Do you need to clean your pores?

Does scrub­bing away at our skin make it bet­ter? Michael Freed­man takes a look.

Geraldton Guardian - - Guardian Healthy You - Michael Free­man is a der­ma­tol­o­gist and As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor at Bond Univer­sity. This is an edited ver­sion of an ar­ti­cle that first ap­peared in The Con­ver­sa­tion.

Many of us will have seen, if not tried, var­i­ous prod­ucts claim­ing to clean the dirt out of our pores.

From scrubs to cleansers to plas­ters that stick to our faces, there are many tools at our dis­posal.

But do we ac­tu­ally need to clean out our pores, or are the lit­tle black stems on the other side of the sticky plas­ter or mask fine where they are?

The pores on our face, just like our ear canals, are de­signed to clean them­selves. So for most peo­ple, leav­ing them to their own de­vices is fine, and just cleans­ing the face is enough. But there are a va­ri­ety of rea­sons why pores can be­come blocked, caus­ing black­heads to form un­der the skin.

Th­ese black­heads are made up mostly of dead skin and some dirt.

Hor­mones, bac­te­ria or some­times too much cleans­ing (be­cause this can ir­ri­tate the skin, caus­ing it to thicken) can cause pores to block. This is a com­mon cause of acne be­cause when the pore blocks, there is pres­sure in the oil gland which can then rup­ture, re­leas­ing very ir­ri­tat­ing oils.

It’s th­ese that cause the red le­sions known as acne.

It’s im­por­tant never to squeeze a black­head too much be­cause you might cause the oil glands to rup­ture back into the skin, caus­ing an even worse re­ac­tion.

You can buy a spe­cial black­head re­mov­ing tool from the chemist and this avoids break­ing a black­head un­der the skin. There are also med­i­cal pre­scrip­tion gels that can clear pores. Vi­ta­min A prod­ucts stop the skin lin­ing the pores from thick­en­ing, so they don’t block the oil glands, lead­ing to acne.

Some peo­ple have ge­net­i­cally big­ger and more no­tice­able pores, and pores get big­ger as we age. This doesn’t mean they’re more likely to fill up with dirt. The only is­sue is some peo­ple don’t like the way this looks and can feel self-con­scious about their big­ger pores.


There are a few dif­fer­ent ways to think about your pores. Some peo­ple have nor­mal skin and just want to clean their face. In some peo­ple, pores are blocked with a con­di­tion such as acne. And some have nor­mal skin and just want their pores to ap­pear smaller.

Nor­mal cleans­ing: If your skin is nor­mal, just wash your face gen­tly with luke­warm or cold wa­ter.

Use a gen­tle cleanser, but if your skin is on the dry side, you don’t need a cleanser.

Treat­ing acne: Use a chem­i­cal ex­fo­liant such as al­pha hy­droxy or beta hy­droxy acid to ex­fo­li­ate your skin with­out hav­ing to scrub it.

This means there is no dam­age to the pore.

The longer you leave the cleanser on, the more it works.


Steam­ing: heat­ing the face can make the blood ves­sels stand out and cause rosacea (a red rash) in those who are prone to it.

The oils are dis­solved more read­ily and stripped from the face, which means un­less you re­ally have very oily skin, it will dry out.

We now know heat ages the skin so it makes sense to avoid this type of treat­ment for most peo­ple.

Fa­cial brush: while a fa­cial brush will ex­fo­li­ate your skin, the risk is the pore will swell be­cause of the ir­ri­ta­tion, caus­ing more block­age.

Fa­cial scrub: gels, creams, cleansers and scrubs con­tain­ing tiny par­ti­cles that ex­fo­li­ate your face can also cause swelling and block the pores.

Black­heads are made up mostly of dead skin and some dirt.

Pic­ture: Getty Images

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