Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Rithi Choudhury (Journalist) on 16th Sep 2020
Are Nose Strips Effective In Removing Blackheads? Learn From The Experts
Remember that awkward moment when Princess Mia didn’t realize she had a band-aid around her nose while being confronted by her love interest Michael in The Princess Diaries?
Yes, we know it’s a nose strip - something we have had a love/hate relationship with.
But does it work? Or, is it just a ‘baking-soda as a blackhead remedy’ kind of madness?
Do Nose Strips Work?
Here is the answer: to some extent, yes.
They superficially remove some blackheads and whiteheads, but the result is temporary, and the comedones usually reappear.
So, it is not a permanent solution.
Dr. Andrea Suarez, a dermatologist based in Denver, quotes:
They just kind of exfoliate the top layer of your skin. So, they can kind of pull anything that is superficially there. As far as the blackheads, sure, and you can see some of that built-up debris, the indentations there. And people get all excited about it, and they think they are cleaning their skin. You’re really not cleaning your skin. I mean, that’s a myth
Now, if you are thinking that you will keep using them every time your blackheads/whiteheads are visible on the surface, let us tell you - it is a horrible idea.
Because these nose strips have strong adhesives on them, which stick firmly onto the skin and pull out the layer of dead skin cells along with dirt, giving the appearance of a slightly cleaner look.
Basically, they’re a woven material with adhesive and polymer... and when you pull it off, you’ll see sort of these like stalagmite, stalactite things on the strip. And that’s actually oil from your skin that gets oxidized and turns black in color as well as bacteria, dead skin, hair, and dirt. Basically, anything that’s on the surface. You don’t want to use them more than once a week
But these adhesives are pretty strong and can irritate your skin
Your skin is screaming inside every time you mercilessly rip off the nose strips, pulling the skin along with them, which can be damaging in the long run.
Dr. Suarez adds:
They really, really cause a lot of dryness and irritation. So, you know you can have fun with them, but they don’t do anything as far as changing your skin biology. And the blackhead thing is just going to come right back
What Can You Do To Effectively Yet Safely Deal With Blackheads?
It is always essential to know the cause of a problem before reaching a solution.
So, why do we get whiteheads/blackheads on and around our nose?
Our skin has small openings on the surface called pores. They get clogged with dirt, dead skin cells, and product build-up from time to time. When the naturally produced sebum (oil) oxidizes inside the pores, mixing with the debris, we get comedones - whiteheads and their darker, more stubborn cousins, blackheads.
The fundamental difference between them is that whiteheads remain closed, while blackheads remain open.
Therefore, the solution to keep these comedones from forming is to keep the pores clean
- Dr. Suarez recommends salicylic acid and retinoids to eliminate whiteheads/blackheads effectively. “Well, honestly, one of the ways that are most helpful for, at least kind of, controlling blackheads is to use a salicylic acid based face wash in the areas that are plagued by the blackheads”.
She advises lathering the blackhead prone areas with a face wash containing 2% salicylic acid and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off.
“Salicylic acid is oil-loving. So, it concentrates there. And it really can help break up, it actually breaks up that keratin plug”. But Dr. Suarez emphasizes on putting a moisturizer later as salicylic acid can be drying.
- For those who are new to salicylic acid, she recommends starting with a face wash form. “If you have been using salicylic acid for years and do not get irritated or excessively dried from it, you may try a leave-on salicylic acid product.” She suggests a leave-on salicylic acid in 1% (less irritating) or 2% (maximum strength) concentration around the blackhead prone areas. But avoid putting it on the skin around the eyes.
- Another ingredient that can be effective for treating blackheads/whiteheads is a retinoid.
Retinoids are a group of Vitamin A derivatives, but more on that later.
For addressing the comedone problem effectively, Dr. Suarez recommends prescription-strength topical retinoids, like tretinoin and tazarotene from the brands Retin-A and Tazorac, respectively. But she advises checking with your dermatologist first.
Prescription retinoids are potent. Therefore, you must have a prescription from a licensed dermatologist/physician before buying them.
Dr. Suarez further adds OTC retinoid, like Adapalene, is also useful in treating blackheads. “It is a fantastic one for concentrating in blackhead prone areas. It’s really effective. It’s more gentle than tretinoin….…..and pretty well tolerated”.
- These retinoids exfoliate dead skin cells, encourage them to turn over, and also soften the build-up inside the pores. But the best thing about retinoids is that they prevent the formation of new comedones - addressing the problem from within. However, they take time and consistency to work. So, don’t expect results to show up overnight.
Demystifying Viral Blackhead Removing Hacks
- Baking Soda: Baking Soda is a base, which means it is high on the pH scale. Our facial skin is naturally acidic, and the ideal pH is around 5.5. But putting baking soda on the face makes the skin alkaline and leaves it susceptible to inflammations and dryness.
The acidic mantle on the skin is vital to ward off infections and regulate sebum production. Baking soda can mop oil to some extent, but raw baking soda, in general, can be caustic to the skin.
Cosmetic formulations that use baking soda are formulated in a manner that makes it tolerable and less damaging. Otherwise, it's a bad idea to strip your skin of its natural defenses by applying a paste of baking soda.
- Facial Steam and Extraction: A popular myth is that our pores open when exposed to steam and shrink when we apply ice cubes over them. The truth is: our pores don’t have the muscles to help them open or close. When the pores are clogged, they naturally look larger than they are. So, facial steam won’t do much help.
It does loosen up the build-up to some extent, making it easier to extract it with professional tools or the good old Q-tips. But these extractions should be done by experts. At-home extractions can cause damage like broken blood capillaries and subsequent bruises.
- Lemon Juice: Unlike baking soda, lemon juice is acidic. That’s why the problem with using lemon juice is that raw lemon juice can irritate your skin. It can also cause photosensitive reactions, which means going out in the sun can cause chemical burns if your skin is treated with lemon juice.
- Blackhead Suction Devices: You may have seen portable vacuum-like devices drawing out oil and debris from the skin. Although it is grossly satisfying to look at the gunk being vacuumed out from the pores, it damages the skin. It can create a bruise on the areas because of the suction mechanism.