When we’re searching for the best pore cleanser, what exactly are we searching for? What type of skincare products will fit best in the category of pore cleansers?
Simply put, pore cleansers are products that keep our face clean and exfoliated.
They are products that remove dirt, impurities and pollution but also products that remove excess oil, balance sebum production, and remove dead skin cells. If all these are left unattended, they lead to clogged pores, which leads to acne.
The purpose is keeping pores clean, which also makes them look smaller.
The Various Types of Pore Cleansers
As it turns out, there are quite a few skincare products that can be classified as pore cleansers:
- facial cleansers or face washes – it all starts with washing your face at least twice daily, it’s the absolute foundation of a beauty routine, a crucial step
- facial toners
- face oils
- chemical peels of chemical exfoliators – products that remove dead skin cells, preventing pores from getting clogged with excess sebum, dirt, and impurities, another extremely important step in a beauty routine
The Most Important Role of Pore Cleansers
What you need to know is this: pore cleansers, no matter which category they belong to, have powerful ingredients that exfoliate the skin.
They remove dead skin cells, which is absolutely crucial in preventing pores from getting clogged.
They regulate sebum production. Excess oil production is a sure way of getting clogged pores.
Dirt, impurities, and pollution are also removed from the skin.
Those are mainly handled first by face washing twice daily and then by using an exfoliator or a peel, usually in the evening.
Facial masks are also famous for preventing pores from getting clogged and for especially dealing with blackheads and whiteheads (two of the most common forms of acne). You will definitely encounter at least one mask among my picks for the best pore cleansers.
Top 10 Best Pore Cleansers for Face
Since there are so many skincare products that can qualify as a best pore cleanser, I’m going to recommend products that belong to the above categories.
You can choose just one for your beauty routine or you can choose a bunch and incorporate them into your morning or evening skincare routine.
1. Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, 4 oz – One of the Best Pore Cleansers
There aren’t many other skincare products that can qualify as being better than this one. What is it and how can it help you?
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a chemical exfoliator with a high concentration of salicylic acid.
It contains 2% salicylic acid, a high concentration for over-the-counter products. Another notable ingredient is green tea and that’s about it.
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant targets quite a lot of problems:
- large pores
- clogged pores
- excess sebum production
- it can even help reduce fine lines & wrinkles
This is pretty much the complete package when it comes to shopping for the best pore cleanser.
It can create sun sensitivity so, it’s best to apply it in the evening.
You can also skip on using a toner if you’re using it or you can opt for using a hydrating facial toner.
Plus, the price is really good, too. This exfoliant will last a long time, the 4 oz quantity is quite good for this price.
If you are completely new to exfoliation or to using salicylic acid topically, perform a small test to see how your skin handles it and then start by using it once every other day.
Salicylic acid is good for all skin types, including sensitive skin. It hasn’t irritated my skin or dried it out but it’s best to be cautious.
2. Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel, 7.5 oz
This pore cleansing gel is a bit expensive but the 7.5 oz quantity makes up a bit for the high price.
It’s a gentle yet very effective best pore cleanser in the form of a cleansing gel.
Since it’s a gel, don’t expect it to make foam. The absence of foam doesn’t mean that it won’t remove excess oil, dirt, impurities, and makeup from your face.
It promises to deliver a balanced, deeply cleansed, unclogged complexion.
In order to achieve that it has a combination of exfoliating ingredients: mandelic acid, glycolic acid, willow bark extract (the natural salicylic acid), phytic acid, citric acid. Those are a lot of exfoliators.
To sooth and moisturize the skin it contains: castor oil, hyaluronic acid, tremella fuciformis extract (which is supposed to be even better than hyaluronic acid), aloe vera, bisabolol.
For controlling sebum production, there is barosma betulina leaf extract.
Moreover, it also contains potassium azeloyl diglycinate. Simply put, this is a derivative of azelaic acid, which is a famous anti-acne ingredient.
Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel does seem to cover absolutely everything one might expect from a best pore cleanser. It’s worth the price.
The formula is gentle, it can be used by all skin types and even around the eyes to remove makeup.
3. Pixi Glow Tonic, 8 oz – Exfoliating Toner for Clean Pores
If you’re looking for a facial toner as the best pore cleanser, Pixi Glow Tonic is at the top of the list.
It has a very interesting array of ingredients for exfoliating the skin and for removing dirt and excess sebum:
- 5% glycolic acid – that’s a high concentration, glycolic acid is an AHA, a powerful acid that exfoliates the skin, brightens up the skin, and even stimulates collagen production
- aloe vera for soothing and calming the skin
- red ginseng for energizing the skin
- contains fragrance
A toner should be used immediately after washing your face. The Pixi Glow Tonic can be used twice daily and it will leave your face feeling clean and refreshed.
It will work for all skin types but it’s especially sought after by those who have acne-prone skin or are focused on preventing fine lines and wrinkles.
It’s not the cheapest but the 8 oz quantity makes up for it. It should last half a year or more.
I pretty much love using toners, you should give them a try.
4. Peter Thomas Roth Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask, 5 oz – Best Mask for Clearing Clogged Pores
This sulfur mask from Peter Thomas Roth is one of the best when it comes to acne, blemishes, blackheads, and clogged pores. It also absorbs excess oil.
If you suffer from mild to moderate acne and you want a best pore cleanser to diminish breakouts, this should catch your attention.
The ingredients that make that possible are:
- sulfur 10% – the active ingredient, famous for its effects against acne, it’s very similar to benozyl peroxide and salicylic acid but it can also dry out the skin
- bentonite and kaolin clays – these are the magnets that clean up pores, great for removing blackheads
- aloe vera
- zinc oxide (anti-inflammatory)
This mask can be used for back acne as well as on the chest. It’s not only good for getting a clearer face.
It can be used 2-3 times a week and you only have to leave it on the face for 5-10 minutes.
Since sulfur and clay are both ingredients that can dry out the skin, you need to immediately moisturize. It might also be the case that you won’t be using it in the cold months if your skin is sensitive.
For the 5 oz quantity, the price is one of the best.
5. Glycolix Elite Glycolic Acid Treatment Pads – Best Anti-Aging Pads for Clean Pores
These are some of the most affordable glycolic acid pads. For an affordable price, you get 60 pads. They’re really great for a gentle yet powerful exfoliation.
Besides the 20% glycolic acid, there are other ingredients to get us very excited: witch hazel, retinyl palmitate (weaker than retinol), vitamin E, ascorbyl palmitate (vitamin C), and CO-Q10 (another antioxidant).
Based on these ingredients we can conclude one thing: these pads are not only very good at keeping our pores clean, they also are amazing for fighting fine lines and wrinkles.
You can target some of the most important skincare concerns just by using these affordable exfoliation pads.
They’re very easy to use, you just need to run the pad all over your face until it’s dry. Avoid the eye area completely.
I recommend the pads with 20% glycolic acid but you can also go for the 10% or 15% concentration.
Start by using them 1-2 times a week and then increase to using them 3 times a week. Some users end up exfoliating with the Glycolix Elite Glycolic Acid Treatment Pads every night.
They will last quite a long time considering that you get 60 pads.
6. CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser, 5 oz – Powerful Face Wash
Those who are dealing with breakouts that won’t go away should consider trying the CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser.
Why does it qualify as an amazing pore cleanser perfect for acne-prone skin?
Because it has one very important active ingredient: benzoyl peroxide 4%. Due to the presence of benzoyl peroxide, this cleanser is also considered an acne treatment.
The 4% concentration is high enough for it to be very effective against breakouts. But it’s also gentle enough that it can be used even by those who don’t have experience with this powerful ingredient.
Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that is responsible for acne. It further helps the skin by removing excess sebum and dead skin cells.
CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser promises to help clear pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, and also preventing new acne from forming.
Moreover, it will remove makeup, dirt, and excess oil, without stripping the skin of moisture.
In order to achieve those results without drying out the skin it also contains hyaluronic acid for hydration and 3 essential ceramides for strengthening the skin’s barrier.
The price is really affordable, too.
You can find more about the various skincare products from this drugstore manufacturer in my CeraVe vs Cetaphil debate.
7. CeraVe Retinol Serum for Post-Acne Marks and Skin Texture, 1 oz – Pore Refining Serum
If you have wanted to try a retinol serum for quite some time but couldn’t decide which one, I would recommend the CeraVe Retinol Serum for Post-Acne Marks and Skin Texture.
It’s one of the cheapest serums with retinol and it won’t irritate the skin. It can actually be used every night from the beginning.
This serum actually contains encapsulated retinol, which is slowly released into the skin throughout the night. You need to wear sunscreen because it can create sun sensitivity.
Besides retinol, it has other awesome ingredients: 3 essential ceramides, licorice root extract (for fighting hyperpigmentation), and niacinamide.
This retinol serum promises some very exciting things that will appeal to a lot of people:
- to reduce the appearance of post-acne marks and pores
- to help restore the protective skin barrier
- and improve skin smoothness
They also have a CeraVe Anti-Aging Retinol Serum, just as affordable.
8. Aveeno Positively Radiant Facial Scrub, 5 oz – Daily Scrub for Cleansing Pores
This is the type of gentle facial scrub that can actually be used daily and it works for all skin types.
It can be used by those with acne-prone and sensitive skin types.
The price is incredibly cheap, you get a big quantity, and the quality is one of the best. It’s one of those rare skincare products that manages to check all boxes.
Aveeno Positively Radiant Facial Scrub promises a few simple but very important things: to improve skin tone, texture, and clarity.
In order to do that, it contains naturally derived granules and moisture-rich soy extract.
9. Sunday Riley U.F.O Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil, 1.18 oz – Facial Oil for Clogged Pores
Pretty much all of the above best pore cleansers turn out to be extremely affordable when compared with this facial oil.
Whom is this facial oil for?
From the ultra-clarifying description, I think you can take a guess.
This facial oil is for those who want to clear up clogged pores and prevent breakouts.
The Sunday Riley U.F.O focuses just on acne-prone skin. It addresses problems like blackheads, whiteheads, and acne scars. Those are the skin problems that this facial oil can help with.
It’s an oil that contains 1.5% salicylic acid. So, it exfoliates dead skin cells and penetrates deeply into the skin to clear up clogged pores.
The other impressive ingredients that should make it worth that high price are:
- tea tree oil & black cumin seed oil – purify the skin
- licorice root extract and hexylresorcinol – brightening properties
- aloe vera
- jojoba oil
- plus a very long list of other extracts
It can be applied directly after cleansing if you’re not using a toner or after the toner if you’re using one.
You don’t even need to use another chemical exfoliator or even a moisturizer since this product can take on both of those roles.
You can start off by using it 2-3 times a week in the beginning.
10. Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Moisturizer, 1.7 oz – Exfoliating Moisturizer
If you have an unlimited budget, you might as well consider spending quite the considerable amount of money on an exfoliating moisturizer.
It’s an interesting skincare product and an interesting addition to our quest for the best pore cleanser. This one, hydrates the skin at the same time.
For exfoliation, it contains glycolic acid and lactic acid – the two powerful AHAs.
But it doesn’t stop there. It also contains enzymes, which also exfoliate dead skin cells and clean pores but in a more gentle manner. We find pumpkin, pineapple, and papaya enzymes.
There are chemical exfoliators who don’t pack this intense amount of exfoliating ingredients.
But what about the hydrating factor?
Hyaluronic acid is the main hydrating ingredient, a powerful humectant who draws moisture from the air into the skin. It also has napol cactus fruit, which prevents any possible irritation to be caused by those powerful acids.
What Are Clogged Pores?
It’s completely understandable to be searching for the best pore cleanser.
After all, clogged pores are the common factor that all forms of acne have in common. They are usually associated with blackheads but whiteheads also form as a result of having our pores clogged.
Clogged pores result from a combination of excess sebum, dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria. It’s why we shouldn’t touch are face throughout the day. Oil production can also be increased by hormonal changes.
Any of my above picks will take care of that. For successful results, it’s best to incorporate a combination of them into your skincare routine.
We have to constantly use pore cleansers, once we stop our pores will get clogged again.
If you have large pores, you can make them appear smaller by using products that contain niacinamide.
But pore size is genetic, pores can only be made to appear smaller by keeping them clean and by controlling sebum production. It’s why it’s so important to use the right pore cleansers for your skin type.
Best Pore Cleanser Ingredients
When looking for a best pore cleanser, whether it’s a face wash or a chemical exfoliator or a serum or a mask, there are a few ingredients that are much better than others when it comes to keeping pores from getting clogged.
This is a short list of such ingredients:
- salicylic acid – it’s one of the most popular ingredients when it comes to exfoliating dead skin cells without irritating the skin, it’s a gentle beta hydroxy acid BHA that penetrates deep into the skin to cleanse the pores, especially great for those battling blackheads since it also reduces oil production
- glycolic acid & lactic acid – glycolic acid is another powerful acid for exfoliating dead skin cells, it’s the most powerful alpha hydroxy acid AHA and it’s also known for brightening up the skin, evening out the skin tone, and stimulating collagen production, it’s a very good anti-aging ingredient
- retinol – retinol has an already established reputation as one of the most effective anti-aging ingredients but it also speeds up cell turnover, which in turn keeps the pores nice and clean, it can be paired with salicylic acid to exfoliate and keep oil production under control
- clay – when it comes to facial masks, clay is an ingredient that needs no introduction, it acts as a magnet for the dirt and sebum that clog pores, which leads to clean pores but it can also dry out the skin, those with dry skin avoid using clay masks during the winter
When it comes to moisturizers, you need to choose one with ingredients that are non-comedogenic.
The simplest method to choose a moisturizer for your skin type is going for those who focus on hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant that works for all skin types, including combination, oily, and acne-prone skin.
So, pair your best pore cleanser with a moisturizer that contains ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides, and antioxidants.