The 9 Best Pore Cleansers That Actually Remove Dirt, Oil, and Build-Up

From foaming washes to detoxifying masks, these deep-cleaning pore cleansers will leave you with brighter, clearer skin.

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Best Pore Cleansers

Shape / Kristin Kempa

Pores. Everyone has them, but many still struggle with their appearance. The thing is, some wish to shrink their pores by making them smaller in size — but that's actually not even possible. Instead, the solution for invisible or "smaller" pores is keeping them clean and free of dirt, oil, and debris that builds up over time. That's where pore cleansers come into play.

"A pore cleanser is a product that helps remove excess oil, dirt, and dead cells from the pores to keep them clear and help minimize their appearance," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. These products typically use exfoliating ingredients that slough away dead skin and dirt, to help reduce the appearance of pores. While most of these treatments are actually facial cleansers, there are other deep-cleaning options, including face masks, toners, and even devices (more on that later).

When searching for the best pore cleanser, Deanne Robinson, M.D., a Connecticut-based dermatologist, recommends looking for products that include alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA) such as salicylic or glycolic acid, retinol, clay, and charcoal. "You want to look for chemical exfoliants like these acids, but also be sure the accompanying ingredients are non-comedogenic [won't clog pores] and overall free of oils."

This is your guide to the best pore cleansers on the market — from foaming face washes and detoxifying masks to exfoliating products and more — thanks to the help of derms and thousands of customer reviews. There are a variety of formulas and price points, with options for every skin type, so you're sure to find your perfect fit. Keep scrolling to shop the best pore cleansers that'll remove build-up and leave you with a brighter, clearer complexion.

Best Overall

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Exfoliating Cleanser Foaming Wash

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate™ Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash with AHA & Enzymes


Why We Like It: It’s gentle enough for sensitive skin.

It’s Worth Noting: It’s expensive, especially for a cleanser.

The spa-inspired Kate Somerville Exfolikate Cleanser isn't exactly the same as getting a facial, but it’s surely the next best thing (it has a well-deserved cult following). Our best pore cleanser overall, this facewash is formulated with AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid that help remove buildup in your pores and on the skin's surface. And the fruit enzymes included in the game-changing formula naturally exfoliate the skin without causing irritation. It's also gentle enough for daily use, so you don't have to worry about purchasing another cleanser to use in between. (For a special treat, also try the brand's beloved deep exfoliating treatment.)

Kate Somerville is a luxury skincare brand, and the price tag matches the brand’s reputation, making this a pricey cleanser to invest in. If you’re truly in love with the active exfoliating ingredients (and who could blame you?), consider buying the 8-oz value size.

Sizes available: 1.7 oz, 4 oz, 8 oz | Key ingredients: Fruit enzymes, glycolic acid, lactic acid

Best Drugstore Pore Cleanser

Bioré Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser

Biore Charcoal Cleanser, Deep Pore - 6.77 fl oz

Rite Aid

Why We Like It: It’s affordable and features a powerful purifying ingredient — charcoal.

It’s Worth Noting: You might notice a tightening sensation while using.

This affordable Bioré Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser proves you don't have to spend a lot of money to get one of the best pore cleansers — it gets the job done for less than $10 a bottle. Charcoal is the powerhouse ingredient behind this popular drugstore option from Biore. Charcoal acts as a magnet to dirt and impurities, drawing them out of your pores in just minutes.

At first application, you may feel your skin tightening up, but don't fret: that tightening feeling is simply the charcoal at work. Once you rinse and moisturize, your skin will feel refreshed and clean sans dryness. Bonus: You can get a 3-pack of the detoxifying cleanser for just $17.

Sizes available: 6.77 oz, 11.45 oz | Key ingredients: Charcoal

Best for Aging Skin

SkinCeuticals LHA Cleanser Gel

SkinCeuticals LHA Cleanser Gel


Why We Like It: It cleanses pores and improves skin texture, thanks to a trio of acids.

It’s Worth Noting: The bottle leaks and needs to be stored upside-down.

Dr. Robinson called the Skinceuticals LHA Cleansing Gel her go-to cleanser for purifying pores. Not only does it decongest pores thanks to a trio of powerful acids, but it even helps improve the skin's texture and tone, leaving you with a brighter, smoother complexion. Ideal for combination or oily skin types, this do-it-all cleanser can also prevent or treat signs of aging.

While the cleansing gel formulation is dermatologist-approved, the packaging leaves a lot to be desired. It leaks easily and pours out too fast when the lid opens, leading you to lose a little bit of product every time you use it if you’re not careful.

Sizes available: 8 oz | Key ingredients: Lipo-hydroxy acid, glycolic acid

Best for Sensitive Skin

Tatcha The Deep Cleanse Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser

Tatcha The Deep Cleanse Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser


Why We Like It: It’s oil-free.

It’s Worth Noting: It’s not recommended for aging skin.

The oil-free, gel-to-foam Tatcha The Deep Cleanse Exfoliating Cleanser is gentle enough for even the most sensitive — or sensitized — skin types. The exfoliators in this wash are derived from Japanese luffa fruit and work to lightly slough away dirt and grime to keep pores clear. Plus, like all Tatcha products, you can ensure that this cleanser will also nourish and soften your skin, too — no redness or inflammation here.

While the cleanser is oil-free and for sensitive skin, mature skin might want something even more gentle. And even though this cleanser bills itself as “the deep cleanse,” you’ll still need a makeup-removing balm to use in tandem if you’re wearing a full face.

Sizes available: 1.7 oz, 5 oz | Key ingredients: Japanese Luffa fruit, Japanese wild rose

Best Pore Cleansing Pads

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel


Why We Like It: They’re extremely convenient and easy to use.

It’s Worth Noting: They’re pricey, but they do get professional-level results.

These celeb-loved two-step pore cleansing pads from Dr. Dennis Gross will have you hooked after the first use. Each pad is soaked in seven pore-sloughing acids, including glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids. The two-step pads are meant to be used one after the other. The first step gently exfoliates and removes dead skin cells (the salicylic acid is key for a clearer complexion, FYI), while the second step encourages skin cell renewal, smoothing wrinkles and other signs of aging.

“I’ve been using these for years and I find even just a few times a week makes a big impact,” says Shannon Bauer, Shape senior beauty editor. “The blend of exfoliating acids helps with skin texture, evenness, and clearing the gunk out of my pores. Plus, it delivers an immediate, unbelievable glow.”

While definitely pricier, these pads may be well worth the cost because of the professional-level results. However, sustainably-minded skincare lovers might dislike the individual packaging of each pad and the waste that creates.

Sizes available: 5, 30, and 60 treatments | Key ingredients: Glycolic acid, salicyclic acid, and resveratrol and green tea extract

Best Clean Formula

Drunk Elephant Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser

Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser


Why We Like It: It’s vegan, cruelty-free, and free of harsh chemicals.

It’s Worth Noting: It tends to dry out skin.

Drunk Elephant's bestselling jelly cleanser is vegan, cruelty-free, and not formulated with any unnecessary harsh chemicals. Infused with gentle cleansers that create a nice lather and dissolve dirt, makeup, and oils, it also includes glycerin and cantaloupe fruit extract, which help restore moisture and soothe skin after each use. Plus, it’s truly fragrance-free, which is a huge plus if you’re sensitive to scents in your skincare and body care products.

While the pore cleanser is effective at taking off makeup and stripping the face, the skin’s moisture is often sucked out with other impurities, leaving your skin tight and dry. Double up on the hydrating serums or moisturizers after using the Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser.

Sizes available: 2 oz, 5 oz | Key ingredients: Mild cleansing agents, glycerin, cantaloupe

Best High Tech Pore Cleansing Device

DERMAFLASH DERMAPORE Ultrasonic Pore Extractor & Serum Infuser

DERMAPORE Ultrasonic Pore Extractor & Serum Infuser


Why We Like It: Its two modes offer a high-tech solution to clogged pores.

It’s Worth Noting: Use it after a shower (when your pores are open) for best results. 

If you're looking for a high-tech solution to clearing out your pores, this Dermaflash Dermapore ultrasonic device is totally worth the try and one of the best pore cleansers on the market. It has two modes: the extract mode — which is like a deep cleanser for the skin, gently removing dirt, grime, and even blackheads — and the infuse mode, which allows your favorite skin-care products to penetrate deeper for more effective results.

“I have been using the Dermapore for a few years now,” explains Tamim Alnuweiri, beauty commerce writer. “The angle of the spatula is just perfect for clearing out pores. Although I do think it’s great turned on with the vibration (to really dislodge debris), I even like to use it while it’s off. It just cleans out my pores without irritation or leaving behind any marks or wounds which is what happens when I use my hands.”

Make sure you’re following the instructions to get the best results possible from this high-tech pore cleanser. Start your pore cleansing routine with steam or a shower to prep your skin. Mist your face frequently to keep it wet while using, and press firmly into the skin. 

Sizes available: n/a | Key ingredients: Ultrasonic waves

Best Pore Cleansing Mask

PCA Skin Detoxifying Mask

PCA SKIN Detoxifying Mask

Lovely Skin

Why We Like It: It’s a magical overnight treatment for blackheads.

It’s Worth Noting: This face mask is best used occasionally, not every night.

If clogged pores aren't a norm for you but you want to do a deep cleanse once in a while, the PCA Skin Detoxifying Mask is a great option. This pore cleanser is formulated with white charcoal and kaolin clay that absorb and draw out impurities and dirt left in your pores. Since this detoxifying mask can be drying when used too often, you'll only want to reach for it once a week. Simply apply a thin layer and let it sit on your skin until it dries, then remove it with warm water to reveal transformed skin.

You might fall in love with the blackhead-busting properties of this face mask, but don’t overdo it. Using this product nightly can seriously dry out your skin, so mask in moderation.

Sizes available: 2.1 oz | Key ingredients: Ultrasonic waves

Best Pore Cleansing Toner

CosRX Two in One Poreless Power Liquid

COSRX Two in One Poreless Power Liquid, 100ml / 3.38 fl.oz | Tightening Pores | Korean Skin Care, Animal Testing Free, Paraben Free


Why We Like It: This toner helps minimize large pores.

It’s Worth Noting: You can use this as a toner or an active treatment.

This deep-cleaning duo from CosRX acts as a toner and a treatment in one. Ideal for all skin types, the alcohol-free formula cleans out pores in a few simple swipes. For a deeper treatment, allow the solution to sit on the skin for a few minutes before wiping it away. The inclusion of willow bark water can even help treat acne, while hyaluronic acid delivers a surge of hydration. This is one of the best pore cleansers because it’s especially effective at minimizing the appearance of large pores to give the look of tight, youthful skin.

Sizes available: 3.38 oz | Key ingredients: Beta-hydroxy acid, hylauronic acid, willow bark water

How We Selected

To find and recommend the best pore cleansers, we started by interviewing Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. and Deanne Robinson, M.D., a Connecticut-based dermatologist. They provided insight into what is a pore cleanser and what ingredients to look for in pore cleansers. From there, we surveyed our expert beauty writers and editors to find their tried-and-tested pore cleansers, and we also completed additional research to find the best pore cleansers for a variety of needs (think: sensitive skin, aging skin, masks, and more). Finally, we analyzed the submitted pore cleansers and assigned them categories based on editor feedback, features, ingredients, and more.

What to Know About Pore Cleansers


As Dr. Robinson notes, pore cleansers should include chemical exfoliants (that is, acids that exfoliate the skin, as opposed to physical exfoliants like beads or scrubs). Examples of chemical exfoliants include alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA). You should also prioritize an oil-free formula that won’t clog pores and defeat the purpose of using a pore cleanser. Finally, charcoal is a popular ingredient in the best pore cleansers because it absorbs excess oil without feeling overly drying (making it a great choice for those with oily skin) while ridding pores of any impurities.

How to Clean Pores

Experts recommend using pore cleansers after a shower or after using a facial steamer. This step ensures your pores are open, which makes them easier to clean. Finish your pore cleansing routine with moisturizer to soothe and rehydrate your skin.

Whatever you do, experts do not recommend extracting pores yourself, using only your hands — that could lead to scarring. Instead, if you’re desperate for an at-home extraction, try using a high-tech pore cleanser (such as the Dermaflash Dermapore ultrasonic device). Make sure your face is completely clean and free of makeup before using. Follow the device’s instructions for best results, and limit your use to two or three times weekly. 


Pore cleansers tend to be more expensive than regular face washes, thanks to the chemical exfoliants that make up the majority of active ingredients. For a more affordable pore cleanser, we recommend the Bioré Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser, which is available at drugstores or online for less than $10.


Frequently Asked Questions
  • Are pore cleansers good for your skin?

    Yes, when used consistently, pore cleansers can improve your skin’s quality and texture by ridding pores of any clogged oil or impurities. Make sure to find a pore cleanser that doesn’t dry your skin, as some cleansers can be overly stripping (or, alternatively, follow your cleansing with a thick moisturizer for dry skin).

  • Are vacuum pore cleansers good?

    Vacuum pore cleansers can be a more affordable, DIY option to getting a professional facial. Make sure to avoid using the pore vacuum on one spot for too long (otherwise you might bruise). 

Why Trust Shape

Andrea Jordan is a freelance writer covering all things beauty, lifestyle, health, and parenting. Her work has appeared on websites like OprahMag, Business Insider, USA Today, INSIDER, Yahoo Life, TODAY, StyleCaster, InStyle, and others. When she's not writing, you can find her curled up on the couch reading a book or in the kitchen whipping up a new recipe.

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