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Ask Dr. Schultz | Skin Care Guides | No Tools Necessary: How To Safely De-Gunk Clogged Pores

No Tools Necessary: How To Safely De-Gunk Clogged Pores

There are easier ways to get rid of clogged pores than stripping your skin or digging a sharp tool into your face. While administering late night “surgery” on a clogged pore or blackhead might feel like you’re playing out your Grey’s Anatomy fantasy, attempting to physically extract dirt and grime from clogged pores yourself is not always the best idea. Thankfully, there’s a simpler way to de-gunk and we’re here to help show you it starts by putting the extractor tools back in the drawer.

What Is a Clogged Pore?

Understanding the components of a clogged pore helps in determining which solutions will actually help clean them. Open holes surrounding hair follicles are called pores, which typically sit above oil glands under the skin. Clogged pores are caused by an excess of oil and dead cells mixing together in these spaces. The debris within a clogged pore can further develop into a blackhead (if it lies underneath the surface) or a whitehead (if it lies on the surface of the skin).  

Instant Gratification is NOT the Answer with the Loop and Lancet

The comedone extractor was made popular by YouTube and has since been the star of every viral pimple-fighting video produced. But the main difference between your extraction efforts and hers are a medical degree. A comedone extractor is made up of two parts: a lance to pierce whiteheads and a loop to surround a blackhead to extract the gunk within your pores. While the relief of getting a pimple to burst is extremely satisfying, it’s not worth the potential irritation, redness, and possible scarring that comes after trying to pry open a whitehead or blackhead. Using a comedone extractor should only be used by those who understand the appropriate pressure to apply to the skin. Digging too deep into your skin could cause scarring which will give you the opposite of your flawless skin goals.

Don’t Put Yourself in a Sticky Situation

There is a high level of gratification that comes with peel-off pore strips, where you feel like they are actually working because you can see (what you think is) the debris being pulled out. And while there’s something satisfying about ripping off the gunk around your nose, pulling pore strips off quickly can actually harm your skin. In addition, when you’re pulling off a sticky pore strip, you might be convinced that the gunk that appears to have been removed has cleaned out your pores. But truth be known, there’s no way for surface level pore strips to penetrate deep enough to clear out clogged pores. While pore strips can remove surface level dirt and oil, they aren’t meant to target the root of a hair follicle which is causing your clogged pore.

Please Don’t DIY

While honey, coconut oil, sugar, salt, and lemon juice are all natural and delicious, creating your own DIY exfoliating scrub is not the most effective for cleaning out clogged pores. Exfoliating is a great idea to help loosen up those pores, but concoctions made from household items not meant for your skin may not deliver real results. At-home physical exfoliants can be harsh and irritate your skin unlike gentle chemical exfoliants designed with precision and potency for your skin. This warning also goes for any school-grade glue that you think might substitute for a peel-off mask. Try leaving the glue to your arts and crafts projects, not your skin!


Retinoids are a prescribed potent acid that can exfoliate effectively, but also increase the chance of irritation. In the past, retinoids would have been the easy answer to getting rid of clogged pores. While most people associate retinoids with wrinkles, the vitamin A derivative is known for cellular turnover and encouraging new cell growth. When you have new cell growth, dead skin cells can gently be exfoliated away leaving pores without any lingering debris. In a perfect world, retinoids treat both clogged pores and they’re anti-aging. But the numerous side effects such as redness, dryness, sensitivity to sun, and even further breakouts caused by retinoids say otherwise.

The Best Solution: Treat the Actual Clog

Getting rid of all the reasons your pores are clogging in the first place is ultimately the best way to clear up your skin and reveal a fresher face. Your pores are clogged by excess oil, dead cells, and dirt. So choosing products with the right ingredients to tackle those things is essential for de-gunking your clogged pores. Glycolic exfoliation effectively removes all the dirt and debris that sits both on the surface of your skin as well as removing dead cells that might be clogging your pores. Emulsifiers are best for clearing up excess oil. And toner is another great way to remove dirt — Tea Tree oil is an excellent toner for doing just that. Use a product, like our Dermstick for Pores, that has all the ingredients you need to clear out your clogged pores and resist the urge to scrape and stick your way to clear skin. 

The secret to de-gunking clogged pores is not in sharp tools and DIY gimmicks. The best results come from the proven formulas with the right ingredients for de-gunking. So next time you’re convinced peeling off a pore strip like a bandaid is the way to go, try using a better product and be confident you’re truly de-gunking your pores.

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