4 Best Facial Pore Cleansers (A Dermatologist's Guide) 2021

4 Best Facial Pore Cleansers (A Dermatologist’s Guide)

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best facial pore cleanser
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:

BEST FOR ACNE-PRONE SKIN

ZELEN Life Cleanser

Facial pores are tiny openings in the surface of the skin of everyone’s face which secrete oil (sebum). They are connected to the hair follicles under the surface of the skin from which hairs grow out.

For the most part, the size of your pores is genetically determined. Therefore, you cannot shrink them, but you can make them appear less pronounced by keeping them free of dirt, oil, and dead skin cells.

When the pores get filled with debris, they appear swollen and larger than they should. That is why the selection of cleansers is so important.

The rest of the article is devoted to discussing what to consider before you buy a cleanser, an analysis of the best facial pore cleansers, how these cleansers were selected, and finally, some frequently asked questions about cleansers.

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Cleanser
  • Contains Vitamin E and coconut oil, which are anti-oxidants that help with anti-aging
  • Organic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial ingredients assist in fighting acne breakouts
  • Jojoba oil helps to control oil to unclog pores
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bb2-table__imageboscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser
  • Contains Glycolic acid, which reduces wrinkles and fine lines
  • Rich in Vitamin C, which assist with anti-aging
  • Charcoal assists with pore unclogging and controls oil
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bb2-table__imageErno Laszlo Pore Refining Detox Double Cleanse
  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients such as aloe soothe the skin
  • Superfruit extracts assist in reducing aging effects
  • Contains oil controlling ingredients such as charcoal
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bb2-table__imageMario Badescu Cucumber Cleansing Lotion
  • Cucumber extract provides hydration and brightens up the skin
  • Anti-bacterial ingredients help with acne breakouts
  • Chemical free formula that doesn't irritate the skin
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Before you buy: 6 Things to consider when purchasing a facial pore cleanser

1. pH

Since our skin is slightly acidic with a pH of about 5, you want to select a product that has a pH similar to your skin.

If it is too alkaline, this can upset the barrier function of the skin leading to the growth of unhealthy microbes, loss of water and dehydration, and irritation and damage to the skin.

2. Determine your skin type

If you have a shiny appearance to your skin, enlarged pores, and acne breakouts, you probably have oily skin. You might benefit from products with hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid.

If you have dry or sensitive skin, you want to look for a creamy cleanser with moisturizers, not a foaming one which, can strip your skin of its natural oils. If you have sensitive skin, you will want to look for soothing ingredients like sunflower oil.

3. Anti-aging ingredients

You want to look for a cleanser with anti-oxidants to help with anti-aging. Anti-oxidants help scavenge up the free radicals produced by the harmful UV rays of the sun.

They collect and get rid of these free radicals to prevent damage to our collagen, which leads to wrinkles, and damage to our DNA, which leads to skin cancer.

Look for ingredients like vitamin C and E, which are both great anti-oxidants. Glycolic acid also helps with anti-aging by treating fine lines and wrinkles.

4. Oil controlling

You want to look for ingredients with charcoal or clay, which can absorb or dissolve oil. Hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid and glycolic acid, help control oil as well. These products get rid of the oil that clogs pores, which can lead to blackheads and acne.

5. Exfoliators

Products containing either chemical (glycolic acid) or physical (beads) exfoliators can help eliminate dead skin cells, which can clog pores. When pores get clogged, they appear larger and swollen and can lead to blackheads and acne.

4. Avoid certain ingredients

You want to avoid products with mineral oil or petrolatum, which can clog your pores and make them look bigger and lead to acne.

Products with alcohol can sometimes be too irritating for people, especially those with dry or sensitive skin. If you overuse alcohol products, that can cause your skin to produce more oil to compensate.

Also, fragrances or scents can irritate some people as well, especially those with dry or sensitive skin.

The 4 best facial pore cleansers

1. ZELEN Life Cleanser

ZELEN Life Cleanser Image

Best features:

  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Organic, chemical-free formula that does not contain sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum
  • Calming and moisturizing properties

The best cleanser for:

This cleanser is excellent for all skin types. It is moisturizing and soothing enough for sensitive skin, while it can also help fight acne in oily skin.

Overview:

The ZELEN Life Cleanser contains all-natural ingredients that are suitable for all skin types.

Its main ingredients are aloe, sunflower oil, and jojoba oil, but it is packed with many other great ingredients too.

Aloe has long been used for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to help treat eczema and psoriasis (1-4). Its use dates back 2,500 years. Aloe also has great wound healing properties, can help balance the skin’s pH, and has anti-aging benefits from its anti-oxidants properties.

Sunflower seed oil is a good moisturizer with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties to soothe and protect the skin (5-7). It is gentle enough to use on an infant’s skin.

Jojoba oil is one of the good oils that will not clog your pores (1, 8-9). It actually can help control oil production. It has been used to help treat acne and eczema because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

It contains several antioxidants, such as lavender oil, rose oil, coconut oil, and tocopherol (vitamin E), which can help with anti-aging by protecting your skin from the harmful rays of the sun that can cause wrinkles and skin cancer (1, 10-15).

The anti-microbial ingredients, such as lavender oil, rose geranium oil, and glycerin, can help with acne (1, 10-11, 16-18).

Anti-inflammatory ingredients, like lavender oil, rose geranium oil, glycerin, rose oil, coconut oil, and almond oil, all help to soothe the skin (1, 10-20).

Glycerin and almond oil help hydrate the skin and keep it radiant (1, 19-20).

The good:

  • Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial ingredients to help with acne
  • Does not contain sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum to irritate your skin or clog your pores
  • Moisturizers to help dry sensitive skin
  • Packed with powerful anti-oxidants to help with anti-aging, such as vitamin E and coconut oil
  • Oil controlling with jojoba oil to unclog facial pores by dissolving sebum
  • Vegan-friendly and not tested on animals

Things to think about:

  • Essential oils – some people may find these to be irritating to the skin or dislike the scents
  • Vitamin C – some people may find this to be irritating or feel like it is stinging the skin

Bottom line:

If you are looking for a powerful acne-fighting cleanser that is also gentle on your skin while being protective, then this is a great choice.

2. boscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser

Boscia-Detoxifying-Black-Cleanser

Best features:

  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Warming sensation
  • No alcohol, sulfates, parabens, silicones

The best cleanser for:

This cleanser works great at cleaning out your pores, even if you have sensitive skin.

Overview:

boscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser is a unique warming cleanser full of good ingredients to help keep your skin free of excess oil and shine. Its main ingredients are charcoal, vitamin C, and artichoke leaf extract.

Charcoal has long been used to absorb excess oil on the skin (21-23). It acts like a magnet to keep your skin shine-free. It has many other medicinal purposes, such as to help absorb poisons in overdose patients.

Vitamin C is vital to the skin’s collagen production, which helps keep skin smooth and wrinkle-free (1). It is also a powerful antioxidant that protects the skin from the sun’s harmful rays that cause skin cancer. Vitamin C also helps brighten the skin by removing dark spots that are caused by the sun.

Artichoke leaf extract has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to soothe and protect the skin (24-25).

This cleanser contains anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as licorice root extract, rose geranium oil, and grapefruit seed extract, which calm and soothe the skin (1, 16-18, 26-27).

The anti-oxidant ingredients, such as licorice root extract and jojoba oil, help keep the skin looking young and protected (1, 8, 9). Jojoba oil also helps control oil production.

The anti-microbial properties of rose geranium oil and grapefruit seed extract help control acne breakouts (16-18, 26-27).

Glycolic acid is a great exfoliator to help remove dead skin cells to keep pores from getting clogged (1). It also has anti-aging benefits by reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

The good:

  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredients to help with acne and soothe the skin
  • Glycolic acid, which helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles while unclogging pores
  • No alcohol, sulfates, parabens, silicones
  • Powerful anti-oxidants, like vitamin C, to help with anti-aging
  • Oil controlling ingredients, like charcoal, to help clear pores

Things to think about:

  • Some people found it to be drying
  • Some people did not like the scent

Bottom line:

If you are looking for a detoxifying facial pore cleanser that will moisturize and protect your skin as well, then look no further.

3. Erno Laszlo Pore Refining Detox Double Cleanse

Erno Laszlo Pore Refining Detox Double Cleanse

Best features:

  • No sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum
  • Encapsulated detoxifying oil beads

The best cleanser for:

This is a great cleanser to unclog pores while soothing and moisturizing the skin.

Overview:

Erno Laszlo Pore Refining Detox Double Cleanse contains charcoal and superfruit extracts as its main ingredients that are encapsulated in these novel oil beads.

Charcoal has great oil-absorbing capabilities, which will help keep your pores clean and your face shine-free (21-23).

This combination of superfruits extracts, such as pineapple, kiwi, starfruit, mangosteen, lychee, passionflower, guava, pomegranate, and jujube, have powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe and protect the skin (28-35).

Also, lychee, passionflower, and pomegranate can lighten the skin and help remove dark spots caused by the sun.

The anti-microbial properties of aloe and grapefruit seed extract will help with acne breakouts (1-4, 26-27).

It contains other anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as artichoke leaf extract and aloe, to soothe the skin (1-4, 24-25). Artichoke leaf extract is also an antioxidant to protect the skin.

Sunflower oil helps to hydrate the skin and prevent the overproduction of oil (5-7).

The good:

  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredients to help with acne
  • No sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum
  • Loaded with superfruit anti-oxidants to help with anti-aging
  • Oil controlling ingredients, like charcoal, to help de-clog pores

Things to think about:

  • Some people have found it too drying
  • Some people have found the fragrance unappealing

Bottom line:

If you are looking for a gentle pore cleansing product that hydrates and soothes the skin, then give this cleanser a try.

4. Mario Badescu Cucumber Cleansing Lotion

Mario-Badescu-Cucumber-Cleansing-Lotion

Best features:

  • Cruelty-free
  • Cooling sensation
  • No sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum

The best cleanser for:

This is an excellent cleanser for oily to normal skin.

Overview:

Mario Badescu Cucumber Cleansing Lotion is a cucumber-infused cleanser that delivers a unique cooling sensation while moisturizing the skin.

Cucumbers have been cultivated for over 3,000 years as a food crop as well as for cosmetic purposes (1, 36-38).

Cucumber has been used for its unique cooling sensation and diuretic capabilities, as well as for its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cucumber can temporarily decrease swollen eyes or dark circles under the eyes because of its diuretic properties.

Also, it can help lighten the skin and remove dark spots caused by the sun.

It also contains moisturizing ingredients, such as propylene glycol and polysorbate 20, and exfoliants, like coumarin. The isopropyl alcohol helps remove oil.

The good:

  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredients to help with acne and soothe the skin
  • Anti-oxidants to help with anti-aging
  • Skin brightening/whitening from cucumber extract
  • No sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum to irritate the skin or clog the pores

Things to think about:

  • Alcohol can be too drying for sensitive and dry skin types
  • Some found the fragrance unappealing

Bottom line:

If you are looking for a cleanser for normal to oily skin that has a nice cooling effect, this is the cleanser for you.


How we chose these products

These 4 cleansers for facial pores were chosen for several reasons. They are all trusted brands that deliver high-quality products. These companies perform extensive research to ensure their products are top quality. Also, there are numerous good reviews on all these products.

In this group of cleansers, you can find something for every budget. They range from expensive to reasonably priced. You don’t always have to spend a huge amount of money to get the right product.

These cleansers all fulfill their purpose with quality ingredients that target oily skin types. They cleanse the skin and keep the pores free of oil and debris, so they appear smaller.

In addition, they contain antioxidants to help protect the skin and help with anti-aging. They have anti-inflammatory properties and moisturizers to help soothe and hydrate the skin.

Frequently asked questions

frequently asked questions

How often do I need to cleanse my face?

Everyone needs to cleanse their face twice a day with the right products. You must wash your face in the morning to remove the oil and bacteria that has accumulated overnight.

You must also wash your face at night to remove makeup, dirt, oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells that build up over the course of the day. If you do not wash twice a day, this can lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts.

If you have sensitive skin, choose creamy non-foaming cleansers that will not strip your skin of natural oils that protect our skin. If you have oily skin, you can choose products that have hydroxy acids to remove excess oil.

How long until I see results?

It can take 1-2 months to start to see your pores becoming less clogged and less visible. As long as you do not have any irritation from your cleanser, keep using it.

Consistency and patience are the keys to success when treating clogged pores. There is no magic overnight treatment.

Can I over wash my face?

If you wash too much or use the wrong products, you can over-dry your skin. Your skin will get red and flaky. It will feel irritated, sore, or burning. That is why selecting the right product is so crucial to success with your skincare regimen.

If I have oily skin and enlarged pores, should I use a scrub brush?

You should not use a scrub brush on your face unless it is specially made for the face with soft bristles. Read the directions to determine how often you can use it and for how long. Always start slow and build up to it.

Skincare is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient. Harsh bristles or over-washing can damage the skin, such as abrasions or cuts that result in infection or scarring.

Also, over washing or being too aggressive with your skin can cause the overproduction of oil as a defense mechanism.

How do I wash my face?

It is best to use clean fingertips to wash your face. Use lukewarm water, not hot water, which can sometimes irritate the skin. Massage the cleanser into your skin using small circular motions for about 30 seconds.

Most importantly, choose products that are right for your skin type. Pat dry with a clean towel, do not rub. Rubbing your skin can irritate it and cause excess production of oil or even damage your skin.

Do I need to moisturize after washing my face if I have oily skin?

Everyone needs to moisturize their face twice a day, even people with oily skin. You should moisturize after washing your face. If your skin is oily, use a light moisturizer, like a gel or lotion.

Thicker moisturizing creams are better for dry, sensitive skin. If your skin is oily and you are prone to clogged pores, avoid mineral oil or petrolatum-based products, which will just clog your pores more.

Conclusion

Cleansers are a crucial step in everyone’s skin care regimen, which makes the selection very important. You must read the ingredients to ensure you are selecting the correct product for your skin type.

Make sure to wash your face twice a day and moisturize twice a day to keep your skin healthy. Do not overdo it. Listen to your skin. If it gets red and irritated, it is telling you that the cleanser is wrong for you.

The cleansers discussed here are 4 good ones for gently unclogging pores.

Which one is your favorite? Or, perhaps there is one not on our list that you can recommend?

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About The Author

Dr. Jennifer Trent MD FAAD
Dr. Jennifer Trent MD FAAD

Board-certified Dermatologist

Dr. Trent completed a 6 year combined BS-MD at the University of Miami with an undergraduate major in biology and a minor in chemistry. She completed her internship in Internal Medicine and her residency in Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital. Dr. Trent is a world recognized dermatologist, who has published over 40 articles in peer-reviewed journals. She also co-authored a textbook on dermatologic diseases and therapy, which was published by McGraw-Hill Co, Inc. She has had the opportunity to present her clinical research several times at national medical meetings. Dr. Trent has been the recipient of several awards for research, teaching and clinical practice, including the prestigious Young Investigators award for research from the American Academy of Dermatology as well as the coveted Castle Connelly Top Doctor award.

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