After a strip is used, tiny stalagmite-like deposits can be observed on its surface.
Just because you can see the material doesn't mean it's bad, says Dr. Paul C. Waldman, a Hagerstown dermatologist.
Sebum - the oil on your skin produced by sebaceous glands - is a normal body product and doesn't have to be removed, he says. While normal cleansing removes surface oil, it doesn't remove blackheads or whiteheads.
Blackheads are visibly enlarged pores filled with plugs of dead skin cells and skin oil. Whiteheads are compacted masses of dead skin cells and skin oils, visible as small white bumps under the skin's surface.
The strips are designed to remove blackheads, and most blackheads don't lead to inflammatory pimples, Waldman says.
They have no effect on whiteheads because there is no pore opening to attach to, he says.
Bior's strips use an adhesive with a positive charge, and pore-clogging material has a negative charge, Muenz says. The adhesive attaches itself to the plugs and pulls them out like a magnet.
The strips aren't harmful, and they are just a mechanical means of removing plugs from pores, says Hagerstown dermatologist Dr. James A. Schiro.
While they can temporarily improve the skin's appearance, they don't prevent the plugs from forming, Schiro says.
Squeezing the nose is a less desirable method of eliminating plugs, because it could rupture a pore, he says.
Use of skin care products that include alpha and beta hydroxy acids can help dissolve skin plugs, says Paul Scott Premo, director of consumer education for M.D. Formulations/Allergan, a pharmaceutical research and development company in Irvine, Calif.
Other methods for removing sebum include facial peels or salicylic acid, Waldman says.
The strips don't make the pores smaller, because pore size is determined genetically, Schiro says.
Patients being treated for acne who are taking medications such as Retin-A or Differin shouldn't use the strips, Waldman says.
Those whose skin is sunburned or peeling also should avoid them.
The strips may be irritating to people with sensitive skin, and they shouldn't be used too often.
Muenz recommends that the Bioré strips be used every three to five days.
Muenz, who was part of the team that developed Bioré's strips, says he is surprised by their wide appeal. Seventy-five percent of the product's users are women, and it had been targeted toward ages 18 to 35.
"We've had 65- to 70-year-old people saying they have been looking for a product like this all their life," he says.
Washing your face
Premo says there's no great mystery to having good-looking skin, and it doesn't take a lot of work.
"The average consumer wants something effortless; they don't want to be chained to the bathroom sink for eight hours," Premo says.
He recommends using a fragrance-free, mild cleanser that is water soluble, which cuts down on irritation. He also suggests using a moisturizing lotion with a sun protection factor of 15, which helps shield against ultraviolet burning and aging rays.
Waldman says there's no hard and fast rule for cleansing.
The routine depends on factors such as a person's skin type, level of activity and whether makeup is worn, he says.