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The Best Way To Unclog Your Pores at Home

woman applying a pore strip on her nose


Only the very lucky are unfamiliar with the struggle of clogged pores. They’re a super common skin complaint, and they’re often easy to spot. Clogged pores tend to result in whiteheads, blackheads and other types of acne. But even if you don’t suffer from breakouts, you might notice from time to time that your skin looks a bit more dull and tired than usual despite your skincare routine.

Especially if you’ve moved recently, it’s possible that a change in water type or in the level of air pollution might be clogging your pores and causing your glow to fade a bit. However, your clogged pores express themselves; it’s safe to say that we can all agree that getting rid of them is the only course of action!

If expensive facials and professional treatments aren’t in your budget, won’t fit into your schedule or you’re just more of a DIY kind of person, there are several things you can add to your skincare routine to help deal with clogged pores and to improve your complexion overall.

What Causes Clogged Pores?

The best place to start when it comes to dealing with any skincare complaint is getting a good understanding of the underlying issues causing your problem in the first place.

While there are probably some ingredients or products that will work for a variety of different skin problems or things you could shift to improve your skin health overall, the best course of action is to get a full picture of what you’re dealing with so that the problem you’re facing doesn’t recur – and also to ensure you don’t inadvertently make your skin worse!

Your pores can become clogged with dead skin cells when they build up on the surface of your skin without being shed. They can also get clogged with oil if your sebaceous glands produce too much or if your facial cleansing routine isn’t quite hitting the mark. It’s also possible for your pores to become clogged with dirt and grime.

While it’s totally normal for your face to come into contact with any of these things, if your skincare routine isn’t quite working for you, or if there’s something out of balance, they can get into your pores and can lead to breakouts.

Why Do My Pores Look Huge?

It’s also possible that you’ve noticed your pores appear larger. While the size of your pores never really changes, they can look bigger when they get stuffed up, as this can make them more noticeable. So if you’re looking to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores — you’re most likely actually just looking to unclog them.

Build-up Can Be a Culprit

The build-up of grossness that can clog your pores can occur for several different reasons. If you have naturally oily skin, it’s possible that the excess of oil is causing the problem and could be the cause of your breakouts. On the flip side, if you have oily skin you’ve tried to improve by stripping your skin with a particularly fierce cleanser, your skin might actually have become dry and be producing extra oil to try and balance things out — which only results in more breakouts. So finding a healthy in-between when it comes to cleansing your skin appropriately and drying it out is key!

Skin cells can also build up on your face if you don’t exfoliate regularly. While our skin cells naturally shed and replace themselves, if you don’t exfoliate, it’s possible that your dead skin cells have built up on the surface of your skin and end up clogging your pores.

Environmental Factors Can Affect Your Skin

Another common culprit when it comes to clogged pores is environmental factors like air pollution, airborne toxins and even the hardness of your water. Depending on where you live, your water can be hard or soft. Harder water is, as it sounds, a bit harsher on your system than soft water — so if you’ve noticed your pores seeming a bit more clogged than usual, and you’ve recently moved, your water might be partly to blame!

Once you have a better idea of what might be causing your clogged pores, there are some adjustments you can make to your routine to help brighten up your complexion and get you back to the sort of skin that looks like the full-time Instagram filter we all deserve.

While these problems can be improved by making the appropriate adjustments to your skincare routine (more on this in a minute!), it's important to be mindful when making those changes and to look carefully at the ingredients in the products you’re keeping in your lineup — not just when it comes to skincare, but when it comes to makeup, too. Certain ingredients are more comedogenic than others, which is to say, prone to clogging your pores!

So it’s possible that your clogged pores are caused by a cosmetic or skincare product that isn’t playing nice with your skin type.

Step One: Evaluate Your Skincare Routine

The first step is really just to take stock of what you’re putting on your skin. Especially if you’re into skincare or makeup, it’s easy to let your routine balloon over time without truly realizing it. You might be surprised by the number of products you’re applying to your face regularly or by how few of them are actually non-comedogenic, which means that they’re formulated so as not to clog your pores!

To get your complexion and texture back on track, you’ll want to pare back your routine to its simplest parts, to begin with. Even if you’d ultimately like to be using a bunch of serums and treatments to give your skin all of the pampering it deserves, it’s important to get back to basics and reintroduce products one by one, so you can see how each one affects your skin. By doing this gradually, you’ll notice right away if reintroducing a certain cream or serum leads to an outbreak of whiteheads and be able to eliminate that from your lineup once and for all.

But before we get to that phase, let’s talk about the simplest version of your routine to help you get your complexion glowing again.

Step Two: Cleanse

To get started, how you wash your face is the most important thing for unclogging your pores. Especially if you think the culprit when it comes to your poorly pores is pollution or oiliness, you’ll want to be sure you’re washing your face twice a day with an appropriate cleanser.

The trick here is to ensure that your cleanser is tough enough to give your pores a good deep clean, but not so tough that it strips your skin of essential oils and moisture, leaving it dry and causing your pores to produce even more oil to compensate. Our Clear Skin Cleansing Bar is a great option if you’re prone to oily skin and breakouts, as it’s formulated with Salicylic Acid, which is great for balancing out your skin’s oil production.

In addition to choosing the right cleanser and washing your face twice a day, you’ll want to use lukewarm water. While it’s tempting, especially in the colder months, to get your water as warm as you can tolerate, this actually can strip your skin’s natural oils, leaving you high and dry no matter what cleanser you use. On the other hand, if your water is too cold, it’ll cause your pores to constrict and close, which definitely won’t help clear them out.

Step Three: Exfoliate

Exfoliation is a key step to keep in your routine regarding how to unclog pores! There are two different ways to go about exfoliating your skin. Which one you use is just down to personal preference and skin sensitivity. If you already have an exfoliator you’re happy with and you’re confident it’s not causing your breakouts, you can continue using it. But in case you aren’t already exfoliating, let’s talk about the two different types.

The first, more traditional type of exfoliation is the physical kind. This means an abrasive scrub that physically helps remove dead skin cells and any other grimy buildup that’s gathering on the surface of your skin and getting into your pores. Physical exfoliants could be something like a loofah — although loofahs are perhaps a bit too rough to use on your face, so we just mean this as an example! — or it could be ingredients in an exfoliating wash or scrub, such as coffee, salt or something like jojoba beads.

Working a physical exfoliant like our Purifying 2-in-1 Pumpkin Pore Detox Mask & Scrub into your daily routine can really help restore your glow and prime your pores for the rest of your routine!

Alternatively, you could use a chemical exfoliant. Chemical exfoliants basically do the same thing as physical exfoliants, except that they accomplish this with (surprise, surprise) chemicals. Look for exfoliants with Alpha Hydroxy Acids like our Clear & Even tone Clarifying Glycolic Pads formulated with Glycolic Acid or Beta Hydroxy Acids, like Salicylic Acid.

Step Four: Moisturize

This is the third necessary step in a basic skincare routine. If you feel like your clogged pores are caused by oily skin, it might be tempting to skimp on moisturizing to allow your skin to dry out. But as we pointed out when we talked about washing your face, if your skin gets too dry, it’ll just circle back to being oily again. It’s all about balance!

We recommend rolling your moisturizing and SPF protection into one simple step with our ShineBlock™ Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30 to keep things simple while your skin is recovering. Essentially, if you’re paring back your skincare routine to make sure everything your using is doing its job and nothing is causing problems, steps two, three and four are not to be missed! Be sure to use SPF in the day time and use a moisturizer at night.

But when you’re thinking about expanding your skincare lineup, or if you feel like you need a little extra help when it comes to how to unclog your pores.

Step Five: Improving Pore Appearance

You can look for products that are specifically intended to improve the appearance of your pores! There are a lot of options when it comes to clogged pores. While we do recommend keeping it simple and choosing one or two specific products rather than throwing everything at your pores at once, you’ll have to do some research and possibly some trial and error to figure out what’s best for you.

This could be pore strips if your blackheads or clogged pores are localized in a certain area like your nose. It could also be a serum, like our Reti-Glow Gentle Resurfacing Night Oil, that includes Bakuchiol, which has a similar effect to Retinol in how it helps to refresh and resurface your skin.

Another great option to help reduce the appearance of your pores is by using a mask once or twice a week. That way, you’re treating the problem without overwhelming your skin. Our Even Tone Smooth & Glow Enzyme Mask is great for combatting pore congestion and brightening your complexion overall!

In Conclusion

Clogged or enlarged pores are the worst when they’re the only thing standing between you and glowing, flawless skin. But with some easy adjustments to your skincare routine and some mindfulness when it comes to the products you’re applying to your face, you can get your glow back quickly and easily while smoothing the texture of your skin from the comfort of your own home.

By: Ivey Rogers Aesthetician Educator & Community
Engagement Manager