The Ultimate Guide to Pore Cleaning for All Skin Types The Ultimate Guide to Pore Cleaning for All Skin Types

Skincare

The Ultimate Guide to Pore Cleaning for All Skin Types

January 03, 2024

14 min read

Soft, glowy, flawless skin starts with a good clean – and that means making sure your skincare products clean deep into your pores. 

Your task? To clean pores and make sure you’re only using skincare products won’t clog them in the first place.

But here’s the thing: pore cleaning methods and best practices vary greatly depending on your skin type. What works wonders for your bestie’s oily skin might just end up irritating your dry, sensitive skin, and vice versa. So if you’re gonna put together a streamlined yet hardworking skincare routine that cleans your pores both now and long-term, you’ve gotta do this right.

Read on for a custom pore-cleaning plan based on your skin type.

TL;DR: Pore Cleaning Recommendations by Skin Type

Oily Skin

Dry Skin

Combination Skin

Normal Skin

Sensitive Skin

Mature Skin

General Pore Cleaning Tips

Pore Cleaning & Maintenance by Skin Type

Skin Type

Cleanser Type

Exfoliation Type & Frequency

Special Treatments & Products

Moisturizer Type

Additional Tips

Oily Skin

Gentle foaming or gel cleanser

Chemical exfoliation, no more than twice a week

Clay masks 1-2x weekly

Water-based, oil-free moisturizer

Avoid oil-based products & overdrying

Dry Skin

Hydrating, non-foaming cleanser

Gentle exfoliation, once a week

Hydrating masks once a week

Rich, hydrating moisturizer

Avoid alcohol-based products and astringents

Normal Skin

Balanced, gentle cleanser

Mild exfoliation once or twice a week

Regular face masks suitable for normal skin

Lightweight moisturizer

Wear sunscreen, okay?

Combination Skin

Very mild cleanser

Targeted exfoliation, once a week

Targeted masks

Gel, serum, or lotion moisturizer

Treat different areas as needed

Sensitive Skin

Fragrance-free, gentle cleanser

Mild exfoliation, once every 2 weeks

Physical sun block, calming masks

Hypoallergenic moisturizer formulated for sensitive skin

Start with the basics, introduce other products slowly

Mature Skin

Gentle, hydrating cleanser

Gentle exfoliation, once a week

Retinols, sonic facial cleansing brush 

Nourishing, anti-aging moisturizer

Skin gets drier with age – focus on hydration


Oily skin

Pore cleaning is often one of the biggest woes of people who have oily skin. Oily skin is characterized by an excess of sebum, a natural skin oil that protects and hydrates healthy skin. Too much sebum often leads to acne and clogged pores. And the biggest mistake people with oily skin often make is overdrying their skin – signaling to the body that it needs to produce even MORE sebum to compensate.

So, the trick is to find skincare products that deep clean pores without drying out your skin and making the problem worse. Here’s how to clean clogged pores for oily skin.

Pore-cleaning cleansers for oily skin:

The right oily skin pore-cleaning routine starts with the right cleanser. Use a gentle, oil-free, non-comedogenic (a fancy word for “won’t clog pores”) cleanser morning and night.

Foaming washes are often able to get deeper into pores to remove dirt, oil, and makeup than creamier solutions can. A gel cleanser may also be a good option if you find foaming cleansers too drying. Just avoid harsh washes that leave the skin feeling dry and tight, and cleansing oils (unless you’re using the double cleansing method and following with a gel or foaming cleanser!)

Exfoliants:

Exfoliating is key for any pore-cleaning routine, but it’s a must for oily skin. Exfoliants remove oil, debris, and dead skin cells that clog your pores. Consider a chemical exfoliator featuring look for oily-skin-friendly active ingredients like glycolic acid or salicylic acid.

Too much of a good thing doesn’t work here – over-exfoliating can dry out oily skin. Only exfoliate twice a week at the most. If you notice your skin feels dry or tight, scale down to once a week and work up to exfoliating more frequently.

Moisturizers:

Adding moisturizer to oily skin might feel a bit backward, but it’s vital. Moisturizers formulated for oily skin will help your skin retain the right amount of moisture without excessive sebum. Look for moisturizers that are oil-free, lightweight, water-based, fragrance-free, and noncomedogenic (there’s that word again!)

Other products:

Clay masks are a pore-cleaning superhero for oily skin. Clay masks draw excess oil away from your pores, achieving a deeper clean than cleansing on its own often can. They clean out pores and help them appear smaller. Clay masks can be rather drying (if you’ve ever spent any time at a pottery wheel, you can imagine) but when used once or twice a week, they can work wonders for oily skin.

Sunscreen is a must for anyone with skin, let alone oily skin. Sun is a notorious a pore enlarger – and the bigger your pores are, the more gunk can get inside them. If you opt for a chemical sunscreen, be sure to choose one that doesn’t include pore-cloggers like avobenzones, oxyphenones, or benzophenones.

This one might rock your world: while oil-blotting sheets are great from removing oil from your face in a pinch, long-term they can actually have the opposite effect. With overuse, these oil-absorbing papers can dry out your skin and urge it to produce more sebum. What’s more, using these sheets can even push dirt into your skin – making your pores dirtier, not cleaner. If you can’t live without oil blotting sheets, look for some with added antioxidants or BHAs to combat acne and sebum over-production.

All that being said, less is more here. If you’re currently using a cleanser AND a toner AND an astringent AND a strong exfoliant, they might be overdoing the pore cleaning and stripping your skin of its essential oils instead. In other words, putting too many products on your face can actually negate the great pore-cleaning effects certain products could have on their rown – and we’re all for making beauty simpler whenever possible.

Dry skin

Pore-cleaning is often thought of as an oily skin thing. But when skin is too dry, dead skin can build up and contribute to clogged pores.

So, putting together a pore-cleaning routine for dry skin can be a delicate balance. You need to remove oils & debris where it shouldn’t be… without drying out your skin even more and causing a new problem. Here’s how to clean your pores if your skin is dry.

Pore-cleaning cleansers for dry skin:

Look for gentle, hydrating cleansers that don’t leave your skin feeling dry. Cream or oil cleansers are your friends here – while foaming cleansers are great at cleaning pores, chances are they’ll leave your dry skin even drier. Consider choosing a cleanser that includes exfoliating ingredients like AHAs or BHAs – a wash-off cleanser can offer less intense exfoliation than a leave-on exfoliant.

Exfoliants:

If your skin can take it, exfoliate once a week with a gentle chemical exfoliant. AHAs and BHAs are great for cleaning pores, but if you find they’re too drying for you, look for gentler active ingredients like lactic acid. 

Avoid astringents or anything alcohol-based – while they can help tighten pores, they’ll likely dry out your already-dry skin.

Moisturizers:

Listen to what your skin is telling you it needs – moisture, and a lot of it. Moisturizing your dry skin can reduce dead skin build-up and help your pores stay clean. Look for rich, hydrating moisturizers that are non-comedogenic.

Other products:

Clay masks are fabulous for cleaning pores, but most are a no-no for already-dry skin. But thicker clay masks that don’t dry on the skin can help you clean out your pores without leaving your skin feeling crackly. Try using one once a week and see how your skin responds.
Hydrating masks are another great idea here. Using an intensively hydrating mask can help replenish and strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier, which will help your pores stay unclogged over time.
And then there’s sunscreen – it’s a must for pore maintenance. Look for SPF 30 or higher, with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or aloe vera to give your thirsty skin an extra dose of moisture, and wear it every single day.


Combination skin

So, you hit the jackpot – dry AND oily skin. Congratulations, you’re complicated.

(Hey, most of us are – experts estimate that around 60% of people have combination skin!)

Chances are, the face pores you’re hoping to clean are primarily in the oily places – most people with combination skin have an oily T-zone and dry cheeks. But contrary to popular belief, those different parts of your face don’t need two completely separate skincare regimens. (Hooray, you don’t need to buy two of everything!) The right ingredients CAN benefit all parts of your face and clean all of your pores.

Here’s how to deep clean pores for combination skin.

Pore-cleaning cleansers for combination skin:

You’re looking for a cleanser that can hydrate the dry parts of your face and moisturize the oily parts, all while penetrating deep enough to clean pores. Go for a mild cleanser with no sulfates, alcohol, or essential oils. We’d recommend a gel or light foam base, avoiding oil or soap.

Exfoliants:

Exfoliating is a must to deep clean pores, especially on the oily parts of your face, but keep it gentle. Azelaic acid and PHAs can be a great fit for combination skin. If you’re primarily concerned about cleaning pores in oily areas, you could also choose a stronger chemical exfoliant featuring salicylic acid and use it just on those problem spots.

Moisturizer:

Look for a quenching moisturizer – a light, water-based moisturizer that provides plenty of hydration without too rich or heavy of a feel. Look for formulas that feature lightweight humectants that pull moisture to the skin (glycerin, sorbitol, and/or hyaluronic acid, to name a few), and low levels of heavier occlusives (shea butter, silicones) that create a barrier over the skin to retain moisture.

Other products:

Niacinamide works double-duty for combination skin. It regulates sebum production and strengthens the skin’s protective barrier all at once. You could add a niacinamide serum to your routine or look for an exfoliant or moisturizer that includes it. 

You could multi-mask with a one pore-cleaning mask on your T-zone and one hydrating the rest of your face. But if that sounds a little too extra for you, non-drying clay masks, charcoal masks, or masks featuring hyaluronic acid could work for all of your combination skin.

And then, you knew we’d say it – sunscreen is a non-negotiable. Apply a non-comedogenic sunscreen all over your combination skin as the last step of your skincare routine. Bonus points if it features hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or aloe vera.



Normal skin

How low-maintenance are you? I mean, your pores might even be clean as you’re reading this. Still, it’s important to keep a skincare regimen that continually cleans your pores… and to pay attention to whatever you’re putting on your pretty-content skin. Even normal skin can react poorly to the wrong pore-cleaning routine.

Here’s how to clean out pores for normal skin.

Pore-cleaning cleansers for normal skin:

Use a gentle, nonfoaming cleanser twice a day. If you wear a decent amount of makeup, double cleansing could be a good fit for you – starting with an oil cleanser to remove makeup and debris, then following with another cleanser for a deeper clean. It’s trendy and it works great for cleaning pores, as long as your skin isn’t too oily to begin with.

Exfoliants:

If you aren’t exfoliating regularly yet, this is probably the best pore-cleaning addition you could make to your skincare routine. Look for a gentle chemical exfoliant with PHAs. Start by using it just once a week, then work your way up to twice as long as your skin doesn’t feel too dry from it.

Moisturizers:

Moisturizing regularly helps maintain a healthy skin barrier function and keeps dead skin cells from getting in your pores. Go for a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer to keep pores clean and healthy.

Other products:

You still need sunscreen – always and forever. Normal skin tends to get less attention, but ALL skin needs sun protection. Find a non-comedogenic sunscreen and apply it as the last step in your skincare routine every single day.


Sensitive skin

When your skin is sensitive, the primary thing you gotta figure out is whether your skin likes a pore-cleaning product or not. 

As you build a pore-cleaning routine for your sensitive skin, avoid products with fragrance, essential oils, plant extracts, sulfates, and drying alcohols. And if you know you’re sensitive to any other ingredients, avoid those, too. We’d also recommend performing a patch test before slathering anything all over your face, just in case you do have an adverse reaction.

That being said, with some ingredient-sleuthing and experimentation, you CAN put together a highly effective pore-cleaning routine that works for your sensitive skin. 

Start with just a cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF – once you find a basic regimen that doesn’t cause any breakouts or adverse reactions for at least month, introduce additional treatments to clean your pores (exfoliants, face masks, etc).

Pore-cleaning cleansers for sensitive skin:

Look for mild, calming gel or cream cleansers. Use it just once per day to avoid breaking down your skin barrier, and apply it gently with just your fingertips. Rinse with warm water.

Moisturizers:

Choose a moisturizer that’s formulated for sensitive skin and high in fatty acids and humectants. Moisturize twice a day.

Sunscreen:

You definitely need it. But chemical sunscreen may not agree with very sensitive skin – if you’ve found that to be the case for you, go for a physical sunblock.

Exfoliants:

Exfoliate just once every two weeks. Opt for a gentle chemical-based exfoliant rather than a physical exfoliating scrub.

Other products:

Facial mists can be a convenient, hydrating alternative to astringent, alcohol-based toners.

Calming, hypoallergenic face masks are great for sensitive skin – but definitely do a patch test first. A rash is the opposite of calming! 


Mature skin

Pore size is determined by genetics, but pores can get larger with age as a gradual result of sun damage or picking at the skin.

Some specific product and ingredient recommendations will still vary depending on your skin type – a pore-cleaning routine can and should look different for someone with mature oily skin vs mature dry skin, for example. But here are some additional pore-cleaning suggestions for anyone with mature skin. 

Pore-cleaning cleansers for mature skin:

Use a mild, non-irritating cleanser twice a day. Opt for a gel or foam cleanser if your skin is oily, or a hydrating, non-foaming cleanser if your skin is more on the dry side.

Exfoliants:

Since the outer layer of mature skin is thinner and more delicate, intense exfoliation can damage mature skin. Use a very gentle scrub or a mild chemical exfoliant once a week.

Moisturizers:

Over time, our bodies produce less oil and collagen fibers break down. This causes our skin to become dryer and thinner with age. If that’s been true for you, look for a rich cream moisturizer. (Bonus points if it includes moisture-retaining hyaluronic acid – the body’s natural production of it decreases with age as well.)

Other products:

Sunscreen is vitally important for mature skin and pore health. Wear SPF 30 or higher, every single day. 

Retinoids are popular and very effective anti-aging products. These vitamin A-based topicals minimize the appearance of pores by plumping up skin with collagen. While they can irritate sensitive or dry skin, they’re great for oily mature skin.

Using a sonic facial cleansing brush to apply your skincare products can help clean pores and boost collagen production, minimizing the appearance of pores.

 

How to Clean Pores: Quick Tips and Tricks for Every Skin Type

Don’t pick or pop…

Seriously, don’t do it.

We know how bad you want to scratch, pop, or pick at that clogged pore, but it is much better if you don’t. Picking or popping a pimple prematurely could damage and irritate your skin, not to mention prolong the healing process and spread the bacteria inside the clogged pore across your face. All not good things. 

Try a spot treatment instead.

If you (like us) have a hard time resisting the urge to pick and poke at your blemishes, this fairly recent trend sweeping the skincare community might just be the trick you need. 

Hydrocolloid pimple patches are the hottest new acne “quick fix” to hit the market. By soaking up moisture and toxins clogged in your pore, hydrocolloid patches (designed as dime-sized adhesives you stick over a blemish) effectively dry out clogged pores while also protecting the blemish from unwanted picking, sun exposure, and environmental bacteria. Bye, bye acne scars!

Use tools for an even deeper clean.

If the thought of adding yet another skincare product into your routine is more than you can bear, consider investing in a beauty tool to add some *oomph* to your skin care. A sonic facial cleansing brush is a great way to cleanse, exfoliate, and attack the build-up in your deep pores more effectively than just your hands.

Facial brushes feature battery-operated or cable-charged motors that control a moving head that rotates in circular, pulsing, or back-and-forth patterns to aid in deep cleaning your pores and removing dead skin. They can be a good fit for all skin types.

Wash your pillowcase.

Cleaning pores right before you go to bed is great… but sticking your face on a dirty, oily pillow right afterward can undo all the skincare goodness you just did. Wash your pillowcase frequently. (Like, starting now. Throw her in the wash.)

Be consistent.

Unclogging pores is one thing – a skincare routine that regularly cleans pores and keeps them clean is another. These recommendations won’t just clean out your pores once – they’re aiming to keep your pores clean and your skin happy long-term. Once you find a skincare regimen that cleans your pores well, stick with it!



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Sources: 

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/sebum
  2.  https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/beauty-hair/a30456000/combination-skin/
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-hype-on-hyaluronic-acid-2020012318653