How do I keep my overactive pores clean?
March 24, 2007 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Okay, so this is gross. Bear with me. The pores on my face are huge, and as a youth I had troubles with acne--now mostly solved, thank goodness. But my nose continues to produce icky white gunk, visible down there in the pores, and I have no way to keep it from producing. It's gross when I can actually squeeze it out. Mind you, no pimples are forming; my pores are just clogged with white goo. Is there is a specific product I can use or some miracle process that will help combat this? Thanks!
posted by jackypaper to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips.
posted by paulsc at 7:03 AM on March 24, 2007

Best answer: I second the Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips. But that is just one step, and truthfully more geared towards blackheads. What you're describing (the white goo) sounds more like whiteheads. Here is a regimen that should be pretty easy to maintain.
1) Use an oil-free acne cleanser, morning and evening (although if that's too drying, one time/day is okay too, probably at night and then just rinse face in the morning). The Neutrogena one is okay and there are numerous others. All the better if it has salicylic acid in it (we'll get to this in a second.)
2) Use a toner. Numerous brands to choose from, alcohol-free limits how drying this will be for your face. Apply with a coton square, concentrating on the nose. A cheap option is witch hazel (sold at all drugstores.)
3) I like to use Clear Pore by Neutrogena before bed. You apply it and leave it on overnight. It's a clear gel. The active ingredient is salicylic acid (the main ingredient in aspirin, actually). It's not very expensive.
4) Once/week use a gentle exfoliator. It's possible that you can get a cleanser with exfoliation (like little scrubby beads), but if that's too harsh for your face, exfoliation once/week is good. Avoid ones that are too harsh (with ground nuts or shells, etc.). I like ones that are fruit-acid based, e.g., papaya enzymes, etc.
5) Biore strips once every 2 weeks.
And this should lead to unclogged pores! Give it about a month and hopefully you'll see a difference.
posted by picklebird at 7:11 AM on March 24, 2007 [9 favorites]

Eat almost no sugar. This gives the bacteria less food.

Anyway, it's a theory, and seems to help my skin a lot when I can manage to do it.
posted by amtho at 7:29 AM on March 24, 2007

Use a clay face mask once a week or so. It'll draw out the oil that causes the goo. I like Queen Helene Mint Julep.
posted by MsMolly at 7:39 AM on March 24, 2007

That's great, common sense advice from picklebird. If only beauty magazines wrote so clearly, we'd probably all have clearer skin, shinier hair, etc. Although I've used Neutrogena's Clear Pore and not been too impressed with it -- different products work differently for everyone's skin.

I have enormous pores in the T zone. One of the best products I've found for reducing their apparent size is called Steep Clean from Bliss Labs. A little spendier than your average drugstore brand, but worth it if, like me, you've been through a raft of products that didn't do crap. This one really does. Be careful not to get sucked into Bliss Labs' pitch for every product in that line, though. You only need the facial treatment.

Clay mask is a good suggestion as well, and Origins has a charcoal one that works well for oily skin, although you need to feel comfortable looking like Al Jolson from "The Jazz Singer" while it works its magic.
posted by mrkinla at 8:04 AM on March 24, 2007

Salicylic acid (as picklebird suggested) works, and so does benzoyl peroxide. Usually you find BP in a 10% formulation, as in Oxy 10; if that's too strong, try Neutrogena Spot Treament which has 2 or 2.5% BP.
posted by wryly at 8:44 AM on March 24, 2007

What's your skin care regimen like? Most guys I know just wash with bar soap, and if that's what you've been doing then you might find making a couple little changes makes a big difference. Soap both contains oils (clogging your pores) and dries out your skin (making your skin produce more oil), so it kind of works against you. Instead, try a gentle oil-free wash (the word "non-comedogenic" means non-pore clogging; it's good to look for but not every product that is non-comedogenic is labeled as such) and -- here's the key -- moisturize afterwards with an oil-free moisturizer. This will keep your skin from wanting to make its own oil, and therefore your pores will be less clogged.

As far as specific product recommendations, I've used and liked Aveeno (washes and moisturizers) and I remember my dermatologist was a fan of their stuff too. A lot of "acne-prone" washes and moisturizers will fit the bill though (I've used Neutrogena and Clean & Clear with good results as well -- just don't use something with too much salycilic acid or benzoyl peroxide, it'll dry out your skin), so try things out and see what you like. I've also used the more expensive stuff like Clinique and not seen too much of a difference between them and the drugstore brands, but the nice thing about the department store brands is that they usually give you free samples so you can decide for yourself.

And speaking of dermatologists, it might not hurt to see one. He or she might be able to identify or recommend something that's beyond internet folks' realm of expertise.

Hope this helps, good luck!
posted by AV at 8:54 AM on March 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice!
posted by jackypaper at 9:58 AM on March 24, 2007

I heard that Biore pore strips cleaned you out once but then made your skin up the goo production levels so the net change is actually worse.
posted by DU at 10:27 AM on March 24, 2007

fwiw, i have large pores too, and i find that the grit in exfoliating scrubs actually clogs them worse. i use a little facial scrub brush i got from the body shop, but a little sponge would do just as well.

another thing i do is mix coarse salt and honey and scrub with that. the salt dissolves in water, so it can't clog your pores, and the sugar in the honey is a bit acidic, and loosens the dead skin cells. you might want to follow with your regular cleanser if your face still feels sticky afterwards.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:41 AM on March 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Its also important to keep in mind that whatever regimen you use, you have to give it several weeks to start to notice a difference. Any time I change products (which is seldom) it takes my skin 2-3 months to acclamate.
posted by Thrillhouse at 10:59 AM on March 24, 2007

I think you could try changing and limiting the fats and oils in your diet.

Sebum, the white junk sitting in your pores if you are typical, is about 88% lipid in origin. In my experience, some oils come out on my skin much more freely and immediately than others. Walnut oil comes out so fast, and causes so much breakout that I had to give it up altogether even though I love the taste; I've also had trouble with canola, but butterfat has been fairly benign.
posted by jamjam at 12:45 PM on March 24, 2007

"It's gross when I can actually squeeze it out"

Stop squeezing it out. This doesn't serve any purpose and inflames the skin, resulting in larger pores that collect more material to squeeze out. Use a hot compress to gently clean what wants to come out, and then follow with a cold one.

Also I find that overindulgence in alcohol exacerbates the problem, also by inflaming the nose.
posted by Manjusri at 4:40 PM on March 24, 2007

i also have lots of white goop in my pores. very few pimples, very few blackheads, tons-o-goop.

definitely use extra-strength biore strips, those rock.

the proactiv system is awesome- i've been using it for 2 years and i love it. all 4 steps- exfoliating facewash, green toner, the lotion, then the mask- amazing. the mask on its own is good- when your pores are extra-grotty, massage it in and leave it on all night.

my final tip is hella gross, but very effective- sometimes that goop sort of hardens and then pokes out and makes your nose feel bumpy or rough, right? which is probably when you want to squeeze. don't do it! instead, pull the goop out of your pores with very fine slant-tip tweezers (not pointy ones). don't dig, just use your fingers to gently pinch your nose, stretching the skin tight, then grab the sticky-outy goop with the tweezers, and whisk it outta there. use toner to clean out the now-empty pores.
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:08 PM on March 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Diet - try staying away from dairy products (especially cheese and eggs), vitamin pills or olive oil for a couple of days, and see if this makes a difference for you. You might also try eating flaxseed and salmon. For some, diet makes a huge difference.

As for the Biore strips - when I tried them, they tore off the thin skin lying above the pores, making the holes in my nose a lot more conspicuous.
posted by niloticus at 10:06 PM on March 27, 2007

Not that you're still reading this, but there are three ingredients whose specific task is keeping your pores clear - otherwise known as "chemical exfoliators."

1. Beta hydroxy acid, also known as salicylic acid. I once heard this described as "Drano for your pores." Basically, it works itself right into your pores and clears them out. Some good BHA drugstore products are Clean & Clear Invisible Blemish Treatment and Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Lotion, but the best ones are probably the ones from Paula's Choice, which you can order online at

2. Alpha hydroxy acid, which can be found as glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, and a few others. This actually doesn't go into your pores - it's more of a surface exfoliator for acne scars, flaky skin, sun damage, etc - but some people have had success with it regardless. Paula's Choice makes an AHA product, and another good one is Alpha Hydrox 12% AHA Souffle, which you can get at most drugstores/Target/Ulta.

3. Retinoids. The mother. AHA and BHA work by going into your pores from the top down, but retinoids work by going from the bottom up, so to speak - they push the sebum out. So for the first couple of months or so, you'll be purging - but then you'll be completely clear. Retinoids basically do everything BHA and AHA do, plus prevent and correct sun damage and aging. You can get retinol over the counter in a lot of anti-aging products, but it's a little too weak to really do much good. The best over-the-counter retinoid is retinaldehyde, only sold by Avene, a European brand that sells some products at CVS. You can also buy some of their products from Europe online at (Diacneal is the most hardcore - retinaldehyde + AHA!).

If OTC retinoids don't do the trick, you can always get a prescription from your doctor for Differin (most mild), Retin-A, or Tazorac (strongest).

MOST IMPORTANT THING: all chemical exfoliators, especially retinoids, sensitize your skin - after all, they're clearing away the tougher skin on top and exposing new baby skin. WEAR SUNSCREEN (I recommend Neutrogena Dry Touch SPF 55 - *not* the 30 or 45) or you'll be setting yourself up for bad damage immediately and down the line.

For all the skincare info you could possibly want, check out the message boards at (you have to register, but it's not a big deal at all).

(Side note: Benzoyl peroxide actually doesn't clear pores so much - it's more for combating actual zits. Also, using it at the same time as a retinoid, should you choose to go that route, cancels both out.)
posted by granted at 11:29 AM on March 30, 2007 [12 favorites]

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