Pores: we’ve all got them, and for some of us, they’re the bane of our existences.
They’re like magnets for dirt, oil and other nasty buildup that accumulates throughout the day.
And despite how easily they pick up debris, they can be surprisingly tricky to clean.
So is there a trick to getting those smooth, tiny, nearly invisible pores?
Read on to find out the best ways to clean your pores and get the complexion you dream of.
What Is a Pore?
Pores are tiny holes in your skin that allow the oil and sweat your body produces to escape. Many of them also contain hair follicles.
Your entire body is covered in sweat pores, which are extremely small and rarely appear large or clogged.
Oil pores, though not as numerous as sweat pores, are the real troublemakers. These larger pores are responsible for releasing sebum, the natural oil your body produces to protect your skin.
It’s these oil pores that cause so many skincare complaints. They’re normally more visible than sweat pores, but they’re also more likely to become clogged or inflamed, making them look even bigger and rougher.
What Causes Clogged Pores?
A pore’s hole-like shape makes it very effective at the one thing you don’t want it doing: accumulating buildup.
Pores normally expel buildup on their own with no issues. But sometimes they don’t, and the result is unsightly, unhealthy clogged pores.
Oil and sweat can become trapped in your pores, as can dead skin cells. Environmental debris like dirt and dust can also get stuck in your pores.
Buildup is more likely to get stuck in pores that have an accompanying hair follicle, but any pore can become clogged if it’s exposed to enough grime.
That’s why people with oily skin tend to have more clogged pores: they produce so much oil that the pores’ self-cleaning process can’t keep up.
How Can I Minimize My Pores?
Buildup isn’t the only thing that can make your pores look enlarged. So what can you do if you don’t have clogged pores but still want to minimize them?
Well, poor skin chemistry and a lack of collagen can also make your pores look large. Sun damage can also be a factor.
If your pores are clear but still look too big, try using a pore-minimizing toner after cleansing. Toner restores your skin’s normal pH, gives you a subtle glow and makes your pores look smaller.
Collagen is the protein that gives your skin, including your pores, its shape. As you age, you produce less of it, so using an oral or topical collagen supplement can give your skin enough of a boost to shrink the appearance of your pores.
And collagen loss is often caused by sun exposure, so wearing sunscreen every day can make a dramatic difference in the size of your pores over the long term.
The Right Way to Clean Pores: 7 Easy Methods
If your pores are clogged, blocked or plugged, you’ll need to clean them out to make them look their best. Here are the best ways to remove buildup from your pores.
Pore strips are adhesive, bandage-like patches that clean pores by physically lifting buildup out of them.
They’re especially effective against blackheads — the dark clogs that form when buildup accumulates in a pore and remains exposed to the air. Since blackheads aren’t closed off at the top, the pore strip can stick to them easily.
Pore strips are applied to wet skin and left on for 5 to 10 minutes. The adhesive bonds to the oil, dirt and dead skin in your pores and pulls it away when you peel the strip off.
Unfortunately, pore strips aren’t suitable for sensitive skin, and they’re not effective at clearing clogged pores that are closed-off at the top. But if blackheads are holding you back from having clean pores, pore strips could be just what you need.
Most dermatologists recommend exfoliating your skin once or twice a week, and for good reason: it’s one of the best ways to clean your pores and brighten your skin.
Your skin is made up of cells that are constantly multiplying and dying. When cells die, they often remain on the skin’s surface, causing a dull, rough appearance.
Even worse, they can end up in your pores, where they accumulate into clogs. And acne-causing bacteria love to eat dead skin cells, so if dead skin gets trapped in your pores, a breakout is sure to follow.
But exfoliation removes your dead skin cells, revealing smooth and bright new skin along with small, clear pores.
There are two main types of exfoliants: physical exfoliants (often called scrubs) and chemical exfoliants. Physical exfoliants contain sugar, beads or other particles that physically remove dead skin cells, while chemical exfoliants dissolve the bonds between the cells and your skin.
You can use either type of exfoliant to give your pores a deep clean and make them look like new. Just don’t overdo it or you could end up damaging your skin — the drier your skin, the less frequently you should exfoliate.
Charcoal Face Masks
Activated charcoal is renowned for its filtration and toxin-removing properties. It’s found in fish tank filters, range hoods and even hospitals (where it’s used to absorb poisons from the stomach).
And charcoal’s powers are also effective on your pores.
A charcoal face mask bonds to dirt in your pores much like a pore strip does. Unlike pore strips, though, the charcoal draws out toxins from the deeper layers of your skin for a more thorough cleanse.
Once you remove the mask, your pores will instantly look smaller and cleaner.
You can buy charcoal face masks from most drugstores and beauty supply stores, or you can make your own with activated charcoal powder from a natural food store.
Mix 1 tablespoon each of activated charcoal powder and aloe vera gel, then add a drop of tea tree oil. Apply the mask to your face, leave it on for 10 minutes, then rinse it off.
Retinol is well-known for its anti-aging effects. But it’s also an effective way to give your pores a deep clean that lasts for a long time.
That’s because retinol makes your dead skin cells less sticky, so they’re less likely to get stuck in your pores or attract other gunk.
Retinol also encourages rapid cell turnover, so your skin pushes more dead skin cells out of your pores. This results in long-term pore shrinking and a smoother complexion.
You’ll need to be patient when incorporating retinol into your routine, as it can take 6 weeks or more to see results. It’s also important to start with a very low concentration (0.01% to 0.025%) of retinol to avoid severe skin irritation.
Also known as pimple poppers, comedone extractors are handy tools to have if you frequently experience clogged pores.
Consisting of a handle with a small wire loop at the end, a comedone extractor is simple to use. Just place the loop around your clogged pore, then press it gently into your skin to release the buildup in the pore.
Some comedone extractors also have a small, sharp tip that can be used to poke a hole in a closed-off pore, allowing the buildup to come out. Be careful when doing this, though, as you can easily poke a hole that’s too deep or in the wrong spot, leaving your skin open to infection.
You may have heard of facial steamers under another name: facial saunas, the term used by spas.
Whatever they’re called, they rely on steam to open up your pores and loosen the buildup. Additionally, the hot steam causes you to sweat, pushing gunk out of your sweat pores as well as your oil pores.
At-home facial steamers are inexpensive and easy to use: just fill them with water and hold your face over the steam for a few minutes. Then wipe your face off and see what a difference a little steam can make for your pores.
If you get frequent blackheads, a pore vacuum could be a great investment for you.
A pore vacuum is a small handheld device that uses suction to pull blackheads out of your pores. It’s also effective against whiteheads (closed-off clogged pores) as long as the buildup is very close to the surface.
Using a pore vacuum couldn’t be simpler. Just turn it on and move it across your face in long, smooth strokes, making sure to pass the tip over your blackheads so it can work its magic.
You’ll literally see your pores get cleaned out right before your eyes. It’s one of the quickest ways to get rid of blackheads and leave your pores small, smooth and squeaky-clean.