You should exfoliate before using pore strips

Here's what really happens when you use pore strips

Are you actually banning blackheads or is it all a joke?

As someone who has been a beauty writer and editor for nearly a decade, no matter how many masks, scrubs, and serums I try, my blackheads persisted. I could have sworn that by the time I turned thirty I should fight the battle against aging and dehydrated skin, and that I could finally throw away all of the bizarre anti-acne products I'd sourced over the years. No such luck. To this day I still have my beloved pore strips in the bathroom vanity.

Tearing off a strip of pore and inspecting all of the worn stuff is so satisfying, and I can attest that it's much better than pinching blackheads with your fingers. (I know it's tempting, but you'll make your pimples so much worse.) But I couldn't help but wonder if I was really making my skin better by using it. Despite the countless pore strips I've tried, I just can't upset the blackheads. So is it me, or are pore strips total BS?

Well, it turns out the strips don't stick out blackheads like you thought they were. (I know your worldview is completely shattered, breathe.) As the ultimate skeptic, I wanted to find out what really happens when I use one of those pore strips.

Let's talk about the anatomy of a pore strip.

Although there are many different versions, pore strips are always made with the same basic components. The strip is made of an "insoluble tissue," says Ginger King, a cosmetics chemist from New Jersey - that's the paper-like body of the thing. On the bottom of the strip is a polymer that (in theory) sticks to the oil plugs in your pores and a non-sticky resin to help the patch stick to your nose.

While the stripes themselves aren't constantly being reinvented, there have been some cool additions lately. For example, Bioré now has coal-infused strips to supposedly avoid more oil. Some strips are sold in kits with additional steps, such as Dr. Jart Pore Master Patch ($ 35/5) that has a second, moisturizing strip to help counteract dryness. Pore ​​strips can also contain additional ingredients such as fragrances or dyes. So if you have sensitive skin or allergies, you can skip the strip.

Wetting the strip before sticking it will make it sticky. When it's dry, it gets traction.

The instructions on a box of pore strips generally go like this: Wet your nose with a generous amount of water. After peeling off the back, smooth the pore strip from the bridge onto the nose and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes.

This is definitely a case where there can't be too much H2O - it's important that the resin is wet in order for it to adhere to the skin. The water also activates the oil trapping polymer. "(Water) provides a positive charge that allows the polymers to bind to clogged pores that are negatively charged," says Erika Palmer, head of the R&D Skincare group at Kao USA (parent company of Bioré, to the full Disclosure).

During the 10 to 15 minute drying time, the activated polymers work on the outermost layer of the skin, plus excess sebum and hair that clogs the pores. (I've always rated the OG Bioré Pore Strips superior, and King attributes their ultra-stickiness to the company's proprietary polymers.)

If you peel off a strip of pores, you can see the results - but you might be wrong about what you are actually seeing.

If you want to remove a dried strip of pores, you need to work inward from the outer flanks, being careful not to move too fast. (This shouldn't be treated like a strip of hot wax folks.) Enjoy the stalagmites and stalactites that peek out visually if you want but don't cling too much to those grains because what you see may not be exactly what you think.

The technical term for the little dots on your nose that you want to get rid of are according to King Keratotic Plugs. These keratotic plugs are made up of dead skin cells, dirt, hair and oil. Blackheads, which are blocked by oxidized sebum in the pores, are a type of keratotic plug that lives deeper under the surface of the skin.

Everything is at ground level with the pore strip. While the strips can successfully remove the tops of dirt and oil, they don't go deep enough to clog clogged plugs of oxidized sebum - you know, the blackheads you bought to specifically target.

So, unfortunately, pore strips won't solve your blackhead problems even though they can give you smoother skin.

Removing any oil and dirt that is present will help the skin feel softer and smoother. But strips do nothing to treat the cause of the blackheads in the first place. To prevent keratosis or blackheads from developing later, you need to do a deeper peel or sign up for extractions at the salon. And no, you can't shrink your pores with pore strips either. All you can really hope to do is stop stretching them by removing dirt and dead skin cells with a regular scrub or scrub. And if you really love the satisfaction of a used pore strip sprinkled with sticky stuff, keep going - it won't hurt.

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