Acne is undoubtedly one of the most common complexion concerns worldwide. Research indicates that up to 80 percent of people between the ages of 11 and 30 will develop at least a mild form of acne at some point in their lives. While diet, lifestyle, and genetics can all increase the likelihood of developing acne blemishes, all breakouts have the same underlying cause: clogged pores.I
Pores are little divots on the skin that secrete sweat and oil (otherwise known as sebum). When a pore is clogged—either due to overproduction of oil or because it’s physically blocked by dead skin cells—a blemish will likely develop.II
While severe acne can be challenging to treat, unclogging pores can help to keep mild blemishes, like blackheads, at bay. Thankfully, clogged pores on the face can be managed with a few key skincare products. We’ve put together a simple skincare routine to address blocked pores with just a few Kiehl’s essentials. Read on to learn how to unclog pores and manage congestion for a clearer, healthier-looking complexion.
Step 1: Cleanse and Tone
Preventing congested pores requires keeping the complexion clean and free of buildup. Wash your face twice daily with a gentle exfoliating cleanser to remove dirt and oil and help slough off pore-clogging dead skin cells.
We recommend Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser, which stars Amazonian white clay to absorb excess oil and minimize pores. This top-rated cleanser also contains diatomaceous earth, which gently exfoliates the skin’s surface to remove dead skin and other impurities that can lead to breakouts.
After cleansing, replenish the complexion with a mild toner, such as Rare Earth Pore Refining Tonic. This balancing treatment for oily skin contains aloe vera and allantoin, which work in tandem to minimize enlarged pores and reduce shine. The gentle formula also helps remove any remaining impurities left on the skin after cleansing to promote a smoother, healthier-looking complexion.
Step 2: Correct and Replenish
Several factors can influence how large facial pores appear, including age, skin type, and ethnicity.III For example, oily skin can make pores more visible. Pores also appear more prominent when they’re clogged, because they stretch to accommodate the contents blocking them.IV While some of these factors, such as skin type, are unavoidable, learning how to clean pores effectively can help you achieve a smoother, clearer-looking complexion.
You can unclog pores and minimize overall oiliness by incorporating a purifying face mask, such as Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask, into your weekly skincare routine. This detoxifying treatment contains Amazonian white clay to draw out pore-clogging dirt, oil, and other impurities. It also reduces the skin’s surface oil production by up to 46.7%, which helps to minimize the appearance of pores.* We recommend using your clay mask twice per week or as needed to refine the skin.
Sagging skin caused by an age-induced loss of elasticity can also influence how prominent pores appear. To help prevent enlarged pores, apply an antioxidant-rich hydrating serum to the face after cleansing and toning (or if you’re masking, after rinsing off your facial mask). We recommend Powerful Strength Vitamin C Serum, which contains an efficacious blend of hyaluronic acid and 12.5% vitamin C. Together, these powerful ingredients firm the skin and visibly reduce the appearance of pores for a smoother, more radiant-looking complexion.
Step 3: Hydrate
You may be hesitant to moisturize an oily complexion for fear that doing so will further congest your skin, but actually, the opposite is true. Dehydrated skin often over-produces oil to compensate for the loss of moisture, resulting in excessive oiliness and increasing the likelihood of developing blocked pores.V
If you have oily skin or frequently deal with clogged pores, reach for a non-comedogenic moisturizer, such as Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream. The lightweight formula features glacial glycoprotein and desert plant extract to condition skin with 24-hour moisture. It absorbs quickly and has a non-greasy, shine-free finish, making it ideal for those with naturally oily complexions.
For around the eyes, we recommend a hydrating eye cream, such as the cult-classic Avocado Eye Cream. It’s formulated with beta-carotene and avocado oil to de-puff and brighten the under-eye area while providing lasting moisture to help prevent early signs of aging. This powerful treatment is also uniquely formulated to help defend the eye area from the damaging effects of blue light and digital fatigue (a must if you’re always on your phone or computer). Dab it on with your ring finger to avoid tugging at the delicate under-eye skin.
Step 4: Protect
We’re betting you already know that sun exposure can cause signs of premature aging, such as wrinkles and sun spots. What you might not know is that it can also cause pores to appear larger. Repeated exposure to UV radiation decreases collagen production, leading to sagging skin and more prominent pores.IV Sun exposure also stimulates oil production and alters sebum, making it stickier and more likely to clog pores.VI
Protect your complexion with a non-comedogenic sunscreen, such as Super Fluid Daily UV Defense 50+. This broad-spectrum facial sunscreen has a lightweight, non-greasy finish, so it’s suitable for those with oilier skin. In addition to its UV protection, this formula also helps defend against other skin-damaging environmental stressors, like pollution. Apply it to your face as the final step in your skincare routine (more details on how to do it properly here) for healthier-looking, clearer skin.
*Based on results two hours after use vs. untreated skin.
i"Acne." Cleveland Clinic. 1 Sept 2020. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12233-acne
iiMayo Clinic Staff. "Acne." Mayo Clinic. 12 Sept 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/symptoms-causes/syc-20368047
iiiFlament, Frederic et al. "Facial skin pores: a multiethnic study." Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology vol. 8 85-93. 16 Feb. 2015, doi:10.2147/CCID.S74401
iv"What Can Treat Large Facial Pores?" American Academy of Dermatology. 2020. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-secrets/face/treat-large-pores
v"Moisturizer: Why You May Need It If You Have Acne." American Academy of Dermatology. 2020. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/skin-care/moisturizer
vi Lee, Weon Ju et al. "Inflammatory Cytokine Expression and Sebum Production After Exposure of Cultured Human Sebocytes to Ultraviolet A Radiation and Light at Wavelengths of 650 nm and 830 nm." Annals of dermatology vol. 27,2 (2015): 163-70. doi:10.5021/ad.2015.27.2.163