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You may be able to unclog pores at home by using steam and over-the-counter products. But some popular remedies can cause skin irritation.

Clogged pores are the result of dead skin cells getting trapped in your skin instead of being shed into the environment.

Pores are tiny openings in the skin that release oil and sweat. When pores are clogged, it can result in blackheads, whiteheads, and acne.

You can tell if your pores are clogged if you notice whiteheads, blackheads, or an overall dullness to your skin’s complexion.

Environmental factors also contribute to clogged pores. These factors include:

  • toxins in the air
  • oil from your hands transferred when you’re touching your face
  • sweat

Read on to discover 10 common methods to unclog pores. And be sure to always talk to your dermatologist before trying out a new skincare routine.

1. Pore strips

Pore strips, such as Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips, are made with an adhesive. The strips come in different shapes and sizes depending on the part of the face you want to apply them to. They can be used to remove:

  • hair
  • bacteria
  • oil
  • dead skin
  • anything left on the surface of the skin

To use:

  • wet the sticky strip and apply it to your face
  • leave on for 5 to 10 minutes
  • slowly peel away from your skin
  • rinse the area with warm water to remove any residue left behind by the strip

Little scientific research exists about the benefits or dangers of pore strips. Some dermatologists caution that they aren’t actually deeply cleansing the skin and that they have the potential to remove important natural oils. Also, they can cause irritation and may not remove blackheads.

Avoid pore strips if you have skin allergies or sensitive skin.

If you use these strips, be sure to follow all package directions. It’s important to wet skin before use. Also, only use them once a week at most and cleanse your skin after.

2. Charcoal masks

Activated charcoal is a trendy skincare ingredient. It can now be found in facial and body cleansers, scrubs, and masks.

As an ingredient in a skincare product, activated charcoal may offer benefits like removing dirt, pollution, and toxins from pores. More research is needed to verify its efficacy.

Directions for activated charcoal masks vary depending on the specific product. For most masks, you’ll need to rinse your face before using and then leave the mask on for 5 to 10 minutes before removing it.

Some masks harden and can be pulled off. Others need to be rinsed off with water.

Dermatologists caution against using a popular DIY facemask that’s circulating online. It’s a homemade mask made from charcoal powder and glue that’s applied and peeled off.

This combination can be dangerous. You can remove the important surface area of your skin, leaving skin dry and damaged. Worse, it may actually clog pores instead of unclogging them.

Instead of using a DIY mask, purchase an activated charcoal mask online or at your local drug or beauty supply store. You can also ask your dermatologist for a safe skincare alternative.

3. Extractions

During a facial treatment, a skincare specialist or dermatologist may offer skin extractions. Using a metal extractor tool or their hands, they manually apply pressure around clogged pores. This extracts the content of blackheads.

Extraction can also be performed on pimples, if the specialist thinks they can be unclogged.

After the extraction, the specialist applies an antibacterial or antiseptic to bring the skin back to its natural pH and prevent breakouts. They may also apply soothing masks or other treatments.

It’s important to leave extractions to a skincare professional. “Popping” breakouts on your skin at home can actually damage pores and lead to more breakouts.

If you’re interested in facial extractions, try professional treatments once a month for best results.

4. Exfoliation

The term “exfoliation” is used to describe a treatment that cleanses the skin and removes dead skin cells. This can help unclog pores.

There are different types of exfoliation, including mechanical and chemical.

Mechanical options include:

  • brushes
  • scrubs
  • cleansing cloths

Some scrubs can be harsh on the skin. Try products that use synthetic beads if you have sensitive skin.

Chemical options contain alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic acid), beta hydroxy acids (like salicylic acid), retinols, or topical enzymes to clean the pores. Work with a dermatologist if you want to try chemical exfoliation.

Some of them can be harsh or drying, so it’s important to get help from a professional. They can also help you determine how often to use these treatments.

5. Steam

Steaming is a typical part of a facial treatment. A specialist uses a skin steamer to fuse warm, moist air onto your face. This helps your pores open.

After the pores are open, the skincare specialist can better and more easily apply treatments like masks and moisturizers because they’re absorbed more deeply into the skin. This may offer better results.

If facials benefit your skin, try going once a month for optimal results. You can also buy an at-home face steamer online if you’re interested in trying out this method yourself.

1. Baking soda scrub

Advocates of natural or at-home skincare routines may recommend mixing baking soda with your facial cleanser or water. But think twice before trying out this scrub. It can dry out and irritate the skin. That’s because the pH of baking soda is too alkaline for the face. This can strip the skin’s natural barrier, leaving it vulnerable to environmental stressors.

Speak to your dermatologist about an alternative treatment method for unclogging pores or reducing acne.

2. Lemon

Natural skincare enthusiasts may recommend lemon to help dry out acne and bleach acne scarring. But take note: Lemon is highly acidic. Putting lemon directly on the face can alter the skin’s natural pH level. This can lead to dryness, irritation, and even damage.

Instead of putting lemon on your skin, consider pressing some lemon juice into water and drinking it daily. This can hydrate your skin and give you a dose of healthy antioxidants.

See a dermatologist if over-the-counter skincare treatments aren’t working or you continue to break out after trying some of the methods above. The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if you don’t already have a dermatologist.

A dermatologist can assess your skin type and recommend products specifically for you. Additionally, they can offer prescription medications, both topical and oral, for unclogging pores and reducing breakouts.

You can help prevent your pores from clogging by doing the following:

  • follow a daily skincare regimen
  • look for a face wash that’s labeled “won’t clog pores” or “noncomedogenic”
  • remove makeup at the end of the day
  • exfoliate regularly
  • avoid touching your face

There are many treatment options for unclogging pores, from daily facial washes to topical prescription medication. Work with your dermatologist to determine a skincare regimen that will work best for you.

Always see your doctor before trying out a new facial treatment or at-home solution for unclogging pores.

Some recommendations you find online may actually dry out or damage skin, so it’s important to work with a professional to determine what’s safe for your skin.