Besides late-'90s nostalgia, one of the main draws of pore strips is that they're just plain satisfying to use. Pore strips are small adhesive patches you stick on your nose, chin, or forehead. The idea is that when you pull them off, they take all the gunk with them. When used correctly, they can be super-helpful when dealing with blackheads.
"Blackheads form when a pore becomes clogged with dead skin cells and oil," explains dermatologist Hadley King, MD. "When this material becomes oxidized by exposure to air, it appears black—hence the name blackhead." While you can't get rid of them, a pore strip can help you unclog them.
Not all strips are created equal. We tried over a dozen in The Lab to figure out which ones work—extra points for comfortable wear and pain-free removal.
These are the best pore strips tested by Byrdie.
Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Nose
Only one ingredient
Almost too sticky
After trying several of today's best-selling pore strips, Mighty Patch was a clear winner. This single-ingredient nose strip is made of nothing more than hydrocolloid (the stuff most often used to make pimple patches). When left on overnight (or for at least six hours), the soft, fluid-absorbing substance soaks up the gunk from your pores like a sponge.
While the design is ultimately user-friendly, applying the patch called for a bit of focus due to the winged, contoured shape. Our tester's only complaint was that it's almost too tacky in that the ends kept sticking together and getting caught on her nails. And once you place it on your nose, it can't be repositioned.
Still, removal was virtually painless, and once she pulled the strip off, our tester's nose was gunk-free and oh-so-smooth. There was some minor redness shortly afterward, but her skin wasn't irritated.
Price at time of publish: $18
Amount: 10 strips | Key Ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
TonyMoly Tako Pore One Shot Nose Pack
Leaves skin soft
Only one strip per pack
TonyMoly's Tako Pore Pack was a hit with our tester. After placing it on her nose, she felt it getting continually tighter. Though the last couple of minutes were slightly uncomfortable, the stiffening made her feel that it was working.
Removal was slightly painful and left her briefly red, but the results were well worth it. The strip pulled out a substantial amount of sebum and even a few tiny hairs, leaving our tester with super-soft skin. This blackhead treatment will only run you a few bucks—just bear in mind that you only get one patch per pack.
Price at time of publish: $4
Amount: 1 strip | Key Ingredients: Taurine, Madagascar mud, Dead Sea salt | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"As time went on, I could feel the strip getting tighter and tighter on my face. For the last two minutes, it was a bit uncomfortable, but at least it did feel like it was working!" —Maria Bouselli, Product Tester
Peace Out Pores Oil-Absorbing Nose Strips
Doesn't cause redness
High price per strip
Peace Out Pores is on the pricier side for blackhead strips, but if you're willing to pay a small premium for big results, this is the way to go. Our tester applied one patch to her nose and one to her chin, noting that they're comfortable but feel like bandages.
These patches can be left on as long as overnight, and even though our tester removed hers after just a few hours, it drew out some oil and unclogged her pores. Not only that, but peeling them off was pain-free and didn't cause any redness.
Price at time of publish: $19
Amount: 4 nose strips, 4 chin strips | Key Ingredients: Hydrocolloid, retinol | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin
Formula 10.0.6 Down To the Pore Strips Pack
Soft and comfortable
Doesn't cause redness
Didn't get all blackheads
For those with reactive skin, we recommend Formula 10.0.6. This pack comes with four strips for your nose and four for your chin or forehead. Our tester said they're softer, gentler, and more comfortable than most other blackhead patches, though they stiffened slightly as they dried.
While the strips didn't clear every single pore on her forehead and chin, they still worked pretty well and left her skin smooth, and pulling them off didn't cause irritation or redness.
Amount: 4 nose strips, 4 chin/forehead strips | Key Ingredients: Charcoal, Moroccan lava clay, kaolin, witch hazel, aloe vera | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"I am used to strips that feel stiffer and less comfortable. I would say this is a kinder, gentler pore strip." —Nikki Berryman, Product Tester
Ulta Charcoal Nose Strips
Didn't get all blackheads
"If you have extremely oily skin, pore strips with charcoal can help dry the oil a little, as the charcoal pulls out the oil," says dermatologist Purvisha Patel, MD. Ulta's Perfectly Purified Strips call on charcoal powder, kaolin, lava clay, and other absorbent ingredients to draw out impurities. Our tester loved how well the contoured patch adhered to her nose and said that the little slits offer a more custom fit.
Upon peeling it off, the strip was dotted with sebaceous filaments, though it didn't clear every single pore. Our tester's nose was smooth with no visible redness. And while there was a little charcoal residue, it rinsed off easily.
Price at time of publish: $7
Amount: 8 strips | Key Ingredients: Charcoal, kaolin, Moroccan lava clay, witch hazel, aloe vera | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"There was no redness. My nose didn't feel dry. There was slight charcoal residue left on the side of my nose, but this was easily removed with water." —Nikki Berryman, Product Tester
Patchology Breakout Box 3-in-1 Acne Treatment Kit
Comfortable nose strip
Dots don't stick very well
Patchology's Breakout Box was also a hit in The Lab. This three-in-one kit comes with 24 salicylic acid dots for treating pimples, 24 hydrocolloid dots for whiteheads, and three charcoal nose strips. Though the adhesive could be a little better, our tester said both types of dots were user-friendly, comfortable, and all but invisible on her skin.
After doing its thing for about 10 minutes, the nose strip unclogged some of her pores and made them feel tighter. It didn't irritate our tester's skin, and she thinks it would be even more effective if she were to leave it on a little longer.
Price at time of publish: $20
Amount: 48 dots, 3 strips | Key Ingredients: Hydrocolloid, salicylic acid, tea tree oil, charcoal, bentonite, kaolin, witch hazel, aloe vera | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"The nose strip is extremely comfortable. There's zero feeling on your skin, even though you know it is applied correctly." —Mandy Shum, Product Tester
Starface Lift Off Pore Strips
Didn't get all blackheads
Starface Lift-Off Pore Strips offer the most bang for your buck. You'll get a pack of eight for less than $10, and the patches hold their own against pricier options. The curved design is comfortable, though our tester said you can feel a tension between your skin and the strip when you peel it off.
While it didn't clear every last pore, there were a substantial amount of blackheads on the back of the strip, as well as some dry skin. Our tester noticed some blotchiness, but thanks to a soothing blend of witch hazel and aloe vera, it didn't cause any irritation.
Price at time of publish: $6
Amount: 8 strips | Key Ingredients: Witch hazel, aloe vera | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Earning perfect scores in all categories, our top choice is Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Nose, an effective, non-irritating, single-ingredient solution to clogged pores. If you're looking for something more affordable or just want to give pore strips a try, go with TonyMoly's Tako Pore One Shot Nose Pack. While the price per patch is a bit higher, we also really liked the effective and painless Peace Out Pores Strips.
How We Tested
The Byrdie team carefully researched today's top-rated, best-selling pore strips before selecting 14 to try out first-hand. After inspecting the ingredients lists, intended uses, and guidelines, each option was applied according to the instructions.
They were awarded scores from one to five for effectiveness (how well they stuck and how many sebaceous filaments they pulled out), comfort (how they felt on the skin), and irritation (whether they caused pain or redness). The pore strips with the highest overall scores were selected for this roundup. All tests were performed in The Lab, Byrdie's in-house product-testing facility located in Manhattan.
Other Options We Tested
Bioré The Original Deep Cleansing Pore Strips
Bioré was the first brand to launch pore strips back in 1997, and while we respect and appreciate the trailblazing product, it wasn't as effective as others we tried. Our tester said the strip didn't stick very well and pulled out very few blackheads. (However, she noted that it may have worked better if she had started with a wet nose instead of simply dampening it with a cleansing wipe.)
Pacifica Cosmic Vanish Pore Strips
We found these pore strips to be exceptionally comfortable. They stayed in place and didn't cause any irritation or visible redness. But while our tester's skin felt clean afterward, she didn't notice much in terms of blackhead removal.
Yes to Tomatoes Two-Step Nose Strip
Though it pulled out some sebaceous filaments, the edges of this strip curled up, which reduced the coverage area. Our tester said it didn't seem particularly absorbent, and unfortunately, it left her with slight irritation and some redness on the bridge of her nose.
Meet the Expert
- Hadley King, MD, FAAD, is a sought-after board-certified dermatologist in New York City. She specializes in cosmetic and medical treatments.
- Purvisha Patel, MD, FAAD, FASDS, FACMS, is a board-certified dermatologist, a cosmetic surgeon, and the founder of Visha Skincare.
What to Look For in Pore Strips
Many pore strips are made of hydrocolloid, a healing substance that seals the skin absorbs fluids, and draws out impurities. Others contain a blend of hydrocolloid and other absorbent ingredients, like kaolin and lava clay. Some patches are infused with natural soothers, such as aloe vera and witch hazel.
Dr. Patel says that those with particularly oily complexions might benefit from charcoal, which can help minimize greasiness. However, she tells Byrdie that "a lot of added ingredients are just marketing."
No matter what ingredients are on the strips, they won't do their job without a good adhesive (the tacky underside that clings to your skin like a Band-Aid). Hydrocolloid is inherently sticky, which is why many pimple patches and pore strips are made from this substance alone.
"People who are allergic to adhesives, those that have sensitive skin, and those that are on an Rx retinoid are not good candidates for pore strips," says Dr. Patel, warning that substantial irritation or potential skin damage could occur.
You'll also want to pay attention to the shape of the strip. Many are contoured with little slits to help them fit securely around the curves of your nose. Rectangular patches can be placed on flatter, smoother parts of your face like your forehead or chin.
How do pore strips work?
"Pore strips use adhesive to adhere to the skin and pull out the oil and debris that accumulates in the pores (blackheads)," explains Dr. Patel. "Their effectiveness depends on the technique and adherence of the adhesive."
Aside from those made from only hydrocolloids, most pore strips require wet skin to work correctly. This allows the material to stick to your skin and stiffen as it dries and clings to the contents of your pores.
How do you use pore strips?
Pore strips are easy to use. If yours calls for wet skin, be sure to wet the area thoroughly with water before applying it. Then peel the strip off the backing, position it on your nose (or the area you're applying it), and gently press it down, smoothing it out with your fingers. Once dry and stiff, carefully peel off the strip.
How long should you leave pore strips on?
This depends on the type of pore strip. Hydrocolloid patches can be left on for several hours or overnight. However, traditional pore strips that attach to wet skin should be removed once they're completely dry and stiff—usually about 10 to 15 minutes after applying them.
What Is Byrdie Verified?
Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a freelance beauty writer, editor, and product reviewer. For this story, she compiled expertise from two dermatologists and insights from our in-house testers to craft thoughtful, trustworthy recommendations. She has tried many pore strips and pimple patches over the years, including options from Patchology, TonyMoly, Hero Cosmetics, and Bioré. Theresa covers skincare, makeup, haircare, and at-home cosmetic treatments at Byrdie.
Chao CM, et al. A pilot study on efficacy treatment of acne vulgaris using a new method: results of a randomized double-blind trial with Acne Dressing. Journal of cosmetic science vol. 57,2 (2006): 95-105.
The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Do Face Masks Really Work? The "Magic" Behind Face Masks — and How to Get the Most Out of Them. Penn Medicine. Published 2020 Mar 2.
Thring TS, Hili P, Naughton DP. Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells. J Inflamm (Lond). 2011 Oct 13;8(1):27. doi: 10.1186/1476-9255-8-27. PMID: 21995704; PMCID: PMC3214789.
Radha MH, et al. Evaluation of biological properties and clinical effectiveness of Aloe vera: A systematic review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. Published 2014 December 23.
Phillips GO and Williams PA. Handbook of Hydrocolloids. 2009.