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The Strange Side Effect Of Hydrocolloid Patches You May Be Experiencing

Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director. Previously she worked at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.
Woman Checking Skin in Mirror

Another day, another social media skin care trend that leaves us scratching our heads and wondering, Yeah, but does it really work? We've certainly seen our fair share of curiosities all over Instagram and TikTok—some better than others.

And one concept we can't seem to get away from is the ever-present pore strip. These were popularized by drugstore brands decades ago, and we've seen variations of this product that range from knockoff brands to DIY peel-off pastes to now hydrocolloid patches. 

Should you use pore patches? 

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While the drugstore versions have been popular for decades (they originated in Asia and were introduced to the U.S. market in the mid-'90s), DIY concoctions and pastes are the new thing. Well, if you've worked your way into skin care TikTok, you likely know that most derms and experts have deemed this trend a No. Marisa Plescia, research scientist at clean beauty e-tailer NakedPoppy, once told us that, "They can be quite irritating, and they are not great for the skin, bordering on unsafe." 

As board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., has previously told mbg, they can cause irritation if you're not super careful. "The adhesive can traumatize the skin, so be sure to use them carefully and follow the instructions," she says. And sure, peeling off a pore strip might feel pretty satisfying, but they don't actually do anything to stop those blackheads from dusting your nose. "Pore strips can temporarily remove top layers of dead skin cells, but they won't do anything to prevent the buildup of blackheads," King adds.

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Can you use hydrocolloid as a pore-cleaning patch? 

So that's the deal with pore strips in general, but what about hydrocolloid? Yes, in its place, users have started sporting hydrocolloid patches. Hydrocolloid patches (or acne patches) are skin care treatments that originated in the medical world: Hydrocolloid dressing is a sticky yet dry, cellulose-feeling fabric that is used over injury or scars for wound-healing. They work by creating a microenvironment that sucks out gunk without drying the area out. 

Often they are small round dots that go over a single zit to speed up its healing time. However, now there are larger options that can cover areas of the face like your forehead, nose, and chin. So instead of using the potentially damaging pore strips, users have been cleaning out their pores with these trendy options. 

What do the experts have to say about this new development? As board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D. (and mbg Collective member!), explains in a recent TikTok video, "Using a hydrocolloid patch as a nose strip is actually much more gentle than a classic nose strip, which I like, but the problem here is that you are potentially changing the skin microbiome underneath that patch; this can potentially lead to worsening acne," she says. 

What should you do instead?

If you're dealing with clogged pores on your nose—it's very common—your best bet is to find a consistent skin care routine that gently exfoliates the area while hydrating the skin as well. While we're all for an occasional treatment, you're probably better off with a lactic acid or salicylic acid peel than a pore patch. 

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