Updated 10/20/20 So many of you want to know how to get your pores clean. Clogged pores and blackheads are the bane of so many people’s existence—mine included. Luckily, as a licensed esthetician who has been manually extracting blackheads and clogged pores from people’s skin for thirty years, I’m well qualified to provide some help!
Your Pores Will Benefit From Getting Cleaned Out If…
- You have blackheads that are not flush with the skin. Instead, they appear as raised bumps with an open black-ish center. (Many people have blackheads that are completely flat instead)
- You have clogged pores and congestion. While they can appear anywhere on the face, clogged pores are most often found around the mouth, chin, and jawline area. They are known as closed comedones and are usually left over from old breakouts. They are clogged pores that often resemble a whiteish, closed, raised bump.
- You have milia. These are tiny bumps, mostly around the eye area, that appear as tiny white balls of hardened oil. Learn more about bumps on your skin and what they could be.
The idea here is that anything that is raised and protrudes from the skin’s surface cannot be concealed with foundation makeup no matter how much you try. Clogged pores that appear as bumps will remain until you remove the blockage from the pore. Until then, they will make the skin look less-than-smooth.
You May Not Want to Go to the Effort of Cleaning Your Pores If…
- You have flat blackheads that do not protrude from the skin’s surface.
It’s important to accept that blackheads are a fact of life for most people—especially on the nose area. There are very few people who escape this life without them. You can get them extracted and use products to help keep them away for a while but, slowly but surely, they creep back up. The ongoing effort may not be worth it when an easy solution is to apply a little foundation makeup to conceal the black color. This should make them barely noticeable without you having to jump through hoops to keep them away. When they are protruding out of the skin into a raised bump, that’s a different story. Finally, those blackheads on your nose and chin might actually be sebaceous filaments.
How to Get Your Pores Clean
If you have blackheads or clogged pores that protrude and cause the surface of your skin to appear uneven, here’s how to get rid of them.
First, Get Manual Extractions
You can do them yourself or find a trusted esthetician who can remove them for you. This is the very best place to start because as much as skincare companies want you to believe it, products will NOT remove them. Nor will a sonic cleansing brush like Clarisonic, or any pore clearing strip for that matter. When there is a blockage of hardened oil that is impacted deep in the pore, it must be gently extracted out. Depending on how quickly they come back or how many of them you have, you may need to get this done every two weeks for a while until you can get ahead of them.
Is a deep pore cleansing facial not in the budget? Make an appointment at an esthetics school where estheticians are being trained. Or, try cleaning out your pores yourself.
Once Cleaned Out, Regularly Use the Pore-Clearing Ingredient Salicylic Acid
Once you’ve extracted blockages from your pores, you want to prevent them from getting filled up again. To do this, you’ll then want to use an ingredient that can penetrate into the pore lining to keep pores clean. Salicylic acid is excellent for doing this because it’s an oil-soluble, keratolytic beta hydroxy acid (BHA) famous for its ability to help clear out and dissolve impurities.
For the best results, use salicylic acid in ‘leave-on’ products
- Serums. Products like BHA Clarifying Serum or Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum can be used three nights a week as part of your nightly routine to help keep pores clear. What makes these products exceptional is that they offer additional benefits such as lifting away discoloration and making pores look smaller. Because of this, you can use them all over the face, not just on clogged areas. These both contain salicylic acid, so you’ll just want to make sure you’re using the right one for your skin type. Take this Skin Type Quiz to find the right exfoliating serum for you.
- Acid toners. People can over-do it with these so you have to go easy. However, wiping it on clogged areas several times a week can be helpful. (Read my thoughts on acid toning.)
- Masks. Even though they are rinsed off after 5-20 minutes, they can still be effective since they do get a chance to get absorbed into the pores. Rapid Response Detox Masque is a great mask to use because it’s non-drying, which is key for preventing future clogged pores. You NEVER want to dry out skin that’s prone to clogged pores. If you do, the dead skin cell buildup caused by doing so will trap dirt and oil underneath, leading to even worse clogged pores.
- Peels. Like a mask, they will be rinsed off after 5-10 minutes but are very effective when used regularly. Triple Berry Smoothing Peel can be used once a week and is excellent for clearing and preventing clogged pores.
Salicylic acid in these products won’t be as effective
- Cleansers. Since this is a product that is put on and rinsed right off, it just doesn’t have a lot of time to work. Although salicylic acid-based cleansers that contain exfoliating beads will be more effective for ingredient penetration.
- Acne spot treatments. These are usually combined with drying ingredients meant to heal up the blemish infection. Over-drying the skin is the last thing you want to prevent clogged pores from coming back.
Long-Term Use of Topica Vitamin A Can Help Make Pores Smaller
One of the many benefits of vitamin A (retinol and retinoids) is that when used faithfully and for a long period of time, it can actually shrink the pores and get them to appear smaller. This, in turn, will make clogged pores and blackheads have less room in the pore lining to fill up. Incorporating a prescription retinoid will give you the fastest results but you will experience side effects like dryness and peeling. A gentler version of retinol can be a good place to start. Read my beginner’s guide to retinol and retinoids.
I know we all want a quick fix solution but unfortunately, this just isn’t possible when it comes to clogged pores. Keeping pores clear and free of debris takes work. If you’ve been trying everything and nothing has worked, please start by getting the pores cleaned out first. It’s truly the best way to get results. I hope you found this helpful in your quest for how to get your pores clean. No easy task, I know!
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”