A very small percent of the population is naturally blessed with perfect skin—but the rest of us are doomed to wander the earth trying to figure out how to get rid of clogged pores (a.k.a. blackheads) and closed comedones (a.k.a. those flesh-looking bumps that never really come to a head).
Whether from inflammation in the skin due to an excess of white blood cells, stress, or too much oil, clogged pores are pretty much inevitable. We’ve sought out some relief in the form of at-home remedies, products, and tips—so that the small problem of clogged pores doesn’t turn into a bigger problem (like acne).
Invest in a Clarisonic
The Mia 2 two-speed facial brush from Clarisonic is great to use on skin with enlarged and clogged pores, and using the brush head is said to cleanse skin six times more than your hands alone. Use the machine with a good cleanser and a detox mask right after, and you’re well on your way to unclogged pores. (Mia 2, $169; at Clarisonic)
Find a Mask with Active Charcoal Ingredients
A paraben-free option is always a plus. Origins’ Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask contains activated charcoal that is used to remove anything under or on top of the skin contributing to clogged pores. You can use this mask once every week or every day but either way you choose, your pores will be sure to thank you. (Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores, $27; at Sephora)
Pick up Some Parsley and Thyme
As a natural astringent, parsley pulls toxins straight out of your skin and assists in removing anything causing grief and contributing to clogged pores. Immerse the parsley in a large bowl of boiling water, and allow it to soak and cool. Once done, dip a wash cloth in the bowl, and apply to your face. Oil be gone, and pores be unclogged! Your other option is thyme. Use 3-4 tablespoons and 1.5 cups of hot water combined together, and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Filter the mixture, and use it as a cleanser whenever needed.
Use Powder Foundation Instead of Liquids
Because some clogged pores are due to oily skin, it can help to go easier on the liquid foundation. Tinted moisturizer, BB and CC creams are all great options also, because of their lighter formulas. If you’re feeling like wearing no foundation, try just a powder; less is more when you’re trying to clear out oily skin and unclog pores.
Try an At-Home Peel or Gel
Different from a cream or mask, a gel will cool the skin and take away the stress. Since the name of the game is picking up dead skin and unclogging pores for a more radiant glow, this lifts any contaminants and leaves you well on your way to the skin you’ve always wanted. With natural ingredients like pineapple and pomegranate, you may or may not be surprised to know that this product also boasts a paraben, sulfate, and phthalate-free formula. (Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx Peeling Gel, $48; at Sephora)
Use Products with Grapeseed Oil
While grapeseed oil has many amazing uses in the hair, on the skin for anti-aging, medicinally, and for acne prevention and treatment, using it as a tool to unclog pores is also a step in the right direction. Benefits from the oil include vitamin E and linoleic acid, allowing the oil to naturally act as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Give Queen Helene’s Grape Seed Extract Peel Off Masque a try. (Queen Helene’s Grape Seed Extract Peel Off Mask, $3.49; at Walgreens)
Remove Your Makeup and Cleanse Your Face Daily
This may be a given, but the results make a huge difference. Build up of makeup on your skin is not cute as your pores will quickly clog, causing your face to become irritated fast. Get into the habit of washing your face with a cleanser that suits you in the morning and at night, using a deep cleanser to really see the effects.
Use Beauty Products That Suit Your Skin Type
While it’s easy to just go and pick up a product that will put a bandage over the huge problem that we call clogged pores, remedying the issues from the ground up is a better plan of action. If you find that your skin care products are just not doing the job, find out what type of skin you have and refresh your beauty cabinet. This goes for skincare and makeup items, as everything you put on your skin effects its quality and appearance day in and day out.
Steam Your Pores
Steaming your skin and pores on your face is a great way to open them up again. Fill a bowl with boiling water, and angle your face over the bowl to allow the steam to rise up over your skin. After steaming, pat it dry and take a second to relax. Use a toner or witch hazel to cleanse and even the skin while dually eliminating bacteria. Then, moisturize when you’re done. To intensify the steam, add some essential oils. Bonus: This is a great way to de-stress, too!
Exfoliating the face with a small brush is important to lift impurities and dry skin cells. Combined with cleansing, moisturizing masks and treatments, exfoliating is the ultimate way to improve your skin’s clogged pore problem and overall condition.
A version of this article was originally published in May 2015.