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5 best pore strips under $20

Not only are these products expert-approved—they’re also affordable.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 13, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Kristen Jokela, NP-C
Woman With Pore Strip
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 13, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Kristen Jokela, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What causes clogged pores?
More

Summary

  • Blackheads and whiteheads are forms of mild, non-inflammatory acne caused by clogged pores.

  • Blackheads aren’t black because of dirt—they get their coloring from dead skin cells in open pores reacting to the oxygen in the air.

  • Active ingredients are what make an effective pore strip, including hydrocolloid, retinol, and witch hazel.

  • Pore strips can be fun to use, but you may want to exercise caution if you’re taking certain acne medications or have sensitive skin.

  • Pore strips are only meant to be a temporary solution to your acne.

There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best! Luckily our team of licensed dermatology providers are regularly reviewing and assessing products on the market and are happy to offer a few recommendations! So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our standards.

After seeing pore strips glamorized in magazines and movies (who could forget that scene with Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries?), it’s tempting to try them out at home. After all, ripping the “dirt” out of your nose sounds as satisfying as it could be effective. But do pore strips really work on all skin types? And what causes stubborn blackheads, anyway? 

Here we’ll answer these questions and more, plus give you our recommendations for pore strips that won’t break your budget. Hint: the active ingredients in your skincare product are what matter most. 

What causes clogged pores?

Clogged pores can lead to blackheads (open comedones) or whiteheads (closed comedones), different forms of mild, non-inflammatory acne.¹

 Each has different causes:

  • Blackheads occur when your pores are clogged but stay open

  • Whiteheads happen when oil and dead skin cells clog the opening of your pores, producing little white bumps. 

Contrary to popular belief, blackheads don’t glean their dark appearance from dirt building up in your pores—and in fact, trying to get “dirt” out through excess scrubbing can make your acne worse. In reality, blackheads look the way they do because the buildup of dead skin cells and oil trapped in these open pores react with the oxygen in the air, resulting in a black shade.²

A variety of factors can contribute to acne like blackheads and whiteheads, including the following:³

Aside from oil-based makeup, some ingredients in cosmetics can also clog your pores. Check here for a list of ingredients to look for when shopping for a new skincare product.

What should you look for in a pore strip?

To help treat clogged pores, look for ingredients that can help with the actual reason behind your blackheads: a buildup of excess oil and dead skin cells. Here are a few active ingredients to check for when shopping for these skincare products:

  • Hydrocolloid matrix: Research shows that the hydrocolloid matrix can help reduce oily skin and help improve mild to moderate acne overall—aka the category of acne that blackheads and whiteheads fall under.⁴ If you’re interested in trying out the hydrocolloid matrix, this ingredient is featured in Curology’s Emergency Spot Patch, where it absorbs pus and oil while promoting healing.

  • Retinoids: Over-the-counter retinoids like adapalene are often used to treat whiteheads and blackheads. They can clear away cells on the surface of your skin, increase collagen production, improve skin tone, and help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.⁵

  • Witch hazel: This ingredient can help with skin inflammation caused by acne.⁶

  • Salicylic acid: Research shows that topically applied salicylic acid can significantly improve mild comedonal acne—aka stubborn blackheads and whiteheads.⁷ 

  • Tea tree oil: Not only can tea tree oil help improve mild to moderate acne, but one study showed that products containing this ingredient were well-tolerated by the subjects in question.⁸ 

5 best pore strips under $20

Taking the ingredients above into consideration, here are our recommendations for the best pore strips. Not only do these products contain ingredients that are proven to help with blackhead removal for most skin types, but at under $20 each, they’re all highly affordable.

1. Curology Emergency Spot Patch

What we like about it:

  • It’s not technically a pore strip, but it uses the hydrocolloid matrix to absorb pus and oil while promoting healing.

  • It’s waterproof and sweat-resistant for all skin types.

  • It provides fast-acting support, much like your favorite pore strip.

  • It’s ultra-thin, so you can wear it during a workout or even under makeup.

2. Mighty Patch Hydrocolloid Nose Patches 

What we like about it:

  • It uses hydrocolloid to absorb excess oil.

  • Like a true pore strip, it contours to your nose shape.

3. Peace Out Pores Nose Strips

What we like about it:

  • It uses hydrocolloid to absorb excess oil.

  • It features retinol, which helps clear away dead skin cells.

4. Biore Witch Hazel Blackhead Remover Pore Strips

What we like about it:

  • It uses witch hazel to help target inflammation.

  • It contains tea tree oil, which helps improve mild to moderate acne.

5. JOLVKA Blackhead Pore Strips

What we like about it:

  • It contains witch hazel to help with skin inflammation caused by acne.

  • The strips are fairly large, so they can cover more surface area on your nose. 

Tips for using pore strips

Pore strips can seem like a simple skincare product to use, but there are a few guidelines to follow and tips to keep in mind:

  • Some pore strips contain irritating active ingredients, so you may want to avoid them if you’re allergic to them or have sensitive skin.

  • Some pore strips relay warnings to exercise caution when using them at the same time as another acne medication, as they may contribute to dry skin or irritating skin conditions. Likewise, some pore strips come with warnings that your skin may be more sensitive to the sun while using them (such as those containing retinoids). If you’re trying out the latter, make sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen* that won’t clog pores afterward, like The Sunscreen.

  • It’s unlikely that pore strips will contain pore-clogging ingredients, but just in case, check the list on the back of the package.

  • Before using a pore strip, wash your face with a cleanser like Curology’s The Cleanser so you get rid of any dirt on the surface of your skin. 

Also, keep in mind that pore-cleansing strips are only meant to be temporary solutions. They only cover a small part of your face, and the ripping motion that occurs when removing them has the potential to irritate your skin and make you not want to use them every day. 

And while they can remove oil and dead skin cells, they don’t necessarily address the root cause of clogged pores. In short, traditional pore strips can be fun to use, but don’t count on them to be a long-term solution for your acne. 

Curology can help provide long-term solutions

Pore strips may help improve the appearance of pores—plus, they can be satisfying to use! But to properly treat consistent acne, there’s no substitute for the guidance of a professional. That’s where Curology comes in. Our licensed dermatology providers can help you come up with a personalized skincare routine that can help treat your acne long-term. Plus, they’ll answer any questions you may have about your favorite skincare products, including pore strips.

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FAQs

What are the best pore strips to use?

Some of our favorites include Mighty Patch Hydrocolloid Nose Patches, Peace Out Pores Nose Strips, and Biore Witch Hazel Blackhead Remover Pore Strips.

What do pore strips actually pull out?

Pore strips unclog the buildup of excess oil and dead skin cells from your pores.

Can anything pull blackheads out?

Ingredients that may help remove blackheads include hydrocolloid⁹ and salicylic acid.¹⁰ Also, ingredients like the hydrocolloid matrix can absorb oil from your pores, while retinoids¹¹ can clear away cells on the surface of your skin.

What are the negatives of nasal strips?

Pore strips have the potential to cause redness and irritation, due to the quick ripping motion used to remove them. Some may also contain irritating ingredients or ones that could make your skin sensitive to the sun.

Is salicylic acid or pore strips better?

Some pore strips contain salicylic acid! But since the ingredient can significantly improve mild acne,¹² you may want to try using it in other products as well—like Curology’s Acne Body Wash, which clears dead skin cells, dirt, and oil.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. ACNE: SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS. (n.d.).

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. ACNE: SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS. Ibid.

  3. Sutaria, A.H., et al. Acne Vulgaris. StatPearls. (2023, August 17).

  4. Chao, C.M., 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. J Cosmet Sci. (March-April 2006).

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. RETINOID OR RETINOL?. (2021, May 25).

  6. Piazza, S., et al. Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Acne Effects of Hamamelis virginiana Bark in Human Keratinocytes. Antioxidants (Basel). (2022, June 5).

  7. Bettoli, V., et al. Effectiveness of a combination of salicylic acid-based products for the treatment of mild comedonal-papular acne: a multicenter prospective observational study. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. (December 2020). 

  8. Malhi, H.K., et al. Tea tree oil gel for mild to moderate acne; a 12 week uncontrolled, open-label phase II pilot study. Australia J Dermatol. (August 2017).

  9. Chao, C.M., 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. J Cosmet Sci. Ibid.

  10. Bettoli, V., et al. Effectiveness of a combination of salicylic acid-based products for the treatment of mild comedonal-papular acne: a multicenter prospective observational study. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. Ibid.

  11. American Academy of Dermatology Association. RETINOID OR RETINOL?. Ibid.

  12. Bettoli, V., et al. Effectiveness of a combination of salicylic acid-based products for the treatment of mild comedonal-papular acne: a multicenter prospective observational study. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. Ibid.

Kristen Jokela is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL.

*Sunscreen cannot prevent all harm from UV rays.

**Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Subscription required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

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