Before starting with the methods on how to remove blackheads and shrink pores, we need to know a few facts first which will help us understand better how pores work and figure out the best ways to care for them.
Can you reduce pore size?
The truth is we cannot permanently shrink our pores because pore size is largely determined by our genetics. I know, this may sound discouraging as you are looking for solutions to change them, but knowing this fact helps us avoid unnecessary treatments or even methods which can worsen their appearance.
Besides looking for ways to improve them, we should also be aware that there are some factors that can impact their size and make them even larger like: oily skin that is not well-maintained, sun exposure (heat) – one more reason to be consistent with SPF application, aging, hormonal changes, and extracting blackheads incorrectly.
As someone with oily skin, I have always looked for ways to effectively remove blackheads and minimize my large visible pores. Skin texture is completely normal and I am not insecure about my pores, however, I want to try and make them look their best while keeping my expectations realistic.
Among all the pore-shrinking products and blackhead removal methods, I never found one that made a significant change until a few years ago. There’s so much information out there so one would think that we would’ve figured it out by now. But, it seems there’s just as much misinformation.
And speaking of misinformation, let’s debunk this other pore myth that is still persistent today:
Can pores open and close?
Pores cannot open and close. Why? Because they’re just part of the skin and cannot contract and relax like muscles in our body do when they’re exposed to heat or cold.
Then what about face steaming? Steaming simply helps with melting and loosening the buildup inside the pore. Improves circulation too, but if you’re prone to broken capillaries like me, I would not recommend it.
Blackheads vs Sebaceous Filaments
Blackheads are hardened sebum that’s trapped inside the pore and the black part that is visible on the surface is the oxidized part of the sebum. We typically get more blackheads in the center of our face because more oil-releasing sebaceous glands are located there.
However, apart from the obvious blackhead, you may notice a lot of dark colored dots on your nose area. Those are technically called sebaceous filaments.
A sebaceous filament is a tiny collection of sebum and dead skin cells around a hair follicle. And they’re a natural part of healthy human skin, but sometimes the skin does over produce sebum and they become more prominent. Squeezing them can lead to scarring or inflammation, so never attempt to pick them.
4 Proven Ways to Remove Blackheads and Minimize Pores
Here are the best and most effective ways on how to keep pores clear of oil and debris and prevent them from growing larger:
1. Use an Oil Based Cleanser Daily
This is my number one tip that I have shared many times before because it’s the most important one which has given me the best results. A true gamechanger! An oil based cleanser can be a in the form of a cleansing balm or cleansing oil.
Everytime I have stopped using one my sebaceous filaments became more visible, no matter how good my water-based cleanser was. I know that an oil-based product doesn’t make sense for oily skin, but in reality it’s very effective.
Oil based cleansers work amazingly well for melting down the sebum in your pores. It’s just a matter of finding a product that will work best for your skin. I find that oils which are thicker in consistency usually work a bit better and faster for this purpose than lightweight oils. Cleansing oils with this type of consistency include the iUNIK Calendula Complete Cleansing Oil, Manyo Factory Pure Cleansing Oil, and Hada Labo Gokujun Cleansing Oil.
Besides the texture, it can be used daily with no side effects and this makes it even more effective. The skin produces sebum everyday so it just makes sense to properly remove it daily, right? If not, it will eventually lead to blackheads and clogged pores.
How to Use
You can massage the oil for 2-3 minutes over the pores and then add water to emulsify and rinse. Results are often noticeable from the first use!
If you’ve never used an oil cleanser before and there’s some oil buildup on your skin, you will feel small particles while you’re massaging the skin. That’s sebum and dead skin cells. I guarantee that your skin texture will feel extremely smooth afterwards.
2. A 2% BHA Exfoliant
A BHA (beta hydroxy acid) is an oil-soluble chemical exfoliator. It dissolves in oil and penetrates through the lipid layers between skin cells. That’s why it’s a preferred ingredient for oily skin prone to acne, breakouts and enlarged pores.
Its benefits are not only limited to this function, but right now we only need to know that it works to remove excess oil, loosen the gunk inside the pore and reduce oil build-up. Here are some product suggestions: COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, ISNTREE Chestnut BHA 2% Clear Liquid, and Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant.
But as an exfoliant, a BHA doesn’t come with no drawbacks. This ingredient can be drying or cause irritation in some cases, especially on sensitive skin. Hence, it’s not really suitable for everyday use.
If you’ve had no luck with BHA in this format, you probably can find it more tolerable in a cleanser since it will be washed off. I really like the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser which is even gentler as it contains betaine salicylate – a combination of salicylic acid (exfoliant) and betaine (moisturizer).
How to Use
- I personally prefer using BHA only on the affected areas and not on the whole face.
- Moreover, I don’t find it as gentle for everyday use so I incorporate it in my nighttime routine 1-3 times a week.
- Apply on dry skin and allow 20 minutes for the product to work its magic before proceeding with the next skincare steps.
3. Clay Mask
Clay masks have come a long way and they are an effective way of clearing pores. However, this is an additional step for further results because just like BHA, it cannot be used daily due to the increased chances of causing dryness.
In the past, pore strips and clay masks were the two most suggested methods for blackhead removal. I don’t recommend pore strips at all because they are just a temporary fix, don’t cover all the needed areas, and can also cause irritation. Whereas clay masks used to be very drying and it was impossible to use them as often as needed. The formulas are much better now, but still not recommended for everyday.
Here are some K-Beauty clay masks worth trying: Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, Isntree Real Mugwort Clay Mask, and Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask. The last one also contains charcoal as it has good absorbent ability to soak up oil.
How to Use
- Apply on cleansed skin.
- Purifying clay masks are designed to draw out the oils so they can be slightly drying. Hence I only use it on my T zone and cheeks where the oil glands are concentrated.
- 1-2 times a week (2 times only if it’s a very gentle formulation).
Now that we have cleared out the pores, we need to add another important step. And that’s Niacinamide! The IT ingredient when it comes to pore care.
Niacinamide has multiple benefits and it’s well tolerated by most skin types because it works close to the skin’s natural pH level. Not only it supports the skin’s structure but also has sebum regulating and anti-inflammatory properties. Most K-Beauty skincare products have niacinamide included in their formulas, but you can also opt for a niacinamide-based serum like the ones below:
The Ordinary Niacinamide also includes zinc to reduce inflammation from acne and it’s on the viscous side. The Tiam has arbutin to further help with brown spots. The Good Molecules Niacinamide serum and Inkey List are also good affordable options and even have slightly better textures than TO. All formulas have 10% Niacinamide in them.
How to Use
- Apply an appropriate amount after cleansing or toning and follow with the rest of your skincare.
- It can be used daily.
- Suitable for both AM and PM use.
There are plenty of methods out there for blackhead removal, but some I do not recommend due to being damaging to the skin or simply uneffective. I will be making a separate post on those and share more pore myths.
Did you find this blackhead removal and pore minimizing guide helpful? What are your tips on how to remove blackheads and reduce the appearance of pores?
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Hi and welcome to Kbeauty Notes! :)
I’m Ledia and I’m very passionate about everything skincare. I created this blog to share my thoughts and experience with many amazing and not so great products out there, hoping to help you make better decisions regarding your skin.
I’m very happy to bring you on this journey with me and I hope you enjoy it! <3
My Skin Type: Oily, acne prone, dehydrated, a little sensitive, large pores.
Skincare Concerns: hydration, pore care, anti-ageing, PIE (acne marks), brightening.