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The Truth About Blocked Pores & Clear Skin — Holistic Beauty Experts Weigh In

Photo by Jimmy Chang
Last updated on March 10, 2020

When it comes to pores, there are some truths that need to be set straight, once and for all. Here's the bad news: If someone tells you they can "shrink your pores," they are lying right to that beautiful face of yours. "Your pore size is genetically determined by the size of your pore glands," said Britta Plug, esthetician and holistic health coach. The good news? "Often by purifying the pores, you can diminish their appearance," Plug said.

"Pores enlarge as we get older, and they also enlarge if they’re filled with gunk," green makeup artist Katey Denno agreed. She emphasized the importance of using beauty and skin care products with good ingredients and going to bed with a clean face.

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Here's what you can use to make pores look smaller naturally:


Blue light.

"Blue light is supposed to have pore-tightening effects," said Plug, who has studied the technique. Although the actual size of the pore doesn't change, the light therapy smooths and evens skin by reducing the appearance of pores, Keira Barr, M.D. told us. Blue light masks are usually available as add-ons to nearly any facial regardless of where you get one, and some varieties are now sold at drugstores and Target, though the strength and quality won't be the same as a professional apparatus.


Clay masks.

"Like charcoal, clay acts like a magnet for toxins, pulling harmful ingredients out of the skin," Plug said. She recommends doing a clay mask once a week. Pro tip: Don't just go at it—use a spray bottle or a warm face cloth to remoisten the clay. "This way, it won't leech moisture from the skin and dry it out," she said. Tata Harper's new purifying mask is a great option that contains antipollution properties and a good mix of detoxifying ingredients, like white clay and willow bark, and calming ones like calendula. A more wallet-friendly option is Bee Rosy Mermaid Mask with organic chlorella, spirulina, and honey. It's safe enough for compromised skin with conditions like eczema and breakouts.

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Fruit acid masks.

"If we remove the blockages from pores, they look smaller, so products that melt or remove blackheads like clay masks or fruit acids—anything that takes off the top sticky layer of sebum and dead skin cells thereby allowing dirt trapped beneath to escape—can help," Denno said. Try Herbivore's blue tansy resurfacing mask, which contains natural alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) that are known to aid in reducing the appearance of pores. Another clean option is REN's glycol lactic acid peel, which uses acids from papaya and pineapple to exfoliate the dead outer layer of skin, revealing the fresh skin (and smaller-looking pores) underneath.


Regular lymph drainage.

Lymph drainage is central to Plug's holistic facial and skin care practice for herself and her clients. "Regular lymph drainage keeps skin really clear, bright, and when done consistently, keeps blackheads at bay." That's because manipulating the lymph and facial fascia goes beyond the superficial layer of the skin and works on the circulation—which can contribute to an enlarged appearance of pores. Try giving yourself this step-by-step facial massage Plug recommends once or twice a week to keep lymph clear. It's totally free and takes only five minutes.

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Switching to noncomedogenic products.

For some skin types, all-purpose products like coconut oil and other, thicker balms are too much for the skin and can actually be comedogenic—a fancy word for "pore-clogging." Instead, look for ingredients that are specifically labeled noncomedogenic or that have a lighter texture. Facial oils that are safe for even acne-prone skin types include rosehip oil, sea buckthorn oil, and jojoba oil.

By enlisting these habits, your pores will look like they've begun to shrink, even though they actually haven't. We won't tell! As Denno said, the most important step is taking off your makeup at night—by doing this, you can stop clogged pores in their tracks.

Want to go natural but don't know where to start? Try these three swaps first, and then read this to find the best facial oil for your skin type.

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