Let's get real for a second: Is there anyone out there who doesn't derive extreme pleasure from closely examining their clogged pores? And even more pleasure from then removing all the gunk and grime inside them? Sure, it's a little gross, but there is something so supremely satisfying about knowing that your clogged pores are no more. (Case in point: All those insanely addicting videos of next-level extractions.) So bust out that magnifying mirror and take a closer peek at your pores, because we've got six different ways to get rid of blackheads and whiteheads -- plus advice from top dermatologists -- that will leave your skin looking pore-fect.
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Why Are My Pores Clogged in the First Place?
Before we get to the good stuff, let's recap the basics. A pore is simply the opening of a hair follicle, which can become clogged or blocked with any number of things, says Emily Arch, MD, a dermatologist at Dermatology + Aesthetics of Wicker Park in Chicago. This includes, but is not limited to: excess oil, dead skin cells and dirt. Clogged pores (aka comedones, as skin docs call them) show up as either blackheads or whiteheads: "Blackheads are open comedones, meaning they're exposed to the air. The oxygen causes the dead skin cells inside the pore to darken and appear black," explains Dr. Sandra Lee aka Dr. Pimple Popper. On the flip side, whiteheads are closed comedones; there's a layer of skin on top, which keeps them from turning dark and can make them harder to see, she adds. Got that? Good, now let's move on to the products that can help unclog those pesky pores...
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Clear Pores With Face Washes and Scrubs
"Topical cleansers and scrubs are a great first line of treatment," says Arch, though not all are created equal. She suggests opting for washes or exfoliators that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, two ingredients that can help break up the sticky, dead skin cells that clog pores (salicylic acid also has the added benefit of being lipophilic, meaning it's attracted to and will dissolve excess oil). One to try: Clean & Clear Acne Triple Clear Bubble Foam Cleanser, $5.99.
Scrubs that contain physical particles, like bead or seeds, to buff off dead skin are another option, one that can leave your complexion looking and feeling smoother and more radiant, particularly if it's naturally dry, adds Lee. One option: Garnier SkinActive Clean + Blackhead Eliminating Scrub, $7.99. But if you're dealing with more than just clogged pores -- i.e. legit red, inflamed pimples -- these abrasive scrubs can paradoxically end up causing more redness and irritation, she cautions. If that's you, stick with the aforementioned cleansers.
Either way, both are supereasy to use (it's really just washing your face, after all), and will ultimately leave you supersatisfied with smooth, clear skin... as long as you're patient. You'll need to use these for six to eight weeks in order to see a difference, notes Arch.
Unclog Pores With Pore Strips
Ah, the classic. Pop one of these bad boys on your nose and in minutes you'll be able to yank out those blackheads. Containing a special adhesive, these adhere to and remove blackheads, dirt and oil... leaving you with a strip chock-full of nasties that you can then closely examine for as long as you'd like (#SATISFYING). The instant gratification is great, and they do clean the superficial layer of the skin, but just keep in mind that a) these won't work on whiteheads, and b) using them too frequently can cause inflammation and irritation, particularly if you're also using products with exfoliating ingredients like retinoids, warns Arch. She advises using one no more frequently than once per week.
The latest Internet sensation, there's no shortage of videos and pics popping up online of people creating their own blackhead removing masks, but this is one instance where it's best not to go the DIY route, cautions Arch, who says she's already seen patients come in with skin reactions as a result of using these. Stick with the store-bought options, like Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Peel-Off Mask, $15.99; these are usually pastes or creams that, once dry and peeled off, pull out whatever is clogging the pores, explains Lee. "Most contain charcoal, an ingredient believed to help remove impurities from the skin. As it dries, it shrinks ever so slightly, creating a little vacuum to help pull out surface oils, dirt, and blackheads," she explains. That means that, like with a pore strip, you'll get to see all the goodness on the mask once you take it off, and unlike a pore strip, it can be used all over your face.