When your pores are clogged, you might be tempted to learn how to “open” them to help remove the gunk that’s stuck. However, contrary to popular belief, your pores can’t actually be opened. The goal here instead is to help unclog your pores so that they might appear more open.

Your pores are connected to sebaceous glands, which are beneath the hair follicles. These glands produce sebum, a natural, wax-like oil that helps to naturally hydrate your face.

Depending on your skin type, you might have overactive or underactive sebaceous glands, leading to oily or dry skin, respectively.

Sometimes a combination of oil, dirt, and bacteria can stick to dead skin cells in the pores and make it clog up. This can create a “closed” appearance.

In order to get rid of debris and clogged pores, you have to follow certain steps to achieve clear skin. At the same time though, there are a few myths to be aware of. Below are the most common.

1. Your pores can “open” up.

Actually, pores may enlarge due to age, but they are not technically more “open.” You can’t simply close enlarged pores. Plus, a clogged pore can look like it’s closed up, but this has nothing to do with the actual size of your pore.

2. Popping out clogged pores will open them up.

In fact, popping out the gunk might solve clogged pores temporarily, but you risk permanently stretching out the affected pores. Also, if you’re dealing with cystic acne, you can inadvertently cause bacteria to spread underneath your skin and cause acne in other parts of your face.

3. You can close pores with cold water.

Plenty of websites and blog posts claim you can use cold water to close your pores. While this can help soothe irritated skin, cold water won’t affect your actual pore size whatsoever.

4. You can open up your pores with baking soda.

While this may be a trendy alternative remedy for oily or breakout-prone skin, baking soda is much too harsh for your skin. It can cause your skin to dry out substantially, leaving you with more dead skin cells that can potentially clog your pores even further.

The best way to “open” your pores is to cleanse your skin. This removes surface oils, along with dirt and makeup that might be resting on your epidermis (top layer of skin).

Follow these steps to clean your skin in preparation for unclogging your pores:

  1. Find a cleanser that’s best suited to your skin type. A creamy wash works well for dry or sensitive skin. Consider a gel formula for combination or oily skin.
  2. Wet your face with warm (not cold or hot) water.
  3. Apply the cleanser in gentle circular motions. Massage in your skin for about one minute without scrubbing.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with warm water. You can also gently wipe away the cleanser with a warm washcloth for an extra clean feeling.
  5. Pat (don’t rub) your face dry.

Once you’ve started with a clean base, you can now take extra steps to unclog your pores.

After washing your face, you can use different methods to help unclog your pores so that they look more open. Consider the following remedies based on your specific pore concern:

Acne

Whether you have blackheads, whiteheads, or pus-filled pimples you must resist the urge to pop your acne. Instead, try to unclog acne naturally. First, use steam to help loosen up clogged pores. You can use a hot towel or stand in a steamy bathroom for 10 minutes.

Follow up with a clay or charcoal-based mask to aid in deeper cleansing.

Shop for charcoal masks here.

Excess oiliness

If you have oily skin, your pores can look larger thanks to the excess sebum your sebaceous glands produce. Unfortunately, this process is often hereditary, so you can’t necessarily get rid of oily skin.

You can, however, soak up excess oiliness to make your pores look smaller. This is most effective with a clay mask. Leave on up to 15 minutes at a time and repeat two to three times per week to keep oil at bay.

Shop for clay masks here.

Dead skin cell buildup

Dead skin cells are a natural part of skin cell turnover as new cells are created beneath your skin. While new skin cells help keep your face looking healthy, the downside is that the old ones can easily clog your pores.

The best way to address this problem is with exfoliation. Salicylic acid works well for oily skin. Any skin type can benefit from a weekly exfoliating scrub or home microdermabrasion kit. Read all product labels carefully and discontinue use if any redness or irritation develops after use.

Shop for exfoliating scrubs here.

Enlarged pores

Pores can enlarge due to oiliness, but it’s also a natural part of the aging skin process. Chemical peels can help reduce the look of age-related pore enlargement by removing the top layer of skin to reveal smoother-looking skin.

You can also talk to your dermatologist about other methods, such as dermabrasion or laser therapy.

Once you’ve used one of the above methods for unclogging your pores, follow up with the rest of your skin care routine. This can include a toner to balance out your skin’s pH or an anti-aging serum.

Always finish with a moisturizer suited to your skin type. Skipping moisturizer out of fear of clogging your pores will actually cause the sebaceous glands to make even more sebum.

Always wear sunscreen during the day to protect your skin from premature aging and cancer.

Shop for oil-free sunscreens here.

Unclogging your pores can help give them a more “closed” appearance, but you literally can’t shrink your pores tighter. If home remedies and treatments don’t work, talk to your dermatologist about possible professional solutions that may be used.