Before you go and write off the concept of pore strips completely, allow us to bring an idea to your mind. Maybe the reason you don’t see any gunk, dirt, or debris on the white, sticky material when you peel it off is because those things you thought were blackheads might not be blackheads at all. I’ve felt the frustration myself, nearly telling every facialist I’ve seen that extracting those bad boys from my pores is relatively pointless. But maybe, just maybe, like me, the gray-ish spots that live on your T-zone aren’t acne-causing clogged pores, but something else called sebaceous filaments, instead.
"Sebaceous filaments are a natural part of the skin's follicle," Jordana Mattioli, a licensed medical esthetician, says of the spots on your nose that hold a light color and look similar to blackheads. In fact, they're often mistaken for blackheads.
“They are naturally occurring formations that channel the flow of oil along the lining of the pore in which they lie," she explains. "They are more common and more visible in oily areas of the skin, since a sebaceous filament only becomes visible as the lining of your pore fills up with waxy sebum."
Since they are more visible in oily areas of the skin, it makes sense that you would see them on your T-zone.
Like blackheads, they can be found on your chin and can be pulled out of the pores, according to Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, Founder and Director of Capital Laser and Skin Care and Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center. However, blackheads tend to be larger, made up of sebum, oil, and bacteria, have more of a “plug-like” appearance,” featuring a darker head that has oxidized.
Not that we’re telling you to go and do an at-home extraction (which is generally a bad idea), but Mattioli says when you remove a sebaceous filament, it’s all one color and will come out easier than a blackhead.
So can you get rid of them? Yes, you can, and you should allow a pro to do it, but Mattioli also says that they will refill in about 30 days. If you absolutely cannot stop yourself from doing it (though maybe work on that will-power), she recommends putting a warm washcloth on the nose for a minute and then gently squeezing with your fingers wrapped in a tissue for a minute—tops!
She adds that you should follow up by cleansing this area, using a sonic brush, and products that have a BHA in them. "It's an acid that is oil soluble, so it can exfoliate and dissolve sebum and other debris in the pore lining. Using this regularly can help reduce the sebaceous filaments from turning into blackheads," Mattioli says.
Consulting Aesthetician for Garnier SkinActive, Shani Darden, agrees, saying this particular BHA is ideal for cleansing and exfoliating, and you don't have to spend a ton of cash on products, either.
"A great drugstore alternative is Garnier SkinActive’s Argan Nut Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser ($6; walmart.com), this polishes away dead surface cells and exfoliates by dissolving dirt, oil and makeup that may be lodged deep in the pores," notes Darden.
But before you diagnose your skin issues, visit your facialist or dermatologist to get a pro's opinion on your pores and then treat accordingly.