(Trial Run)

I Tried The Viral K-Beauty Nose Mask, & It Completely Cleared My Blackheads

It’s worth the hype.

Sarah Y. Wu
Ilso Natural Mild Clear Nose Patch review
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In our series Trial Run, TZR editors and writers put the buzziest new beauty products to the test and share their honest reviews. This week, beauty writer Sarah Y. Wu is testing Ilso’s Mild Clear Nose Patch.

I’m no stranger to the satisfying pull of an old-school pore strip lifting the gunk straight out of my nose. I’ve slapped one on every time I see the first signs of a blackhead or sometimes just to shrink the look of sebaceous filaments. While dermatologists usually recommend salicylic acid and retinol to treat both, I’ve never found they worked for me. That isn’t to say pore strips were a perfect solution; results lasted temporarily and sometimes I noticed they caused more irritation than anything else. Then this spring, I went to Seoul and found the nose mask — the super viral Ilso Natural Mild Clear Nose Patch that’s been flying off shelves at every Olive Young store in Korea since its 2022 launch.

According to the brand, it’s now racked up 10 million sales globally and won the coveted Hwahae Beauty Award two years running. (Ingredient analysis and review aggregator app Hwahae is where you go if you want the definitive beauty product rankings in Korea.)

“Unlike other products, it features a two-step solution that goes beyond sebum removal, focusing on total pore care by minimizing pores and replenishing moisture,” says Hye In Jeon, Ilso brand manager. Described by the brand as a “revolution in blackhead and sebum management,” the mask is meant to minimize the look of pores without any risk of irritation, making it safe to use regularly on even sensitive skin types.

Most of the time, I approach viral skin care with a healthy dose of skepticism. But in the intensely competitive K-beauty market, I figured if every single one of my friends was buying it and singing its praises, it had to be at least decent.

Even so, I wasn’t prepared for the results I got after only a few uses. Spoiler alert: Ilso’s best-selling product is so effective, I have no blackheads left to show for this review and can only give a demonstration on my sebaceous filaments. Curious about the magic behind the mask? Ahead, my honest thoughts on what makes it worth every bit of the hype it’s received.

Fast Facts

  • Price: $19
  • Size: 5 two-step masks (3g each), 10pc single-use extractors
  • Clean/Cruelty-Free: Yes
  • Best For: All skin types, especially oily, combination, and acne-prone skin looking for a gentle treatment for blackheads and sebaceous filaments
  • What We Like: Instantly makes sebaceous filaments and blackheads look much less visible, cumulative/lasting effect, doesn’t cause irritation or dryness
  • What We Don’t Like: Involves more steps and time than a pore strip, but well worth it
  • Rating: 5/5
How TZR Keeps Score: 1/5: Making a return; 2/5: Keeping as a backup; 3/5: Finishing to the last drop; 4/5: Recommending to my group texts; 5/5: Already on auto-replenish

The Formula

First, the rundown on blackheads and sebaceous filaments. “We develop blackheads, whiteheads, and congestion on the nose because this is the area where we have not only the greatest concentration of oil glands, but also the largest and most active ones,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology.

According to Zeichner, oil production is predetermined by genetics, but can fluctuate based on factors like hormones, stress, and diet. Once your pores fill with oil and accumulate dead skin, they look larger. Notice that the pores on your nose sometimes get more visible during summer? “There’s also data suggesting that high temperatures activate glands, which explains why the skin tends to be more oily during the warmer months,” he says.

While blackheads and sebaceous filaments can look similar, the former are simply a harmless “buildup of oil within the follicles,” says Zeichner. The latter are naturally occurring tube-like structures that line the walls of your pores and help direct oil flow. Sometimes, sebaceous filaments can develop into true blackheads, which occur when this oil builds up and “gets trapped beneath dead cells that form a bottleneck,” oxidizing into a darker color.

Ilso’s treatment targets both. Each pack consists of two masks and accompanying single-use extractors. While they’re shaped like pore strips, they simply sit on top of your skin like a regular sheet mask. Jeon says this approach helps avoid a “harsh removal method that can lead to skin barrier damage” or irritation. Instead, the each of the masks in the two-step process help soften sebum, making it easier to extract, then tighten the look of pores.

Courtesy of Sarah Y. Wu

When you open your Step-1 mask, you’ll find a biocellulose nose patch soaked in liquid. The brand calls it a “proprietary sebum removal complex” that contains botanical extracts including codonopsis, white willow, burdock root, Oriental raisin tree, and witch hazel. The exact blend is filed under Korean Patent No. 10-1497191, which lists these and additional plant extracts formulated into “nano sized capsule vesicles.” Each of the ingredients lends anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties to the mask and helps gently soften blockages at the surface of your pores. White willow in particular has been shown to decrease sebum production, fight bacteria, and soothe inflammation, while witch hazel is a popular astringent with proven anti-inflammatory effects. After you remove the Step-1 mask, you’re intended to use the extractor that comes in the pack to gently draw out the blackhead, dirt, and excess sebum from your pores by running it over your nose with a bit of pressure.

The Step-2 mask, meant to be used after extractions, contains a blend of hydrating and “pore-tightening” ingredients. Jeon says this mask was created after the brand noticed that letting skin dry out after sebum removal could “lead to faster sebum production and further irritation.” To combat that, the second mask contains a blend of ingredients designed to hydrate, calm, and shrink the look of pores. These include panthenol, witch hazel, chestnut shell, and green tea, which Jeon says work together to “soothe and refresh skin while gently tightening pores.”

While the masks are designed to remove excess sebum and make pores look smaller, note that you can’t actually “shut” your pores. “It’s a myth that pores can open and close,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Think of your pores more like pipes that can stretch. The first step helps soften blockages within the pores so that they can be removed with an astringent that is supplied as part of the second step.”

My Typical Skin Care Routine

While it’s true that you don’t need more than two or three steps in your skin care routine, I will never be that girl, in part because testing everything is part of my job. While I’m constantly swapping products in and out, there are a few gems I keep in long-term rotation for skin that’s glowing, hydrated, and bouncy.

Immediately after cleansing (or double cleansing at night), I go in with toner to keep my skin damp and help my other skin care steps absorb. I love House of Dohwa’s Rice Bran Toner for a gentle, soothing start to my routine. If my skin seems congested, I swap this out for a splash of Some By Mi’s AHA-BHA-PHA 30Days Miracle Toner, which gets me right back on track. For my serum step, I’m loyal to Dr. Althea’s Vitamin C Boosting Serum; the non-sticky texture feels so refreshing and leaves me glowing. I have combination skin, so I smooth a thin layer of Aestura’s Atobarrier365 Cream over my mid-face where I tend to dry out — it’s easily the best thing I’ve found for lightweight barrier repair and intense hydration.

I always carry lip balm everywhere I go and my current favorite is Glow’s Peach Peptide Lip Balm in Coral Reef. It’s got a plush gel consistency that sinks right into my lips and makes flakiness melt away with the prettiest glossy shine. For sunscreen (a daily essential all year), I rotate between two formulas. Skin1004’s Hyalu-Cica Water-Fit Sun Serum SPF 50+ has the most beautiful, hydrating texture that doesn’t feel heavy or greasy. And for the barest touch of tint, there’s nothing better than Lightsaver’s Activated Mineral Sunscreen SPF 33, which has a silky whipped feel and subtle smoothing effect.

At night, I’ve been reaching for my HaruHaru Wonder Black Rice Bakuchiol Eye Cream, which has such a nice lightweight consistency and leaves my under eyes looking smoother and brighter. A few times a week, I go in with the Medicube Zero Exosome Shot Mild 2000, which is basically microneedling in a bottle and gives my skin a little overnight boost. I seal it all in with a couple drops of Le Prunier’s Plum Beauty Oil — still the best face oil I’ve ever tried, and it smells faintly of almond croissants. And when my sebaceous filaments start to get clogged up, that’s the Ilso Natural Mild Clear Nose Patch’s time to shine.

Using the extractor. Courtesy of Sarah Y. Wu

My Experience & Results

According to the brand, this mask can be used as often as one to three times a week depending on your skin type, so I wasn’t expecting dramatic results with just a couple of uses. I deeply regret not documenting the way it made my blackheads vanish because I just kept thinking, can it really be this good? (After working my way through most of the box, I can confirm it is indeed that good and my nose has never looked smoother.)

The first time I tried it, I left the Step-1 mask on for 10 to 15 minutes as instructed. After it had softened up my sebum plugs, I went in for a round of extractions. Each pack of masks comes with 10 single-use extractors, but I opted to use Ilso’s Deep Clean Master Blackhead Remover instead. Sold separately, it’s made of easy-to-clean stainless steel and has a rounded edge that fits perfectly around your nose without pressing too hard on your skin.

I’ve tried other sebum-softening treatments before, but none worked as effectively as this one. I was amazed at how a light press of the blackhead remover instantly brought a (slightly alarming) amount of sebum to the surface. After I finished navigating the remover around my nose, I wiped it clean with a damp tissue before applying the Step-2 mask for 15 to 20 minutes. Both masks adhere well without slipping, so I spent this time going about my day chugging coffee and answering emails.

When I removed the second mask, my skin felt refreshed and my pores looked tighter, smaller, and generally way less visible. Just to make sure, I practically stuck my nose right up against a magnifying mirror (a perspective I realize is far removed from reality) and confirmed that the results were much more noticeable than anything else I’d previously tried.

My skin before using the two-step mask. Courtesy of Sarah Y. Wu
My skin after using the two-step mask. Courtesy of Sarah Y. Wu

Is Ilso’s Natural Mild Clear Nose Patch Worth It?

Since I started using this mask, I’ve been most impressed with how long the results last. I used to develop small whiteheads and blackheads at the base of my nose, but they have yet to reappear. My sebaceous filaments also look less noticeable than they ever had and I find I don’t have to repeat the treatment more often than once every two to three weeks. I’m now down to my last two masks in the box and already have a fresh pack in my shopping cart. Pore strips, we had a good run, but I’m an Ilso nose patch girl now.