Memoir: I’m Obsessed With Nose Strips

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In addition to holding the distinction of being Anne Hathaway’s pre-breakout breakout movie, The Princess Diaries is notable in my mind for one scene that perfectly depicts 2001’s skincare zeitgeist. Princess Mia’s indie rock crush, who she totally broke a date with in a regrettable moment of lust for Erik von Detten, catches her in a private moment–her nose is encased in a Biore Pore Strip. Oh, the utter humiliation of your crush finding out you suffer from clogged pores!

It would probably be an exaggeration to call Biore Pore Strips the best invention of all time, so I’m not going to do that, but I will say that I don’t think they get nearly enough play. When I think of the dubious-sounding skincare innovations of the last decade—those little stickers you were supposed to stick on your pimples before bed but that inevitably you would find in your hair in the morning, or those packs of blue sheets that turned a darker shade of blue when you used them to wipe the grease from your face—Biore Pore Strips stand out as the only product that’s still a factor in my post-adolescent life, and what’s more, my all-time favorite drugstore skincare product.

The concept of a pore strip is a little odd, not Neti Pot-level odd, but certainly a bit of a leap if you’re the sort of person who wants others to believe you rely on a Cinderella-like menagerie of meadow creatures for all your beauty needs. To use a Pore Strip is to confront the problem of blackheads, not dainty, vague blemishes, but blackheads, in all their pore-clogging specificity. When you use a pore strip, you essentially papier-mache your own nose (or forehead, or chin, but I tend to prefer nose). That’s the first level of appeal: it’s like an art project! I like to leave the strip on longer than the recommended 10 minutes. And once I’m completely positive that it’s dry, I like to leave it on for five more minutes. Then you peel it off, band-aid style, at which point you hope that some blackheads managed to attach themselves to it over the past few minutes. If you’re the sort of person that cares to, you then examine the used strip for evidence of the expunged blackheads. I happen to be exactly this sort of person. And when you let yourself embrace it, can you think of anything more satisfying than looking at the gunk that used to be clogging your pores and no longer is, in exactly the formation it used to take on your face?

Sometimes I think it would be fun to use a pore strip every day, but like deep conditioning, it’s one of those beauty regimens made more special by its occasional nature. Sometimes I think about how people with disproportionately large or small noses might avoid pore strips so as to avoid dealing with their non-standard nose sizes. And sometimes I think about how people who don’t have a whole lot of blackheads are missing out on the joy of removing a bunch of them at once. But I don’t feel so bad for this last group.