Clogged Pores

How to Get Rid of Clogged Pores on Your Face

It happens to all of us…the buildup of dreaded blackheads and whiteheads on your face, especially around the nose. We all end up with clogged pores at some point in time. What to do? In an effort to figure out how to get rid of clogged pores on your face, I did some research (of course) and came up with several options. But first…what the heck IS a pore and why do they get clogged in the first place?

The Anatomy of a Pore

The pores we see (and many we don’t) are simply hair follicles with openings where the hair comes out of the skin’s surface. Deep TunnelThink of a hair follicle as a tall tunnel with the hair sticking up from the skin on one end, and on the other is the hair root deep below the top layer (epidermis) of the skin. Attached to these tunnels below the surface of the skin are glands that produce oil and sweat. Sebaceous (oil) glands produce sebum, an oily substance secreted along the hair shaft and onto the skin. This keeps the hair and skin from drying out and will protect against some bacteria.

Skin that is healthy repels water and bacteria and acts as a protective barrier against the outside environment. Skin that is too dry can break down and allow bacteria in, which leads to infection. Sweat glands produce sweat to cool us off (or when we are nervous). Some sweat glands are located in hair follicles, and some stand alone, both will release sweat directly to the surface of the skin.

In addition to all that oil and sweat pouring out of our pores, we also have dead skins cells adding to the mix. Why? Because we are always shedding the outer layer of our skin to prepare for the new one to rise to the top.

Now, add in dirt, makeup, bad skin care routines, pollution…and you have clogged pores! Maybe even acne.

But even if you are super careful, wash your face every day, maybe even use some special facial masks, you will probably still have some clogged pores. That’s life, nobody gets a free ride, life is unfair, aww…you get my drift.

But don’t give up. There are some options you can add to your daily/weekly routine to minimize the problem of clogged pores.

Minimize and Tackle

First, let’s get one thing straight. This is not a “one and done” process, this is a maintenance/beauty regimen. Otherwise, that would be like trying to figure out how to wash your face once and never have to do it again.

There are two basic ways to deal with clogged pores – minimize the likelihood of causing them in the first place and tackle the problem once it has occurred. Let’s get started.

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Let's Get Started

Keep It Clean

1.  Wash Your Face 

Wash your face twice a day, in the morning and before bed. Should be obvious, right? WashYeah, but believe it or not, there are people who don’t. You know who you are…do NOT go to bed with make up on your face – EVER. Make sure to completely clean your face of all makeup, either by using a makeup remover first and then washing, or by washing with a good facial cleanser first and then using a cotton pad saturated with a toner or witch hazel (this is what I do).

2.  Exfoliate

Use gentle exfoliation to remove dirt and oils, frequency depends on skin sensitivity and what method you are using, most recommendations are once or twice a week no matter what you choose. Starting with a clean face (you don’t want to push more dirt into your pores) you can use a facial scrub or try a facial cleansing brush to remove dead skin cells and leave your face feeling shiny and new.

Facial Cleansing Brush

The only reason I lean toward using the facial cleansing brush is because I tend to get a little too vigorous with a facial scrub and leave my skin red, dry, and irritated. I use the Remington Reveal about twice a week and have been very happy with it. It has a timer to tell you when to switch to a different part of your face so you don’t overdo it, which is perfect for me so I don’t have to think about it.

3.  Facial Masks

Another option you can use is a facial mask. You can do-it-yourself with your own homemade facials or you can buy one.

One of my favorite DIY masks is the Egg White with toilet paper. I know, sounds funny, but I can tell you it does remove stuff from your pores and after you wash off the mask, your face feels oh so soft. (See my post on homemade facials).

I am also a huge fan of clay masks, they are better suited for those with normal to oily skin. The one I have been using contains bentonite clay, which is the type of clay a lot of dermatologists recommend.

Clay Facial Mask

Clay masks are known to lift dirt and remove excess oil from your skin as they dry. You will probably not see a large difference after one treatment, but your face will feel refreshed and smooth.

4.  Know Your Skin Type

You want to choose skin care products to help minimize excessive oil production (but don’t DRY OUT your face). If you can reduce oil production, you can reduce clogged pores. And if you’ve been slathering on rich moisturizers like raw shea butter or coconut oil because you love the way it feels, great; but if you have oily or acne prone skin, this may not be the best choice. Buy the products that are right for your skin type.

5.  Use Non Comedogenic (non-clogging) Skin Care Products

Some products contain ingredients that are known to clog your pores, stay away from them and you will minimize the problem. There is an old article on PubMed that is still relevant today, it lists a whole bunch of ingredients that are known to clog your pores and are found in many products, too many to show here, but the big ones are PPG-2, lanolin, and red dyes, especially those used in blush (which may explain blemishes or acne if you break out primarily on this part of your face). If you’d like to research the ingredients in your products, try checking out Skin Salvations database, they have hundreds of ingredients you can look up to see if your skin care products could be the reason your pores are overflowing.

Salicylic Acid and Extraction – The Big Guns

Ladies with guns

6.  Salicylic Acid

If you have acne and/or a more difficult case of clogged pores, you may want to consider using a product containing salicylic acid, which has the ability to penetrate the oil in clogged pores and break down the “gunk”. It removes old skin cells and encourages a new layer of skin to develop resulting in a supple, more even appearance.

Tree Bark

Most salicylic acid found in products today is artificially produced, however, it can be derived from a plant source, which is what most all natural and/or organic skin care companies will tell you they use. Salicylic acid is primarily known to come from the bark of the Willow tree, and it is found in several other plants. You may be more familiar with its chemical cousin acetylsalicylic acid, aka aspirin, but don’t go smearing aspirin all over your face, it is most definitely not the same thing. If you choose to attack your clogged pores with this type of “chemical warfare”, here are a few words of caution about salicylic acid –

  • it can be synthetically produced or a natural plant derived ingredient (but it takes a lot of processing to get it into the form found in most skin care products), choose your product carefully
  • it is usually recommended for oily, acne-prone skin, so it can be hard on dry skin
  • it comes in different concentrations (usually around 2 percent), some mild enough to use frequently, others strong enough for a facial peel, so know what you are buying and test first
  • speaking of testing, some people can have an allergic reaction (just saying folks), so don’t dive into a bottle before you test it out. Side effects can include shortness of breath, stuffy nose, itching, headaches, and stomach pain (yikes!), what we won’t do to be beautiful.

7.  Extraction

The last option for unclogging your pores is the manual process – extraction – physically squeezing the clog out of your pores one at a time.


I don’t know anybody who hasn’t done this one out of desperation. But there is a right way and a wrong way, otherwise, you could be damaging your skin. If you are up for this method, then you can check out a step-by-step process written by Esthetician Renée Rouleau. Basically, she recommends lots of moisturizer, plastic wrap, a warm face, and the proper approach, nothing too magical about it, but if you’re going to do it, choose the safe way, please.

Some Final Thoughts…

Now that you know how to get rid of clogged pores on your face, if you are anything like me, you may be tempted to try all of the masks, scrubs, cleansing brush, salicylic acid, and extraction at the same time. Don’t do it! You do not want to go too crazy all at once because you’ll damage your skin. Try one, see how it goes, wait a few days in between (or more) before trying another. This will give your skin a chance to rest and recover. You’ll eventually find the right methods and frequency that is right for you, and that will leave your skin happy and clean. Let me know if you have tried any of the above ideas and what you think by leaving a comment below.

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