie with pore strips.

The bottom line:

Pore strips don’t actually help prevent blackheads. While they do strip out the top layer of sebum in your pores they can’t reach all of your face-gunk and are thus only a short term solution. The limited effect that they do have can be achieved in many other ways and with simpler products like facial cleansers. Whether they hurt more than help is unclear (some sources maintain that they can damage the lining of your pores and cause long term issues while others say that they’re harmless), but in any case if you’re looking for a long lasting solution to your skin troubles then pore strips aren’t for you.

Sources:

  • https://www.self.com/story/bruised-fingernail
  • https://www.bustle.com/articles/105188-do-pore-strips-really-work-or-are-they-just-fancy-nose-band-aids
  • http://metro.co.uk/2017/05/20/why-you-need-to-stop-using-pore-strips-to-try-to-clear-your-nose-of-blackheads-6649635/
  • https://thegirlwithbangs.com/lets-talk-biore-charcoal-pore-strips/


Were you paying attention? Test your knowledge here!

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What causes blackheads?
    • When pores become irritated
    • When pores are clogged and the upper layer of the gunk is oxidised
    • When pore strips are used too often
    • When hormones turn your pores black and crusty
  2. What are the oily plugs that pore strips remove called?
    • Gebrium
    • RNA strands
    • Sebum
    • Oleic acid
  3. Do pore strips have long lasting benefit
    • Yep, they remove blackheads permanently!
    • No. They can remove some current blackheads, but they do nothing for future ones.
    • No, they're completely useless.
    • Yes, they pull out the majority of what's clogging the pores, and that's enough to get rid of blackheads for good

Answer Key

  1. When pores are clogged and the upper layer of the gunk is oxidised
  2. Sebum
  3. No. They can remove some current blackheads, but they do nothing for future ones.

Interpreting Your Score

If you got 0 correct answers: Maybe give the article another read and try again...

If you got 3 correct answers: Woah, great work! Facial care companies won't be fooling you any time soon!

© 2018 K S Lane