12 products to clear clogged pores that *aren’t* face masks

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If your skin is congested and you get pimples more often than usual, chances are you have clogged pores. Detoxifying clay masks are usually the go-to solution for removing oil, dead skin, and stuck-on debris from beneath your skin’s surface, but if we’re being honest, these types of products can be quite a pain to use. Fortunately, there are effective alternatives that are far less messy and time-consuming.

The best way to unclog your pores is to take a two-step approach. The first involves exfoliation to get rid of dead skin cells that trap all the gunk, and the second is to speed up cell turnover to bring healthy new cells to the surface.

To exfoliate, look for cleansers, toners, and moisturizers that contain vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid, and/or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid. All of these unclog pores and improve skin texture by “dissolving the ‘glue’ that holds skin cells together,” explains Shea Amiruddindirector of skincare education for Heyday Skincare.

And to improve skin cell turnover, use retinoids like retinol. “When you take a retinoid, your cells divide faster and don’t have time to build up on your skin, because the turnover is faster,” explains Deidre Hooper, MDa board-certified dermatologist in Louisiana.

You will get the best result using these two actives in your routine, just make sure to space out the application.

“I generally recommend doing the retinoid at night and then the salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide product during the day,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Especially when starting an acne regimen, it’s always best to space out your active ingredients.”

But, if you know your skin is sensitive/reactive, try introducing one for a few days, then bring the other. There’s no benefit to doing it all at once if your skin can’t handle it. “The chances of your acne healing when it’s red, irritated, and inflamed are very low,” says Dr. Garshick.

Below, you’ll find 12 skin care products that will help clear clogged pores. Browse exfoliants, retinoids, and if your skin can handle it, products that combine the two.

Clear Clogged Pores With These Exfoliators and Retinoids


Tata Harper Replenishing Cleanser

Tata Harper Replenishing Cleanser — $68.00

This daily cleanser blends White Willow Bark BHAs with Apricot Microspheres to provide gentle chemical and physical exfoliation. It’s also made with a host of other ingredients, including pomegranate enzymes, coral clay and aloe vera which (respectively) help dissolve buildup, refine pores and hydrate skin. skin.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, Clears Clogged Pores

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel – $17.00 to $160.00

These pads are a favorite of many because they give you a mini chemical peel at home. Simply glide on the first pad, which is coated in a blend of powerful BHAs and AHAs, let them do their magic for a few minutes, then wipe on the neutralizing pad. “Beta Hydroxy Acids penetrate deeper into pores and are great for acne, oily skin and lightening. Alpha Hydroxy Acids are good for superficial exfoliation,” said Shirley Chi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist from Southern California. “So when used together you get more exfoliation and brightening than when used alone.”

SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF, clears clogged pores

SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF — $169.00

CF Silymarin Oil is a version of SkinCeutical’s beloved CE Ferulic, designed for acne-prone skin. It blends vitamin C, silymarin, and ferulic antioxidants with salicylic acid to exfoliate skin while reducing oil. Silybin, the active compound in silymarin, “is derived from the milk thistle plant and is a powerful antioxidant.” said Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist from New York. “It helps inhibit the oxidation of sebum in the skin and results in a 16% decrease in sebum within a week of use.”


Dr Different Vitalift-A

Dr. Different Vitalift-A — $42.00

This skin treatment is made with 0.05% retinal to help accelerate cell turnover while hyaluronic acid hydrates and plumps the skin. Like retinol, retinal is a derivative of vitamin A that the skin must convert to retinoic acid in order to use it. However, retinal does this in fewer steps than retinol, making it more potent than retinolbut gentler on the skin than prescription retinoids.

Sunday Riley A high-dose retinoid serum

Sunday Riley A High Dose Retinoid Serum – $85.00 to $125.00

This retinoid serum blends a blend of 5% retinoid esters with 1% liposome encapsulated retinol. Retinol esters are a form of retinol that the skin can store and use when needed. Because it is not used at the same time, it is milder than retinol. Liposomes deliver active skincare ingredients where they are needed, so liposomal encapsulation increases the effectiveness of its retinol.

Combination of exfoliants and retinoids

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25 Pure Concentrate

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25 Pure Concentrate – $58.00

Boost your nighttime routine with this serum that blends retinol with collagen-boosting peptides plus vitamins C and E to gently exfoliate and brighten skin. It also includes a host of hydrating ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, aloe, and ceramides that can help soothe the sometimes-drying effects of retinol.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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