Tips and Tricks: How to Clean Your Pores (Without a BHA)

Pores are those tiny little openings on the surface of the skin that the beauty industry is obsessed with hiding. Apparently, the pore-less, porcelian look is what we’re all supposed to want. Since pores are what allow all of my skincare products to absorb, I’ve come to love the little things and focus on keeping them clean rather than (fruitlessly) trying to minimize them.

The dear Fiddy Snails came up with a very effective method of clearing out the excess sebum and sebaceous filaments from pores. But there are some of us, myself included, who can’t or don’t want to use a BHA because of sensitive or extremely dry skin. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to realize that my skin–for whatever reason–reacts poorly to BHAs, and what’s more, I try to avoid clay masks because they dry out my skin too much. Sadly, Fiddy’s method is effective but requires a BHA and a clay mask.

Thankfully, since I don’t have acne-prone skin, my skin does fine (better, even!) without BHAs and clay masks, but I still like to keep my pores clean to help prevent breakouts. So, I’ve compiled a list of products and methods that have worked well for me to keep my pores cleaner and looking smaller.

(Please note that I said looking smaller. You cannot change the size of your pores, so please be wary of any product that claims to do so.)

These products and techniques are in addition to keeping my hands off my face during the day! It’s such a hard habit to break, but it has helped. I know I’m jinxing myself just by typing this, but my skin has really improved in terms of acne. It has to be at least 8 months since I’ve had cystic acne, and the pimples that may pop up are usually tiny and go away quickly with a pimple patch.

Swanicoco Pore Clearance



Water, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Enantia Chlorantha Bark Extract, Oleanolic Acid, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Punica Granatum Fruit Extract, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil

This is a new product for me. I’ve been using it for a couple of months and am impressed with the results. I use this essence 1-2 times a week. It’s a very thin, clear liquid that I pump onto a cotton pad and sweep across my t-zone or wherever else I feel like I’m getting clogged pores. Normally, when examining the ingredient list, I would be wary of alcohol as the third ingredient (!), but my friend Karen told me she’d heard it wasn’t as drying. So, I gave it a try because I got in on sale, and she was right! The centella helps to calm and the papaya and willow bark extracts help to lightly exfoliate. I use this immediately after cleansing and it visibly helps to clear my pores.

I purchased this from (formerly W2beauty).

Papa Recipe Eggplant Clearing Mud Cream Mask



Solanum Melongena (Eggplant) Fruit Extract (66%), Kaolin (14%), Propanediol, Dipropylene Glycol, Isononyl Isononanoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ultramarines (CI77007), Arachidyl Alcohol, Ceyl Alcohol, Clyceryl Stearate, Stearyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol, Iron Oxides (CI77491), Titanium Dioxide (CI77891), Juglans Regia (Walnut) Shell Powder, Arachidyl Glucoside, Salvia Hispanica Seed Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Bentonite, Betula Alba Juice, Water, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Ethylhexylglycerin, Xathan Gum, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Allantoin, Glucose, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Hydroxycinnamic Acid, Rutin

As someone with dry skin, I generally avoid clay and mud masks. However, they are great for cleaning out pores. So, I was so happy when I got a sample of this eggplant mud mask because it is not drying at all: it applies super smooth and doesn’t really dry out. It also washes off easily. Plus, and this might be the most important part, IT’S PURPLE! There are the tiniest of walnut shell particles, but they’re not of the St. Ives Apricot Scrub variety. These are minuscule and provide gentle exfoliation. Overall this helps to clear out my pores. I use it once a every 10 days or so.

I couldn’t find this from any online retailers I trusted, so I put in an item request at and Shereen was able to get it for me!

Skinfood Egg White Pore Mask



Water, Butylene Glycol, Titanium Dioxide, Glycerin, Bentonite, Silica, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Peg-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Glyceryl Stearate Se, Polysorbate60, Kaolin, Zinc Oxide, Betaine, Sorbitan Stearate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polyvinyl Alcohol , Pvp, Phenoxyethanol, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Fragrance, Lactic Acid, Albumen, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Disodium Edta.

I’ve been using this great wash-off mask the longest to help clear out my pores. I love that it doesn’t dry out my skin. The first time I used it, I was worried because it did dry down all the way and felt tight. However, I could then see the spots around my nose and forehead where the mask was pulling out the oils. Once I washed it off, my face felt soft and supple, and my pores looked clean and small. The ad copy states that the albumen–a protein in egg whites–is an anti-inflammatory and helps to “tighten” pores. The visual effect on pores is temporary, but it certainly seems to help keep my pores clean. I usually use this mask once a week in the shower in the morning.

Oil Cleansing


Pictured are the Illi Total Aging Care Cleansing Oil, the Healavie Gel to Oil Cleanser, and the Illi Fresh Moisture Cleansing Oil.

Oil cleansing is my favorite step in my routine, helping to take all of the gunk off my face. But instead of quickly rinsing it after immediately after application, for the past 7 months or so, I’ve started letting it sit on my skin for awhile, sometimes gently massaging for about 30 seconds. It feels good and has really helped keep blemishes at bay. In fact, if I feel like my pores need extra help, I’ll put some cleansing oil on my face in the morning, leave it on in the shower, then rinse it off right before I step out. (I’m a big fan of using showers as skincare time.) It’s a really easy technique that doesn’t require extra products!

Wishing U Advanced Whitening Dried Bio-Cellulose Mask


Given the price of this sheet mask, I don’t think it’s a sustainable way to keep your pores clean, but it is a fun, occasional treatment. The Wishing U mask looks and feels like any other biocellulose mask, but you should wait until its completely dry to remove it. Then, run it under water. You’ll then see all the stuff it pulled out of your pores. It’s gross and satisfying in the way that the Biore pore strips are gross and satisfying. (I don’t use those, by the way. They hurt and I’m not into skincare that hurts.) The mask claims are more about whitening and wrinkle reduction through ingredients like EGF and niacinamide, but I have found that my pores appear clearer after use.

I purchase this mask from

Please feel free to share your products and tips that help you keep your pores clear without the use of a BHA or other active!


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