…..and have fresh, clean-looking skin!
Did you know that not every clogged pore is a black head?
Sometimes the “dark stuff” you see in your pores is a collection of what pores naturally secrete (oil and dead skin cells) mixed with a lot of normal skin germs.
Other times, that black stuff in your pore is a true blackhead, meaning it’s a hard plug of dead skin cells that have gotten stuck in the pore, just like a cork stuck in a bottle. Most of the time, this is due to acne.
Sometimes, however, the hardened blackhead-looking material is due to little milia cysts that have opened up, creating the appearance of blackheads.
If you have clogged pores, then just washing your skin won’t get the pores cleaned. Whether you have blackheads or not, you’ll need special products and some simple treatments to get that stuff out of your pores so that your skin looks clean, healthy and beautiful.
The good news is that you can do a lot of effective skin treatments yourself, without seeing a doctor … but, a warning, this topic is a little gross.
Steps to clean and unclog your pores to get your skin looking its best!
I’m dividing my instructions into unclogging pores without blackheads, and unclogging pores with blackheads.
Cleaning Out Your Clogged Pores That Don’t Have Blackheads
This involves giving your skin a regular good cleaning and an occasional gentle massage to release the pore contents (yes, this sounds gross).
The first step is cleansing in a way that gets deeper into your pores. The best and simplest way to do this is with the regular use of the Clarisonic brush and a gentle cleanser. The sonic waves oscillate to get cleanser deep into your pores with a gentle pulsating and massaging action. You may want to use a slightly gentler cleanser than you normally use because cleansers can be irritating and they will penetrate more deeply into your skin when you use them with the Clarisonic.
Click here to see the Clarisonic Mia 2. This is the most popular and economical Clarisonic Brush System in my practice. The Mia 2 is designed specially for facial cleansing and has 2 speed settings.
Click here to see the Clarisonic Smart Profile. The Smart Profile can be used for facial and body cleansing. It has four speeds, a unique intuitive technology to automatically adjust the brush heads, and an amplified turbo setting capable of cleaning 11 times better than using cleanser and your hands alone!
We are Clarisonic obsessed here in my dermatology office because everyday we see what a difference it makes in so many people’s complexions and in the effectiveness of their skin care routines.
“I even have my husband using it.”
Cheryl M, Gualala CA
What are the best cleansers to use with your Clarisonic?
Complexions with normal to sensitive skin
Gentle cleansers are what I recommend. My top choice is my Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser. For extremely sensitive skin, I recommend Toleriane Cleanser or a hypoallergenic and unscented simple glycerin bar soap (my favorite is Whole Foods 365 brand).
Complexions that are tolerant and normal to oily
Normal strength cleansers, including those with exfoliating ingredients, can be used. Options include the Daily Foaming Facial Cleanser or a cleanser with glycolic acid such as the Glycolic Acid Face and Body Wash.
Acne-prone skin benefits from the combination of glycolic and salicylic acids.
The salicylic acid penetrates into oily pore debris and the glycolic acid is better at breaking apart the plugs of cells. Together, they are a synergistic one-two punch against blackheads. My Foaming Acne Treatment Cleanser is a great option with just the right combination of these two ideal ingredients to clean out clogged pores.
Additional tips on using the Clarisonic to unclog clogged pores:
If you wear makeup, I recommend cleansing first with your favorite makeup remover or a Hypoallergenic Bar Soap to remove the day’s product and makeup. Rinse well, and then follow up with the Clarisonic and your gentle cleanser to deeply clean your pores.
If you have extremely large pores, use my Naturally Hydrating Pore Minimizing Toner after cleansing with the Clarisonic. This toner is made with natural ingredients and tightens pores to help refine their appearance.
“I’m loving these products better than anything I have ever tried, and I have tried them all!”
What role does exfoliation play in cleaning your pores?
Exfoliation removes surface dead cells which build up on your skin. The thicker the build-up, the deeper and bigger your pores look. You can exfoliate simply using a Facial Buf Puf Sponge. This will help remove stubborn dead skin cells and debris from the surface of your skin so your cleanser can get a little bit farther into your pores. Use one of the cleansers I mentioned and cleanse your skin with a very gentle massaging motion.
Aside from skin cleansing, what can be done to remove clogged pore plugs?
If your pores still don’t appear empty and clean after several weeks of deep cleansing with the Clarisonic or Buf Puf sponge, then the process can be helped along with a little gentle manual massage to get the stuff out (yes, we’re back to the gross part). The process is called manual extraction.
To understand the concept, think of your pores like little tubes of tooth paste, filled with the stuff they secrete (oil and cells that look dark and dirty inside your pores) instead of toothpaste. Normally, this stuff comes out on its own, but it can be hurried along with a little gentle squeeze. This photo sort of gives you the idea… Manual extraction is what an aesthetician does during a facial. VERY GENTLY, the skin is compressed between your fingers in a small area. By pushing the skin together, the pores are compressed and the the pore contents squeeze out like toothpaste in a tube!
For example, gently pinching together about 1/2 inch of skin on your nose will cause the material in the pores to come out if it’s soft and ready. It’s important that the skin never be pinched so hard that it becomes injured or bruised.
Of course, the best way to do this is to have a regular facial by a good aesthetician, and let them take care of the pore cleaning and extractions. They even have a little instrument that does a really good job on stubborn pores.
Getting a facial every 6 to 8 weeks is ideal to keeping pores really clean.
How to Unclog Your Clogged Pores That Have Blackheads
Whether the stuff in the pores are truly blackheads, or just normal secretions that have hardened up over time and are acting like blackheads, it’s important to use products called keratolytics to soften them.
Keratolytics loosen the material that holds the dead cells into a firm plug inside your pores. The ingredients in skin care products that are keratolytics include:
- glycolic acid
- benzoyl peroxide
- salicylic acid
- retinoids like tretinoin in Retin A
The simplest treatment is to use a keratolytic in a cleanser form to wash your skin. They’ll be extra effective if you use them with the Clarisonic Smart Profile.
If your pores are badly clogged, then you’re going to need to use a leave-on keratolytic product, too.
These include gels, lotions and creams. I recommend picking products with one or more of these keratolytic ingredients and using them according to the instructions for about one month. By softening the material in the pores, your body may be able to gradually dissolve the plug. You may also be able to then get it to come out with the gentle massage technique I mentioned above. My favorite keratolytic options include my:
Ultimate Acne Solutions Acne Kits for classic and teenage acne
Glytone Mild Gel Wash and Exfoliating Lotion for acne and or anti-aging skin concerns
A great option is to use the glycolic acid or acne products during the day, and your favorite cleanser with the Clarisonic at night followed by application of a Retinol Cream.
If keratolytics don’t unclog your pores, then you’re going to need professional help to get your clogged pores cleaned up. A series of facials that include extractions done every 6 weeks is good for most people. For really tough clogged pores, it may be necessary to have medical extractions done in a dermatology office by the doctor or the nurse.
It is important to know that if you’re prone to blackheads, you’re going to need to continue using your keratolytic products and the Buf Puf or Clarisonic System to keep new blackheads from forming again. Unclogging clogged pores is an ongoing project!
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What’s the bottom line for how to unclog your clogged pores?
My product choices to keep pores clean and healthy for people prone to clogged pores:
If you have acne prone or tough oily skin,I recommend my Ultimate Acne Solutions Skin Care Kits, which contain all three of the best non-prescription pore-cleaning AND acne fighting ingredients.
If your skin needs exfoliation, but isn’t prone to pimples (pustules), I like glycolic acid products to keep the pores clean and unclogged. You’ll get anti-aging benefits from using glycolic acid, too.
Another option for normal complexions with clogged pores is to combine my Glycolic Acid Face and Body Wash with my Glycolic Acid Face Cream during the day and Retinol Cream at night. This will help fight aging skin concerns such as age spots, crepey skin and wrinkles, too.
If you have acne-prone skin but are allergic to salicylic acid or have skin that is too sensitive for glycolic acid, I use products with benzoyl peroxide alone to unclog pores for this combination of skin issues. Wash with the benzoyl peroxide foaming cleanser:
If you also need a leave-on benzoyl peroxide product to fight blackheads and pimples use:
Remember, you also want to use either the Facial Buf Puf Sponge, or better yet, the Clarisonic Sonic Cleansing System to get your cleansers deeper into your pores.
Lastly, if you have clogged pores on your back and chest, I recommend my Back Acne Kit.
Always know that there are at-home and professional tricks to unclogging your clogged pores. If your pores aren’t getting fully unclogged with the ideas and products I just mentioned, then schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. You may also need prescription products and professional skin care treatments to really unclog stubborn pores.
For my patients who need prescription products to unclog their pores, I usually prescribe tretinoin/Retin A. Professional procedures like mild chemical peels will help to control clogged pores, too. Talk to your skin care professional to see if you are a good candidate for these procedures.
Clogged pores are frustrating and common. No one likes them. But with the right products and techniques, it’s possible to have clean, healthy looking pores, and great looking skin that you’re proud of!