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The Truth About Your Pores

What can you do about clogged pores? And what are pores in the first place? Here, we demystify them and explain what clogs pores, as well as how to clean them.

Facial pores: we all have them. They’re an essential part of skin’s function. And knowing how to clean pores to help keep them from becoming clogged pores is a vital part of any proper skincare routine. But what are pores? There are many misconceptions about them, such as how they function, what clogs pores, and what can affect their appearance, as well as differing opinions on if you should squeeze your pores to remove things like blackheads.

Read on to learn all about what pores are, what they’re not, and how to help address and prevent clogged pores. Plus, we share our best products and tips for clean pores that are certain to be a breath of fresh air for your skin.

What Are Pores?

Pores are tiny openings around hair follicles and sweat glands that help gases and liquids move through the surface of your skin. They are present anywhere on your skin where there are oil glands, though they are more concentrated on your face, such as the pores on your nose.

It’s a common belief that your pores are like little apertures in camera lenses, naturally opening and closing. But this is untrue. In fact, your pores are more like tiny indentations in your skin’s surface from which sebum (your skin’s natural oil) and sweat emerge. When they get clogged, it can result in a host of skin concerns. Below, find out what clogged pores are, what you can do about them, and what can help keep clogged pores at bay.

What Are Clogged Pores?

Clogged pores are exactly what they sound like: pores that have become plugged up. This happens when excess oil, dead skin cells, sweat, and other impurities accumulate inside. There are many reasons you can end up with clogged pores, especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin. Yes, ineffective cleansing may be to blame, but that’s not always the case. Clogged pores can also be the result of things like hormonal fluctuations and stress, which can both amp up sebum production.

Certain skincare products and makeup can also clog your pores (look for ones that say “non-comedogenic,” as this means they won’t clog pores, instead), as can dirty makeup brushes and sponges. The trapped oil and dead skin cells can then develop into pimples and acne breakouts. If bacteria then get caught in the mix, the condition of your clogged pores can escalate even further.

Once your pores are clogged, the resulting acne can come in a few different forms. These can range from minor blackheads and whiteheads to more serious blemishes like inflamed papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts. While acne is most commonly associated with puberty, it can make an appearance at any age. Just as there are a potentially limitless amount of times your sink can get clogged, so, too, can your pores.

To help cut down on the frequency of your plugged-up “pipes,” try Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser, which stars fairly-traded Amazonian white clay (known as “Magic Earth”) and aloe barbadensis. This gentle exfoliating wash helps remove stubborn dirt and oil without stripping your skin of its natural moisture. It also helps minimize the appearance of pores for skin that’s left velvety soft, fresh, and healthy-looking.

Kiehl's Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleanser Set

Go one step further to combat clogged pores with Rare Earth Pore Refining Tonic. The dual-phase formula with Amazonian clay and allantoin helps remove leftover impurities. After cleansing, lightly pat a generous amount onto your face with your fingertips or a cotton pad, avoiding the eye area. It helps reduce shine and the appearance of enlarged pores while rebalancing your skin’s moisture levels for a smoother, healthier appearance.

Now that you know how to clean pores with Rare Earth cleanser and tonic, give your skin some more love with Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream, made with glacial glycoprotein and micronized amino acids. This fast-absorbing gel-cream moisturizer has a cooling effect to reinvigorate your skin while helping to maintain your skin’s moisture balance. It provides 24 hours of hydrating power and helps regulate oil production for visibly smaller-looking pores and reduced shine. Free of alcohol, fragrance, and parabens, it’s ideal for oily and norm al skin types.

Is It Bad To Extract Your Pores?

Seeing an irksome blemish caused by clogged pores can be vexing. But should you squeeze your pores, you may cause more damage than good. Dermatologists are trained in the art of pore extraction to remove blemishes like blackheads and whiteheads. If you attempt it on your own, you may unintentionally push the contents of the pimple deeper into the skin, which can make it look even more noticeable. You may also end up with permanent acne scars, an infection, or more painful acne. So, resist the urge to pick or pop, and leave it to the pros.

Can You Actually Minimize The Appearance of Pores?

Swimming among the seemingly endless ocean of beauty advice on Google, you may have come across discussions about minimizing enlarged pores (or products that claim to). At best, this information has been misconstrued; at worst, it’s a false promise. Although many people believe the opening of pores can grow and shrink, like the camera lens aperture we mentioned earlier, your pores do not actually fluctuate in size. However, the gunk that accumulates in clogged pores can cause them to expand, leading them to look larger.

Enlarged pores may also become exacerbated when skin appears less firm due to aging or sun damage. To help that, you’ll want to start on an effective anti-aging skincare routine. But, that’s an entirely different conversation. For our purposes here, let’s stick to helping to reduce the appearance of large, clogged pores with a targeted self-care ritual.

Our Best Skincare Routine For Pores

To care for your pores (and your skin!) in the right way, it’s important to follow a routine that helps treat clogged pores and prevent them in the first place. Try the following steps to help keep your pores feeling squeaky clean, your skin visibly clearer, and your visage nourished.

Step 1

Unclog your pores

As you likely know by now, the first step in any skincare routine should be to begin with a clean canvas. Start with the aforementioned Rare Earth Deep Pore daily cleanser and tonic. Or, for the gents, try Oil Eliminator Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Face Wash with crushed apricot seeds. It deeply cleanses and removes impurities, dead cells, and excess oil without over-drying to visibly improve the appearance of enlarged pores. Dermatologist-tested, non-comedogenic, and non-acnegenic, the formula can be used daily for skin that’s soft and shine-free.

Step 2

Mask up

Next, truly get in there and detoxify your pores with a pore-minimizing face mask, like Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask. The formula, which is safe for all skin types, purifies your skin by drawing out pore-clogging dirt and toxins while helping to reduce surface oil production by 46.7%.* Apply it after cleansing and let it dry for about 10 minutes. Then, use a warm, wet towel to gently wipe it away. The result: smaller-looking pores and visibly refined skin texture.

*Based on results two hours after use vs. untreated skin.

Step 3


Another way to help pores appear smaller is to regularly exfoliate. (Just be careful not to overdo it, as this can irritate your skin and have the opposite effect.) Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion with micronized shells and willow herb is an excellent way to slough away dead cells for instantly smoother skin. With regular thrice weekly use, this micro-dermabrasion scrub helps reduce the appearance of pores, as well as fine lines and discolorations over time. It’s clinically-demonstrated to refine skin texture and condition your skin to help it absorb your other topical treatments for maximum efficiency.

Step 4

Slather on a serum

Now that you’ve done all you can to clean out those stubborn clogged pores, it’s time to bring out the big skincare guns. Reach for our customer-favorite Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum, which contains 12.5% vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. It penetrates your skin’s deepest surface layers and remains active for up to six days. The potent formula helps improve the appearance of enlarged pores and smooth skin texture. Blend it on for an immediate boost in radiance—you may even feel a sensation of warmth as it activates. With continued use, it can help visibly reduce lines and wrinkles in just two weeks, and help firm your skin over time.

Step 5

Soak in hydration

By now, your skin should be feeling clean and refreshed. Help it stay that way with a moisturizer like the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream. For the guys, try Oil Eliminator 24-Hour Anti-Shine Moisturizer for Men, which contains totara wood extract and glycerin. This ultra-lightweight, non-comedogenic formula absorbs quickly while helping to soak up sweat, excess oil, and pollution. It provides a smooth, shine-free appearance for 24 hours and leaves your skin feeling out-of-this-world fresh and quenched. Dermatologist- and clinically tested, over time it will help your skin appear less shiny and your pores less noticeable.

Next: Stay proactive and get ahead of clogged pores with our article How To Manage an Oily Forehead and Stope Shine In Its Tracks.

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