Asking For a Friend, Do Pore Strips Work?
Do pore strips work? I’m sure we’ve all been victims of many skincare trends throughout the years. One, in particular, that’s been around for almost a decade is the infamous pore strip. I remember these being a thing even back when I was in middle school before social media platforms like TikTok existed. Although skin care and public knowledge of skin have come a long way, we definitely don’t have everything right all the time - and pore strips are one of those things.
- Pore strips are essentially a glue to draw out the impurities that build up over time in your pores or hair follicles. While people would like to believe they can shrink their pores with the right products, you cannot physically shrink your pores, but you can reduce their appearance.
- Pore strips are traumatizing to the skin and can increase redness, irritation, and sensitivity. They also don’t actually do anything for your pores in the long run, they simply remove a sebaceous filament for the time being until another one forms.
- Opt for chemical exfoliants such as exfoliating acids instead, incorporating them into your routine two to three times a week.
What do pore strips do?
Hopefully, you all are familiar with what a pore strip is without having ever tried them. A pore strip is essentially tape for your face. Yup, that’s right, people have been putting tape on their nose and cheek areas for years in hopes to better their skin. When you put it like that, the false promise seems quite obvious, but skincare brands and marketing management teams have done a tremendous job glorifying these strips.
A pore strip’s main goal is to extract your pores, typically the pores on your nose and surrounding cheek area because that is where peoples’ pores tend to be the largest, most noticeable, and the most clogged. The pore strip itself is lined with a tacky glue-like material designed to draw out impurities. Essentially pore strips were made to stick to and pull out dead skin cells, blackheads, excess oils, and more.
While this may seem like a great and innovative product, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Almost everyone is looking for products and techniques that will shrink their pores or purge their pores of all gunk and bacteria. But the truth is, our pores don’t work exactly like that.
First and foremost, you cannot shrink your pores. Yes you read that correctly, changing the size of your pores is physically impossible, it’s like saying you’re going to shrink your bones. You can’t, genetics just don’t work like that. However, you can most definitely reduce the appearance of them.
Do pore strips work?
The short answer is no, people should not be using pore strips in almost any circumstance. But skincare is no different than any other aspect of health, and the thing with health is that it’s personal and specific to each individual. So, if you currently use pore strips or you have before and felt like you saw promising results, it’s not the end of the world to continue using them, but limit your use to once or twice a month.
Pore strips are extremely traumatizing to the skin. They essentially peel or pull off the top layer on your skin. So, while they may feel like they’re really beneficial, using them consistently will only damage your skin barrier in the long run.
Pores are no fun, trust me. Nobody likes watching pore shine through a layer of makeup. But pores are natural, they are how your skin breathes and pushes toxins and bacteria out, so in a way they are a good thing for your skin. And those little tiny bumps or what some people think are blackheads, are not anything to be peeled off by a pore strip.
Our pores are typically filled with what dermatologists call sebaceous filaments. A sebaceous filament is a small buildup of sebum and dead skin cells around a hair follicle (a pore). They typically appear as an off-white yellowish color or can be darker in color which is why people often confuse them for blackheads.
These sebaceous filaments are harmless. Everyone has sebaceous filaments, and I mean everyone. They are unavoidable for any human being that is producing oils and bacteria. They are not necessarily bad for your skin, but sometimes they build up quicker than usual and end up clogging the hair follicle or the pore. Once this pore becomes packed with sebum, dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells, a breakout will usually appear.
What are alternatives to pore strips?
Because pore strips are extremely invasive and traumatizing to the skin, they can have adverse effects. They can cause the affected area to become red and hypersensitive, and the results typically don’t last longer than 24 hours. Basically, pore strips are a temporary solution to a recurring problem. Luckily, there are much better options out there to relieve your pores of dirt and dead skin.
Rather than searching for products to rid your skin of sebaceous filaments, look for ingredients instead. This will give you more efficacious and long-term results than any one product or technique. Dermatologists often recommend these ingredients to fight clogged pores:
- Glycolic acid
- Lactic acid
- Salicylic acid
- Benzoyl peroxide
These acids all belong under the two umbrella exfoliating acids in dermatology: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). All are good for exfoliation which will help to break up that dead skin and bacteria and bring it to the surface. But each acid will be better for different skin types. For example, glycolic acid is made up of smaller molecules able to penetrate into deeper layers of skin giving you a more precise exfoliation, but this also means a higher risk of irritation to the skin. Because of this, if you have sensitive skin you may want to opt for lactic acid to avoid doing any damage to your skin’s barrier.
Retinol is another incredible ingredient that is good for almost any skin concern. Retinol, which is a vitamin A derivative, has years of data research and experiments done to prove its anti-aging and acne-fighting abilities. At its core, retinol is an exfoliator that helps to speed up the process of skin cell turnover. This makes it an incredible chemical exfoliant that can break down sebaceous filaments and leave you with softer, smoother skin, and reduce the appearance of clogged pores.
If you have ever used a pore strip, you know that not only do the results fade quickly, but they also make you shed a tear peeling it off. They are painful, and traumatic to the skin’s surface and ultimately will not solve any of your problems in the long run. Opt for a chemical exfoliant of your choice two or three times a week and watch your skin transform.
Written by Jordan Hammaren