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Product Smackdown: Pore Strips

If you would have told us 15 years ago that we'd be sticking the equivalent of duct tape to our nostrils, forehead, and chin, then ripping them off and furtively examining the remains, we might have mistaken you for someone who was a little too into The X-Files.
But, what we once thought of as beauty sci-fi, we now look to as a skin-care necessity: Pore strips are one of those inventions we didn't really know we needed, but now that we've experienced them, we don't think we can live without them.
Once established though, where could this brave new world of pore de-clogging really evolve to? Deeper, apparently: The latest strips on the market boast deep-cleaning claims that make them sound like a Roto-Rooter for your nostrils.
We wanted to see if these strips could live up to their blackhead-erasing hype, so we asked three of our enterprising interns — all total pore strip newbies — to test out two of the latest contenders, plus one seriously sketchy-looking DIY option. Read on for all the dirty details and to see how their skin-excavating adventures fared.
Photos: via Sephora,,, Whole Foods
Who: Sheri Hickey, editorial intern
The Contender: Bioré Deep Cleansing Pore Strip
"I would say my skin is pretty average — a few zits every now and then but nothing too alarming now that I have thankfully escaped the greasy grasp of puberty. I had never used a pore strip before, so I was a little nervous that it would be really painful, or worse, shamefully reveal all of the grime I feared was lurking underneath my skin."
"Applying the Bioré strip was easy, but required a lot of water before I felt it was secure to my face. After applying, it took me about three to four minutes before I felt I didn't have to restrict the amount I moved my face so that it wouldn't fall off. The strip hardened after roughly seven minutes and within that time I was pleasantly surprised by the cooling sensation it provided to my skin — it felt a little spa-like to me."
"After 15 minutes, I removed the strip easily and without any pain. It left a tiny bit of residue, but nothing a little water didn't wash away. My skin was a lot softer, but I didn't notice a difference in my pores at all. The strip revealed some makeup, but had no evidence that it actually removed anything."
The Result: "Although the strip may have mentally made me feel better about cleaning my pores, in reality, I didn't see a difference that would make me want to buy the product. I would consider trying another pore strip, but next time, I'd choose a brand that was stickier so that I could apply it more aggressively to the crease in between my nostrils and cheek. I would mostly suggest the Bioré strips to anyone with really sensitive skin and minor problems with their pores."
Bioré Deep Cleansing Pore Strip, $9.49, available at Walgreens.
Photographed by Sarah Haile
Who: Julia Miller, editorial intern
The Contender: DIY Pore Strip
"I have never used a pore strip because, well, I don't have much of an 'exfoliating' routine at all –– luckily, I seem to have inherited easy-to-maintain skin from my parents. Of course, there's the occasional blemish, or a particularly sweaty day where I'll need to wash my skin with very cold water and dry it with the nearest towel, but that's about it!"
"The DIY pore strip consists of mixing one packet of unflavored gelatin with a splash of milk (until it makes a paste), then microwaving it for 10 seconds and applying the warm mixture to your face with a makeup brush. My feelings pre-testing ran the gamut between indifference and apprehension, and then turned in the direction of discomfort. To be clear, the mixture itself felt fine on my skin, it was just disconcerting, visually and...nasally: The mixture had the consistency and temperature of lukewarm barley soup, which was not so bad, but also the fetid odor of old milk. Not so good."
"Nevertheless, applying the product was a snap and after a quick five-minute dry, the now-gummy concoction was ready to come off. After a painless removal, and a quick brush off of the flecks, the strip looked like it had removed whatever was on my nose pre-application. It was faint, but it looked like it pulled out some gunk and dead skin cells. The application area –– my T-zone –– definitely felt softer and smoother than before."
The Result: "If you don't mind the smell, then there's really no harm in doing pores strips yourself. It's super cheap, very easy to use, and pretty effective."
Photographed by Sarah Haile
Who: Michelle King, editorial intern
The Contender: Boscia Pore Purifying Black Strips
"During the fall and winter months, my skin is pretty low-maintenance, but the second the weather heats up, I can physically feel my pores clogging and then my skin starts freaking out. Admittedly, I have always been sort of skeptical of pore strips. They seem like the type of gimmicky beauty product that you try at a middle school sleepover without seeing any real results. However, I’m a huge fan of Boscia’s other products, so I trusted these would provide with me something a bit more effective than glorified double stick tape."
"The Boscia pore strip is black, which kind of freaked me out at first, but then I learned that it’s because it’s made with a special kind of declogging clay. I’ve had friends rave to me about the brand's infamous Black Mask, so I was excited to try the strip and experience the black clay for myself. Thankfully, it was really easy to use the product. I’ve only previously used drugstore pore strips and I’ve found that those never fully harden, making them difficult (and painful) to pull off, but the Boscia pore strip hardened completely, so removal was fast and painless. The strips boast a 'cooling effect,' but I didn’t really notice that, although there definitely wasn’t any burning. I have really sensitive skin and many other products leave my face stinging, so I really liked that this pore strip didn’t hurt my skin. The only downside to waiting the 15 minutes for the strip to dry is that you look kinda crazy wearing it, but, hey, no one ever said getting perfect pores was going to be glamorous."
"After taking the strip off, my skin instantly felt smoother. I don’t have blackheads, so I can’t speak to how effective the strip would be in tackling those, but it did combat shine. It wasn’t the type of difference that would lead your friends to go, 'Wow! What did you do,' but it left my skin feeling cleaner, which is a major plus, especially during a pore-punishing NYC summer."
The Result: "I would use the strips again, especially when my skin is feeling extra gross (subway rides, I blame you). It left my skin soft and my nose shine free, and, at $15 for a pack of 6, it’s much more affordable than a facial and it only takes 15 minutes to do."
Boscia Pore Purifying Black Strips, $15, available at Sephora.
Photographed by Sarah Haile

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