Regardless of our skin type, we all have pores. Pores aren’t the problem. But when pores are clogged, due to excess oil or built-up dirt, they can lead to acne. And clogged pores, when not taken care of, can lead to enlarged pores (1). And that might give you uneven skin texture. So it’s no surprise that we turn to skincare to stop this whole thing in its tracks. And when it comes to fast-acting skin care, nothing beats face masks. There are masks you can use for pores to clean them up and minimize their appearance. And if you’re not sure where to start, I’ve listed down some of the most effective face masks for pores that stood against the test of time.
Though I round it down to 35 most of the time, I’m 37 and I’ve had pores -large pores- my whole life. I used to smear my MAC Studio Fix Foundation all over my face back in college. The more I applied, the worse my pores looked. And as I started to focus more on skincare and less on makeup, I realized that my problem was not necessarily the pores themselves but my congested, blackhead-filled pores.
I kept experimenting with several products for congested skin using different ingredients. And I managed to clean them up and keep them that way. Today, my pores are still there but they’re clear. I honestly don’t see them when I look in the mirror anymore. Besides a good skincare routine that I follow rain or shine, I keep several masks in my cabinet to maintain clear pores so that I don’t end up back where I started.
And out of those countless masks that I tried, some have been my staples. And some new discoveries turned out to be surprisingly helpful too. So don’t worry. There’s no need to bring genetics into this conversation. There may be no way of getting rid of pores, but there are several ways to clean up and minimize them.
Ahead are the best face masks for pores.
1. Glamglow Supermud Instant Clearing Treatment Mask
One of the most effective masks I’ve ever tried for my pores is this one. And I’m saying this considering both the formula and the base. The charcoal mask applies like a light, thin cream and dries down fast. The exfoliating acids, both alpha, and beta hydroxy acids help unclog pores, leaving the skin clean, and shine-free. Please note that the acids might irritate your skin if you have sensitive skin. The mask is not cheap. But the mini-size is reasonably-priced and goes a long way.
Base: Charcoal Key Ingredients: Acid blend (lactic, salicylic, glycolic) Key Benefits: Cleans pores, reduces shine Skin Type: Combination, oily, acne-prone Size: 1.7 oz
2. Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Minimizing Cleansing Clay Mask
This is a very light, creamy clay mask. The base warms a bit from the heat of your fingers, which makes the mask go on very easily. And as it dries down, clay draws out impurities from pores, leaving them clean and clear. It doesn’t dry out your skin or leave it tight. The mask also has aloe to soothe the skin too. This huge jar lasts very, very long.
Base: Clay Key Ingredients: Aloe Key Benefits: Clears pores, reduces oil Skin Type: Normal, combination, oily, acne-prone Size: 4.2 oz
3. Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask
An affordable clay mask that is just as effective is this Korean pore-clearing clay mask. It’s infused with volcanic clusters to detox the skin. The creamy, non-messy formula spreads super easily and doesn’t dry down hard or thick, which makes the removal easy too. The good thing is that it also contains lactic acid to very gently exfoliate.
Base: Clay Key Ingredients: Volcanic ash, lactic acid Key Benefits: Exfoliates, refines pores Skin Type: Normal, combination, oily Size: 3.38 oz
4. Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores
One of my absolute favorites from the brand is this clay mask. It provides deep cleansing for your pores and if you have oily skin, the charcoal powder mattifies your complexion too. After you rinse it off, you’ll see that your skin looks smoother and feels tighter. You can use this even if you have sensitive skin because the mask is super gentle.
Base: Clay Key Ingredients: Charcoal powder Key Benefits: Clears pores, decongests, reduces oil Skin Type: All Size: 2.5 oz
5. Herbivore Blue Tansy BHA and Enzyme Pore Refining Mask
Salicylic acid offers a more targeted approach to dealing with blemishes, congested skin, and large pores. So this mask utilizes willow bark extract, a gentle, natural source of salicylic acid. And it has enzymes for superficial exfoliation. And because this is gel-based, it doesn’t leave the skin matte. That’s why I love it as a workaround to deal with congested pores without drying the skin. It’s spiked with hydrating ingredients, which is great when you have dry skin too.
Base: Gel Key Ingredients: Willow bark extract, enzymes, aloe, blue tansy oil Key Benefits: Helps clear acne, opens up pores, calms Skin Type: All Size: 2 oz
6. The Body Shop Tea Tree Anti-Imperfection Night Mask
Similarly, this is another gel-based mask. In fact, this is an overnight mask. It wraps your skin up with salicylic acid and anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory tea tree leaf oil. It targets blemishes and pores but without drying your skin. Wash it off in the morning to reveal brighter skin with refined pores.
Base: Gel Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, tea tree leaf oil, aloe, hyaluronic acid Key Benefits: Unclogs pores without drying skin, reduces blemishes, hydrates Skin Type: Normal, combination, oily Size: 2.6 oz
7. Caudalie Vinergetic C+ Instant Detox Mask
This is one of the gentlest clay masks you can use for your pores. And I’m saying this as someone dealing with redness and rosacea. The pink, creamy clay soaks up excess oil and sucks up the dirt inside the pores. And it leaves your skin noticeably smooth, calm, and clear.
Base: Clay Key Ingredients: Grape extract, caffeine Key Benefits: Minimizes pores, balances complexion Skin Type: All Size: 2.5 oz
8. Youth To The People Yerba Mate Resurfacing + Exfoliating Energy Facial
This is a cream-based mask perfect for managing pores when you have dry skin. It has a bit of a gritty texture for physical exfoliation but it’s incredibly gentle on the skin. And to avoid drying or irritating your skin while reducing pores, the mask contains the gentle exfoliant lactic acid and enzyme exfoliants. And hey, it has niacinamide to protect your skin and refine pores too. If you have enlarged pores because of aging skin, you’ll love this madly antioxidant-rich treatment.
Base: Cream Key Ingredients: Lactic acid, niacinamide, enzymes Key Benefits: Gently exfoliates, removes flaky skin with physical exfoliation, nourishes Skin Type: Normal, combination, oily Size: 2 oz
So these are some of the best face masks that clear pores and tighten the skin to make them appear smaller. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for here, below is your guide to help you find the right one for your skin.
What to Look For in a Face Mask For Pores?
You should look for clay-based masks made with bentonite clay or white clay to use for pores (2). Leaving aside the ingredients, clay alone is helpful in picking up impurities from the surface of the skin and inside the pores. Clay is known to reduce excess oil and shine too. But clay is not a must. There are also cream-based or gel-based masks that can help you with pores. But that’s when you need to look for certain ingredients, which brings me to my next point.
Look for pore-reducing ingredients like salicylic acid (3) in your mask. Salicylic acid or other exfoliating acids like glycolic acid unclog pores and minimize their appearance.
To avoid drying your skin, look for other restorative, hydrating, or anti-inflammatory ingredients in your mask. These can be soothing aloe, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and skin-repairing niacinamide. Drying out your skin is not the way to go.
- Lee, S. J., Seok, J., Jeong, S. Y., Park, K. Y., Li, K., & Seo, S. J. (2016). Facial Pores: Definition, Causes, and Treatment Options. Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.], 42(3), 277–285. https://doi.org/10.1097/DSS.0000000000000657
- Lynda B. Williams & Shelley E. Haydel (2010) Evaluation of the medicinal use of clay minerals as antibacterial agents, International Geology Review, 52:7-8, 745-770, DOI: 10.1080/00206811003679737
- Fox, L., Csongradi, C., Aucamp, M., du Plessis, J., & Gerber, M. (2016). Treatment Modalities for Acne. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 21(8), 1063. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules21081063