We Tested 14 Different Pore Strips — These 7 Actually Work to Eliminate Blackheads

Hero’s Mighty Patch for the Nose is the pain-free way to degunk.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Pore Strips
InStyle / Jhett Thompson

No matter how pristine your skincare routine is, sometimes you still get blackheads. And while it may be very tempting to squeeze them out yourself, you can easily damage the skin and push the blackhead deeper inside the pore. So instead of picking and prodding, using a pore strip is a satisfying way to degunk pores and keep your skin clear.

When used correctly, pore strips are a safe and effective way to remove blackheads instantly, as they are more gentle than using pressure and your fingers, according to Rachel Nazarian, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist. And we can't deny how oddly satisfying it is to examine all the gross gunk they pull out of your pores. Since pore strips should be used with care, we asked dermatologists how to select and safely use them.

With their advice, we compiled a list of 14 promising pore strips and sent nine testers to try them out in our lab and at home. Following the products' instructions, the testers rated each strip on ease of use, comfort, and efficacy. Hero's Mighty Patch for the Nose earned a perfect score and our Best Overall spot since there was no pain or irritation involved and it left our tester's skin poreless.

Whether you are looking for pore strips to implement into your regular routine or want to degunk for a special event, these are the best pore strips for the job.

The Winners

Best Overall: Hero Mighty Patch Nose

best pore strips
Courtesy

Also available at Hero and Bed Bath and Beyond

What We Love: Ultra gentle yet effective, these patches minimize pores and oil with no irritation or pain.

What We Don't Love: Thin and stretchy, these patches take some finessing to put on.

If you are scarred by memories of painful pores strips that left your nose as red as Rudolph, let Hero's Mighty Patch change your mind. The product is more akin to the brand's pimple patches than a traditional pore strip: Rather than using adhesive to pull out blackheads, it uses medical-grade hydrocolloid to gently absorb oil. It also helps reduce the size of pimples, so the strips are a good solution for whiteheads, too.

Rest assured you'll still get the gross-satisfaction that comes with a more traditional pore strip — the patch gradually whitens in color as it absorbs oil. "My skin was very smooth after taking it off," says our tester, who gave the product a perfect score. "It hurts a lot less than other pore strips, and once it's on it just feels like a bandaid." Like a true bandaid, the strips are very thin and sticky, so our tester found them a little tricky to put on.

One of our writers, Lauren Rearick, also put the product to the test and found it was a great solution for her oily nose, writing, "My nose is notoriously oily and after using the sticker for an entire week, I have definitely noticed a difference in this area of skin. In fact, I even received a few compliments."

Shape: Nose | Number of Strips: 10 | Added Ingredients: Hydrocolloid

Pore Strips
InStyle / Jhett Thompson

Best Splurge: Peace Out Pore Treatment Strips

best pore strips
Courtesy

Also available at Amazon and Peace Out

What We Love: These strips combine hydrocolloid and vitamin A to deep clean and shrink pores.

What We Don't Love: It's best to use these overnight, so try another brand if you are short on time.

If you have large pores, opt for these Peace Out strips that will both clean and minimize their appearance. The strips feature hydrocolloid polymer technology, which absorbs the oil, dirt, and bacteria from inside pores, as well as the vitamin B-derived compound DMAE and vitamin A, which work together to prevent further blockage. The package comes with eight strips — four for the nose and four for other parts of the face.

Unlike other strips that work in a few minutes, the brand recommends wearing them overnight (or for at least six hours at a time) to really get a deep clean. Even after a few minutes of using these in the lab, our tester saw significant reduction in oil and blackheads, so she can only imagine how powerful they are after a full night — yet they were still gentle. "I didn't experience any irritation or redness, and it was an easy, painless removal process " says our tester.

Another tester used strips for the recommended time and was blown away. "After four to six hours of wear, the strip gently peels away to reveal all the horrifying gunk that's been sucked out of your pores. All it takes is one use to notice a significant difference."

Shape: Nose and Face | Number of Strips: 8 | Added Ingredients: Vitamin A, Hydrocolloid Polymer Technology

Pore Strips
InStyle / Jhett Thompson

Best Oversized: TonyMoly Tako Pore One Shot Nose Pack

best pore strips
Courtesy

Also available at Ulta and iHerb

What We Love: This strip covers your nose and up between your eyebrows.

What We Don't Love: Our tester found the strip left residue on her face, but it was easy to remove.

This TonyMoly pore strip can unclog more pores at once than others on this list, thanks to its unique oversized shape that fits your entire nose, including the area in between your eyebrows, which can be a blackhead magnet due to excess oil production in that area "I used this strip after already testing another nose strip to focus more on the forehead, but looking at the strip and my nose and forehead afterwards, it removed a lot of the sebaceous materials the other pore strip left behind," says our tester. "My nose felt super soft after using this strip and it definitely looked clearer."

Besides removing impurities in just 15 minutes, the strip also features a marine root-up complex that helps nourish, soothe, and shrink pores. Our tester did note that there was some residue left over after, but it was easy to wipe away revealing soft and smooth skin. She also loved how adorable the strip looked (like all TonyMoly products) — it forms a cute octopus on your face — making pore cleaning that much more fun.

Shape: Nose and Forehead | Number of Strips: 1 | Added Ingredients: Dead Sea Salt, Taurine, Black Peat Water

Pore Strips
InStyle / Jhett Thompson

Best Charcoal: Ulta Charcoal Nose Strips

best pore strips
Courtesy

What We Love: Small slits help these strips get all angles of your nose.

What We Don't Love: The charcoal leaves some residue, but you can easily wash it off.

With all the beauty products that contain charcoal these days, it seems the ingredient and pore-declogging go hand-in-hand. "Because charcoal is highly absorbent, the idea is that when you put it on your skin, it will act as a micro sponge to trap the oil and sebum on the surface of your skin," says board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of BalmLabs, Robin Schaffran, M.D.

This charcoal-infused strip from Ulta impressed our tester all around, especially when it came to the fit. " It's designed with small slits which allow the strip to fit snugly and contour my nose more than others," says our tester. "While wearing the strip, I felt no discomfort whatsoever. I could talk without noticing I had the strip on my nose. As I removed it, there was no discomfort at all," they add. Because the strip reached every angle, it pulled out small and large filaments alike on the top and sides of the nose, leaving our tester smooth and very satisfied. Plus, there was no redness — only a slight residue that easily came off with water.

Shape: Nose | Number of Strips: 8 | Added Ingredients: Charcoal, Aloe Vera, Witch Hazel

Pore Strips
InStyle / Jhett Thompson

Best for Entire Face: Formula 10.0.6 Down To the Pore Strips Pack

best pore strips
Courtesy

Also available at Walgreens and Formula 10.0.6

What We Love: This pack tackles three different areas of your face.

What We Don't Love: The instructions could better explain where to place the forehead strips.

Blackheads don't just prey on your nose — they can form all over the face — so we love the convenience of this set that's made for the nose, chin, and forehead. The strips contain clay and witch hazel, which according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, are two ingredients that help absorb oil and shrink pores.

Because you'll be using these all over your face, they should feel comfortable. "I'm used to strips that feel stiff and uncomfortable, but I would say this is a kinder, gentler pore strip," says our tester. "There was no redness, irritation, or tightness." Some pore strips can make you feel like a mummy, but our tester was able to talk and emote even with these on. She did slightly struggle with figuring out the correct placement on the forehead — the instructions could be clearer — but that was her only complaint.

Shape: Nose, Chin, and Forehead | Number of Strips: 8 | Added Ingredients: Witch Hazel, Clay, Charcoal

Pore Strips
InStyle / Jhett Thompson

Best for Acne: Patchology Breakout Box 3-in-1 Acne Treatment Kit

best pore strips
Courtesy

Also available at Amazon and Walmart

What We Love: Blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples are no match for this kit.

What We Don't Love: The salicylic acid dot tends to peel off the skin with time.

For those who are equally concerned about acne as blackheads, this kit is perfect. In addition to three nose strips, you get 24 hydrocolloid dots to absorb pus from whiteheads and 24 salicylic acid dots to bust up clogged pores and reduce inflammation. The stickers blended into our tester's skin, preventing her from touching and picking at blemishes. "I had a breakout just starting out when I tried these. After about three and half hours, the dot had absorbed all of the sebum surrounding the area," says our tester. "I'm confident it would have absorbed the sebum in the whitehead's center if I continued wearing the dot for the recommended six hours or overnight."

The pore strip also performed well, feeling so comfortable on her nose, that our tester slipped her glasses back on and worked while waiting the 10 minutes. And in that time, the blend of witch hazel, clay, and aloe soothed and shrank her pores. She recommends leaving the strips on longer, around 15 minutes, to pull out even more blackheads.

Shape: Nose and Face | Number of Strips: 51 | Added Ingredients: Hydrocolloid, Salicylic Acid, Tea Tree, Charcoal, Witch Hazel, Clay, Aloe

Pore Strips
InStyle / Jhett Thompson

Best Drugstore: Starface Lift Off Pore Strips

best pore strips
Courtesy

What We Love: These cute, affordable strips contain soothing aloe vera.

What We Don't Love: Our testers said it's a little uncomfortable to take them off.

Our testers loved these Starface pore strips because they not only unclogged pores and pulled out blackheads quickly and efficiently, but the aloe vera-infused strips also helped calm skin and control oil production. "You notice that it's on, but there's no irritation while it's on your face," says our tester. "It's not the most comfortable when taking off, but you can see it pulling out blackheads as it does."

Plus, you can buy an eight-pack at your local drugstore for less than the cost of lunch. Rearick was also pleasantly surprised at how the strips didn't leave her sensitive skin red or flakey, writing, "The only side effect I experienced was complete amazement, as the strip pulled out a bunch of stuff that once clogged my pores." Oh, and we can't get over the sunny yellow design either.

Shape: Nose | Number of Strips: 8 | Added Ingredients: Aloe Vera, Witch Hazel

Pore Strips
InStyle / Jhett Thompson

Our Testing Process

We first consulted several dermatologists to learn how to safely use pore strips and what features to look for and avoid. With their advice, we rounded up 14 promising products in a range of sizes and ingredients to suit different skin types and needs. Our nine testers then put these products to the test by replicating the process one would follow at home — cleansing their skin, then following the specific instructions on how to apply the strips. After waiting the recommended amount of time and removing each strip, they rated every product on a scale of 1 to 5 on ease of use, comfort, irritation, and how much gunk the strips actually removed. Once all the numbers were in, we narrowed down the original selection to the seven best pore strips of 2022.

What to Keep in Mind

Ingredients

All pore strips fundamentally function the same, except they can have different added ingredients, like vitamin A or witch hazel, to enhance the process. Witch hazel is used to soothe irritated and inflamed skin, while vitamin A (aka retinol) speeds up cell turnover to eliminate debris and prevent future clogs. Dr. Schaffran says these ingredients can be irritating for certain people, so if you have sensitive skin, you might want to choose patches like our Best Overall pick, the Hero Mighty Patch, that just use hydrocolloid to absorb oil rather than pull out blackheads.

Another common ingredient in pore strips is charcoal, which is supposed to further help draw out oil and impurities from the skin. However, Dr. Schaffran says it's not clear how effective charcoal really is at absorbing oil. "There is little to no evidence to substantiate the claims that skincare companies are making about the use of activated charcoal in products." she says. While it is too early to confirm the benefits of charcoal, it is unlikely to be truly harmful. You can determine your own level of comfort with this ingredient.

Size & Shape

While most strips are designed for the bridge of your nose, there are some oversized options that will cover the area in between your eyebrows as well (like the Peace Out Pore Treatment Strips). And if you're looking to remove blackheads and clogged pores on your chin or forehead, consider a set that has strips specially designed to fit each part of your face.

Your Questions, Answered

How are blackheads formed?

"Blackheads are a result of dead skin cells and oils getting clogged in the pores," says Dr. Schaffran. "When that collection of oil and dead skin cells gets exposed to air, it oxidizes and turns black, leading to the appearance of blackheads on the surface." Blackheads are very common, but some people or skin types may be more predisposed to them due to oil production or skin care routine.

How do I use a pore strip?

Using a pore strip is fairly straightforward — you put it on the desired area, wait the recommended amount of time, and then slowly pull it off and stare in wonder at all the gunk it pulled out. For the best results, board-certified dermatologist, Sandra Lee, M.D. (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) recommends taking a hot shower first to steam your face and loosen the gunk in your poress.

"The prep beforehand is the most important step because if you have dry skin and your blackheads are dried up in your pores, chances are anything you do isn't going to effectively remove them," Dr. Lee once told InStyle.

Some pore strips recommend use on wet skin so it adheres better. It's always best to check with specific products on how to put them on and when to take them off.

Are pore strips safe to use?

As Dr. Mariwalla puts it, there is a dermatologist answer and a real world answer to this question. "What I don't like about pore strips is that it is like tape stripping your face, so though satisfying, you can't do it every week," she says. "What I do like about pore strips is that, like a comedone extractor, they pull up those comedonal plugs rather than squeezing — which can lead to wider pores and broken blood vessels. If you are someone who cannot keep their hands off their blackheads, I would rather you use a pore strip once every two weeks than squeeze, pull, or tug at sensitive areas on your face."

Can pore strips make your pores look bigger?

"No. Pore strips won't make your pores look bigger, but they often don't work, so sometimes pores are simply getting fulleron their own despite using pore strips," says Dr. Schaffran.

While pore strips can help unclog your pores, they don't prevent them from getting clogged in the first place (more on that below). So once you remove the blackheads, dead skin and oil can refill the pores.

What can I use instead of pore strips to clear my pores?

Besides physically removing blackheads with a pore strip, you can use certain chemicals to exfoliate dead skin and prevent clogged pores.

"Topical products can help exfoliate as an alternative, or be used in conjunction with pore strips. Salicylic acid is a commonly recommended blackhead remedy but can be irritating and drying for some skin," says Dr. Schaffran. "Instead, I recommend products containing gentler AHAs, like glycolic acid, which can provide daily exfoliation without the risk of irritation." A consistent exfoliation regimen may keep pores clear, so you won't need strips or can use them much less often. The Patchology Breakout Box contains salicylic acid to reduce inflammation and remove the contents of clogged pores.

If you would rather keep the pore extraction up to the pros, Dr. Schaffran recommends getting regular facials to treat blackheads.

What Is InStyle Picks?

Did you notice the InStyle Picks seal of approval at the top of this story? That means our team of testers has reviewed every product on this list using a unique methodology to ensure it's really worth your time, money, and attention. We may get samples for free to try but we never promise positive (or any!) coverage in exchange. Put simply: InStyle Picks are products we love, and we've put them to the test to be sure you will too.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles