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If you’ve ever looked closely at your skin only to see every pore darkened and distended, you know the unique frustration that comes with clogged pores. Some of them turn into blackheads. Others just make your skin tone look uneven. And even if you squeeze out the little plugs of oil, they seem to come right back!
If you want to be done with enlarged, clogged pores once and for all, start by investing in a good pore cleanser. Here are some of the best pore cleansers to choose from.
Looking for something besides the usual pore-cleansing ingredients? Blu Atlas offers a cleanser with a unique blend of 98% natural ingredients. The most important one is volcanic ash (also called bentonite). This fine powder is super-absorbent, so it easily pulls excess oil and various impurities from your skin. When you use it every day, it prevents the built-up oil that contributes to clogged pores.
That’s not all this cleanser has to offer, though. Pomegranate seed oil has powerful antioxidant properties, and lactobacillus helps to keep your skin’s microbiome healthy. Plus, we love that it’s free of sulfates, phthalates, and parabens!
If your skin doesn’t completely shed dead skin cells, they can form clogs that trap oil in your pores. A good cleanser can help your skin to exfoliate properly without making it overly dry. This cleanser from Banila Co does just that. A natural surfactant lifts excess oil away from your skin as a special blend of acids gets rid of impurities and sloughs off dead skin cells.
When you use this cleanser, it turns to a light, spreadable foam that covers every pore. Its high-quality formula includes no mineral oil, alcohol, parabens or sulfates.
This intense cleanser from Hero Cosmetics does a great job of cleaning out pores without causing skin irritation. It’s powered by a trio of ingredients: beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). These ingredients work together to exfoliate dead skin cells and reach deep into pores to clear out oil.
It might sound like that would irritate your skin, but aloe and lotus water leave your skin feeling calm and refreshed. Hero Cosmetics recommends using Mighty Patch Nose, its pore-clearing patch, right after.
If you’re looking to unclog your pores on a budget, this cleanser from Bioré is just what you need! It clears pores with two central ingredients: salicylic acid and spherical beads. Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, so it’s capable of dissolving oil trapped in pores.
The small, spherical beads add just enough roughness to smooth away dead skin cells. This scrub is gentle enough to use every day, but it’s also effective enough to free your pores and give you softer, smoother skin. Bioré claims that you’ll notice your skin is softer and smoother after only one use!
This gel-form cleanser is perfect for reducing the appearance of pores. When pores get clogged with oil, the oil that’s exposed to air oxidizes and turns black. As a result, you might find that your face appears to be covered in tiny blackheads!
This cleanser combines salicylic acid with white willow bark to keep your skin clear, exfoliated, and moisturized. White willow bark is rich in tannins, minerals, and acids that support cell regeneration and add healthy, natural moisture. Dr. Brandt Skincare recommends using it both in the morning and in the evening.
Many pore cleansers have relatively low concentrations of BHAs, AHAs, or other skin-clearing acids. These ingredients are effective at low doses, but if your skin needs a little extra prompting to clear up, you might want to try the 4% BHA concentration in this blackhead-blasting cleanser from COSRX.
This product is a bit like a toner—rather than lathering it on and washing it off, you need to dab it over your whole face (or on affected areas) and leave it there. COSRX recommends using a face cleanser and drying off before applying Blackhead Power Liquid with a cotton ball. If your skin is dry or easily irritated, you may want to apply an oil-free moisturizer after your face is completely dry.
If you need to clear out your pores but deal with very sensitive skin, this cleanser’s 0.5% salicylic acid concentration is perfect. It also contains arginine for powerful skin soothing and pro-vitamin B5 to soften and condition your skin.
For best results, Paula’s Choice recommends using Pore Normalizing Cleanser along with the rest of its CLEAR system. The CLEAR system also includes an Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution, Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide, Ultra-Light Daily Hydrating Fluid, and Oil-Free Moisturizer. They’ve got everything covered!
This cleanser comes in a cool bottle, and it offers a peppermint-powered cooling sensation to match! Its main exfoliating ingredients are lactic acid, salicylic acid, and sugar cane. Plus, it also includes an energizing combination of ginseng, green tea, and Vitamin B.
We like that this cleanser is also formulated to protect your skin from environmental damage. Fructose and ginseng defend your skin from blue light and other stresses, giving your face a radiant, natural glow. Even though it’s free of sulfates, it still forms a rich, refreshing lather!
If you look closely at the label of this cleanser, you’ll notice that it contains snail mucin. This is a secretion snails produce when under stress. It’s somewhat new in Western skincare, but it’s a staple in Korean skincare.
So how does snail mucin help cleanse your pores? For one, it contains glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), and it’s found in many of the best pore cleansers. It also increases collagen production. Collagen is essential for producing new skin. As new skin grows, it helps to push out the oil trapped in your pores. Snail mucin is a humectant as well, so it’s a great natural moisturizer!
Neutrogena seems to make a product for every skin care concern. Clear Pore has been around for a while, and it’s perfect for both unclogging pores and clearing breakouts.
Its main ingredient is benzoyl peroxide (3.5%), a compound that kills breakout-causing bacteria. It’s also formulated to reach deep into your pores, clearing out oil and stopping breakouts before they start.
We like that this pore-clearing powerhouse can be used in two different ways. You can use it as a daily cleanser to maintain clear skin and as an intensive mask to give your pores a deep treatment.
The BHA in this effective cleanser is salicylic acid, which is arguably one of the best pore-cleaning ingredients. This oil-soluble acid is easily able to sink into your pores and break up the oil blocking them. Salicylic acid also helps regulate oil production, so when you use it regularly, you may find that your oily skin starts to seem more normal.
This powerful exfoliator also includes bioactive fruit acids. Acids from fruit have impressive benefits for your skin: they help remove dry, dead skin cells from the surface, and they also encourage the formation of new skin cells. The result is softer, smoother skin with an even tone.
The pore cleanser market is a crowded one, so interesting ingredients can really make a product stand out. This cleanser includes Jeju volcanic clusters—that is, bits of hardened lava from volcanic eruptions on Jeju Island. This porous volcanic rock absorbs extra oil and helps remove impurities. Wow!
Pore Clearing Facial Foam also contains lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that helps exfoliate dead skin. This combination stops the shininess that comes with too much oil, and it also assists your skin to stay smoother.
When it comes to skincare brands, Kiehl’s is about as trustworthy as it gets: it’s been around since 1851!
As its name suggests, Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser’s key ingredient comes from the earth. Amazonian White Clay is highly absorbent, and it removes dirt, debris, and excess oil. It’s also rich in minerals that support skin health.
This cleanser also helps to soothe your skin thanks to aloe juice. It’s a great natural moisturizer that won’t clog your pores, plus it’s full of antioxidants.
When you have oily skin, you need a cleanser that effectively removes oil. However, if you choose a cleanser that’s a little too good at removing oil, you’ll actually prolong the problem. Cleansers with harsh surfactants don’t just lift away excess oil—they strip away so much of your skin’s natural oil that your skin makes more oil in response!
This natural cleanser from Beautycounter is ideal if you need to clear out pores but have very sensitive skin. It uses jojoba beads to gently remove dead skin cells and excess oil. It also uses a specialized SkinBalance Complex that includes rosebay willow and wintergreen to both cleanse pores and do away with skin redness. Lastly, aloe vera soothes and moisturizes skin.
Clay is an outstanding natural ingredient when it comes to soaking up and removing excess oil. This product includes three separate types of clay, volcanic rock, and red algae. These are ideal ingredients for exfoliating if you notice clogged, rough pores on your face.
This unique exfoliant is designed to be used as a face mask three times per week. To make sure your pores become as clear as possible, start by washing your face with a good cleanser. Then, apply the mask and let it sit for 10–15 minutes.
L’Oreal claims that your skin texture will improve immediately after the first use. And with regular use, your pores will become smaller, making your skin look healthier overall.
Sometimes, the cleansers with the simplest ingredient lists make the biggest difference when it comes to skin health. This straightforward foam cleanser from philosophy uses glycolic acid and papaya enzymes to both clear out your pores and give your skin a healthy glow.
This face wash is gentle enough to use both morning and night. To get the best results, philosophy recommends following it up with both a facial serum and a moisturizer.
If you often find your clogged pores leading to acne, this cleanser from Clean & Clear can be a big help. Its exfoliating microbeads are perfect for removing sticky dead skin cells and oil buildup within your pores. We like that it gives your face a cooling sensation, leaving you feeling invigorated and ready to face the day.
If you find that most cleansers simply don’t get deep enough into your pores, give Deep Action Exfoliating Scrub a try. It’s specially formulated to get deeper into your pores than other cleansers, so you can count on your pores getting (and staying) unclogged.
Glycolic acid and other AHAs can be great for unclogging pores, clearing your skin, and reducing the appearance of blemishes. However, if your skin is sensitive, AHAs may cause more irritation than they’re worth.
If that’s the situation you find yourself in, then EltaMD’s Deep Pore Facial Cleanser may be perfect. It contains no soap, oil or harsh ingredients, but it’s still powerful enough to remove dirt, oil, and debris from your pores. It’s also a great choice if you regularly wear heavy makeup.
We like that it works like a moisturizer as well—it encourages moisture to bond to the keratin in your skin cells. Impressive!
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes pores to become clogged?
Pores are designed to release sebum, the skin oil that keeps your skin moisturized. They also release sweat. But when oil, dead skin cells, and dirt get trapped in your pores, they get clogged.
Clogged pores become more noticeable when the portion of trapped oil that’s exposed to air gets oxidized. That turns it black, making your pores look like tiny blackheads.
If your skin is naturally oily, you may be more prone to clogged pores. If you don’t cleanse and exfoliate your skin enough for your skin type, you’re more likely to see pore blockages, too.
However, there’s a flip side to that. If you cleanse your face too much or use harsh surfactants, you might find that you over-strip your skin’s natural oils. To compensate, your skin makes more oil, and clogged pores just become a never-ending cycle.
Do I actually have to clean out my pores?
With the sheer volume of pore cleansers available, you might think that it’s absolutely essential to clean out your pores on the regular. However, this isn’t something you necessarily have to do. Pores that function normally will clean themselves.
That said, if you have acne-prone skin, cleaning out your pores is a good idea. That’s because clogged pores often lead to acne lesions. When a pore gets blocked, the oil gland below it still releases oil. That builds up pressure that can cause the oil gland to rupture. The released oil irritates your skin and causes red, inflamed bumps.
Regularly using a good pore cleanser can help exfoliate your skin and reduce pore blockages. Over time, this might lead to a reduction in your acne. However, if your acne is bad enough, you may need to use additional products and/or consult with a dermatologist.
Can’t I just use pore strips?
If you’ve ever used pore strips, you know how satisfying it can be to see the little oil filaments come out of your pores. And while strips can be a fun way to unclog your pores, most dermatologists don’t recommend them. The adhesives in pore strips can aggravate sensitive skin. Most brands don’t even clear out pores as well as they claim to.
Even if your pore strips work perfectly, they still don’t address the root causes of clogged pores. Your oil glands will stay overactive, and your pores will just fill up again every time you clean them out.
What are some useful ingredients to look for in a pore cleanser?
There’s no single ingredient that can be found in all the best pore cleansers. Different ingredients work better for some people than others. However, if you want a cleanser that does its job well, there are several effective ingredients you can look for. Here are the main ones:
This is a beta hydroxy acid that’s oil soluble. That means it can actually get into your pores and break down trapped oil. It also breaks bonds between the dead skin cells that contribute to clogged pores.
That’s not all this versatile ingredient does, though. Salicylic acid also regulates oil production. So if you have oily skin and use it regularly, you may find that your skin’s oil production starts to regulate.
This is an alpha hydroxy acid. While it won’t actually go inside your pores, it’s a great exfoliator at your skin’s surface. This exfoliating action helps clear pores by removing dead skin cells that often block the surface of pores.
As you may have guessed, the combination of glycolic acid and salicylic acid is especially effective for clearing pores. Glycolic acid clears the way for salicylic acid to get inside the pore and break up the clog.
This exotic-sounding ingredient can help clear up your pores and prevent new clogs and breakouts. It does this in a couple of different ways. Its particles are small, so they work like microbeads to exfoliate your face. Particles of volcanic ash are also very porous, so they can soak up excess oil and carry it away from your face.
Volcanic ash is a great ingredient for oily skin. But if your skin is sensitive or on the dry side, try using it every other day or even less frequently at first, as it can dry out your skin.
This works somewhat similarly to glycolic acid: it breaks up dead skin cells that keep oil trapped in pores. Because it helps your face shed dry, dead skin cells, it can also give you a much more radiant complexion.
This time-tested ingredient isn’t just for face masks! Charcoal also works beautifully in cleansers. Like volcanic ash, it absorbs oil and other impurities from your skin, freeing up the surface of your clogged pores so the trapped oil can be released. Charcoal isn’t especially drying, so it’s a wise choice if you have clogged pores but your skin isn’t overly oily.
What if my skin is very sensitive?
If you have both clogged pores and sensitive skin, it can be hard to find a good pore cleanser that doesn’t cause irritation. Some cleansers have effective natural ingredients like fruit acids. These are gentler than AHAs and BHAs, but they can still help exfoliate your skin.
Another option is to look for cleansers with low concentrations of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and other exfoliators. If you aren’t sure how well your skin will tolerate a new product, start by using it every other day or even every third day. You can gradually build up to using it daily or twice a day.
What other steps should I take to keep my face clear?
Investing in a pore cleanser is a great place to start if you want to keep your skin radiant and your pores clear. But if your clogged pores persist, you might want to try a few other strategies. Here are some things you can do to get your pores clear and keep them that way:
Don’t squeeze your pores
This one can be hard to do! But if you persistently squeeze pores, you can damage your skin and cause scarring. You also can cause your oil glands to rupture deeper into your skin and cause larger, inflamed lesions.
Try a clay or charcoal mask
A high-quality face mask can help draw impurities from your skin while soaking up excess oil. Masks advertised as “brightening” or those containing charcoal or clay tend to be the most effective. As soon as you apply the mask and wash it off, you should notice your skin starting to look a little healthier.
Add in a retinoid
Retinoids are powerful vitamin A derivatives that speed up cell turnover and reduce oil production. They’re great for troublesome acne and persistently clogged pores. However, they can be drying and can irritate sensitive skin. Adapalene (also known as Differin) is available as an over-the-counter retinoid, but you can also talk to a dermatologist about getting a stronger prescription retinoid.
Use a toner
Facial toners help remove excess dirt and oil that your cleanser may have missed. They also can help you remove the last traces of stubborn makeup. Over time, they can also make your pores look and feel tighter. Toners are also great for preparing your face for a serum or moisturizer.
Clean off your face right after working out
If you’re already prone to clogged pores, excessive sweating can make the problem worse. If you can’t hop in the shower right after a workout, washing your face is a good idea. If you can’t do that, consider getting facial cleansing wipes that you can take with you and use on the go.
How and when should I use a pore cleanser?
Usually, you use pore-cleansing face washes in the morning and evening. If you have dry or sensitive skin, it might work better to only use it in the morning.
If you want the cleanser to really get into your pores, some skin experts recommend steaming them open for a few moments. You can do this by submerging a washcloth in a sink of hot water and holding it over your face. Just be careful not to burn yourself!
It’s a bit easier to steam open your pores in the shower. After you’ve taken a couple of minutes to let your pores open up, massage the cleanser onto your face, making sure you don’t miss a spot. You can then rinse it off.
It’s important to note that while steaming can make your pores open a little wider, your pores never really close. So if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to steam them open one day, your cleanser will still do its job!
While some experts recommend steaming your pores open, others say that steaming your face can make your cleanser over-strip your natural oils. If you have very oily skin, steaming probably won’t hurt. But if your skin is dry and/or sensitive, it might be something to avoid.
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