If you have clogged pores, you know how self-conscious they can make you feel. Why do they become clogged in the first place? Overtime, pores can become plugged with bacteria, sebum, and dead skin cells. Fortunately, there are things you can do to get rid of clogged pores and restore your radiant complexion.
What Causes Clogged Pores?
Clogged pores can be caused by an overproduction of sebum, oil secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin. When this excess oil combines with debris and dead skin cells, it can plug the pores causing whiteheads and blackheads. The plug turns black if it is exposed to oxygen, and remains white if it is not. People with oily skin can be more prone to clogged pores, but that doesn’t mean people with dry skin can’t get them, as well.
A buildup of dead skin cells can also clog pores. A slow turnover of skin cells can be caused by not taking care of your skin on a regular basis, being stressed out, not getting enough sleep, and eating poorly. Pores are less likely to become plugged when skin is regularly cleaned and nourished. Glowing skin is an inside job, not just an external one.
Skincare products can plug pores. Lotions and creams, formulated with heavy butters and oils, particularly mineral oil, can be problematic and should be avoided if clogged pores are an issue. Opting for non-comedogenic products will decrease the likelihood that pores will become clogged, while preventing breakouts.
How To Get Rid Of Clogged Pores
1. Set Up A Skincare Routine and Stick To It
Good skin hygiene is essential if you want a clear complexion. Wash your face morning and night, even if you’re home all day. Indoor air is not any cleaner than outdoor air. I use a Clarisonic to cleanse my face every night and to deep clean my pores. This is a great way to prevent pores getting clogged in the first place. Use a good toner and non-comedogenic moisturizer and exfoliate regularly. More on the importance of exfoliation below.
Here’s a short primer on what non-comedogenic means: A comedo is a plugged pore or hair follicle. Products that are labeled “non-comedogenic” are formulated with ingredients that prevent pores from clogging. This means they are free from oils. Sebum is comedogenic, meaning it clogs pores. If you have any type of skin condition that is bothering you, always look for products with the non-comedogenic label.
Another tip, is to choose products suited for your particular skin type, paying special attention to the ingredients in your foundation and sunscreen. If you experience frequent breakouts, be cognizant of the quality of your shampoo and conditioner, which can potentially be problematic for your skin. If you have clogged pores around your mouth, consider changing toothpaste to see if that eliminates the problem. Wash your pillowcase regularly and choose a silk pillowcase over other fabrics. Silk allows your skin to slide across the pillow, and will prevent irritation, creasing and wrinkles.
2. Exfoliate Regularly
Exfoliating twice a week can do wonders for your skin, including unclogging pores. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells, one of the culprits behind plugged pores. You’ll also find that your foundation will glide on more smoothly if you regularly exfoliate. Chemical exfoliation with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) can be done at home and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
There a several types of AHAs, which can be confusing. Glycolic acid comes from sugarcane, malic acid from apples, tartaric acid from grapes, lactic acid from soured milk, citric acid from citrus fruits, and mandelic acid from almonds. AHAs are water soluble, whereas, BHAs are lipid soluble, making them a great choice for oily skin.
Alpha hydroxy acid peels can be done at home and are easy to do. I like using glycolic acid and mandelic acid for peels.
[Read More: How Often Should You Exfoliate?]
Mandelic acid is an aromatic alpha hydroxy acid with anti-bacterial properties. It’s used as a peeling agent to stimulate cell turnover. You’ll also get the added benefit of achieving a more uniform skin tone while reducing the appearance of fine lines and other imperfections. Glycolic acid is the smallest of the AHAs. Because of its small molecular size, it can easily penetrate the skin to exfoliate and break down sebum. It is widely used in cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and peels.
Salicylic acid is a BHA derived from white willow bark. The primary active ingredient, salicin, is the same chemical from which aspirin is derived. Salicylic acid is used for exfoliation, to unclog pores, and to treat acne. It can be purchased over the counter, with stronger preparations requiring a prescription. Salicylic acid or glycolic acid pads can be used daily to prevent and treat the buildup of bacteria and debris..
3. Clay Masks and Steaming
Bentonite clay masks are another way to clear clogged pores and to absorb excess sebum. Mix a little bentonite clay with water to form a thick paste. You don’t want it to be too runny or it won’t work. Apply mixture evenly to your face, and leave on for 10 minutes or so. The clay will start to crack and your face will feel really dry. This is when you know it’s time to rinse it off. Once the clay is off, apply your favorite moisturizer. Clay acts like a magnet to mop up dirt, bacteria, and debris from the skin. Do this once a week or a couple of times a month to keep pores clear.
Steaming your face with a high-quality steamer can be miraculous for unclogging pores. Steam opens pores to flush out impurities. Doing a steam facial twice a month is one of the best ways to prevent and clear clogged pores. Having your own steamer makes it possible to do a facial on demand whenever you want. If you don’t want to buy a steamer, you can boil water on the stove, cover your head with a towel, and steam your face for a few minutes. It’s not as convenient as using a steamer, but will get the job done.
You can also use a blackhead remover vacuum that uses suction to evacuate pores. Vacuum pore cleaners use the latest vacuum adsorption technology to unclog pores without harming the skin. These devices are affordable, can be used for all skin types, and have different levels of suction, depending on your pore size. And the best part? A remover vacuum can be used at home whenever you feel the need.
Retin-A is a topical treatment used to treat acne, to increase the production of collagen to prevent wrinkles, and to accelerate cellular turnover, one of the factors behind clogged pores. It requires a prescription. Retinol, on the other hand, can be bought over-the-counter to firm and tighten skin, brighten and smooth complexion, and boost the production of elastin. Retin-A and retinol are both retinoids and derivatives of vitamin A but they differ in strength.
[Read More: The Benefits of Retinol]
Retinoids increase the rate at which cells turnover, which prevents pores from becoming blocked. Retinol is converted into retinoic acid in the skin via an enzymatic process. This is why retinol takes longer to see results than does Retin-A. However, since the results are cumulative, you’ll see positive changes in your skin if you use it consistently. Retinol is gentler on the skin than Retin-A so you’ll notice less side effects, such as redness and peeling. Plus, you have the added advantage of being able to buy it over-the-counter.
Many people associate the benefits of retinoids with anti-aging, and they are successfully used for this purpose. But, retinoids are also kerolytics, meaning they soften keratin, a protein in the skin. This softening effect exfoliates the top layer of skin to reveal younger-looking skin beneath. Retinoids prevent dead skin cells from building up and stimulate cell turnover. They also diminish pore size and thicken the skin. Thick skin is less prone to wrinkling than is thin skin. There are some great retinol products you can buy without a prescription that work and are non-irritating, making them safe to use every night.
5. Clean Up Your Diet and Reduce Stress
Stress can wreak havoc on your hormones. While it isn’t possible to eliminate stress altogether, you can find ways to manage it, which will be positively reflected in your skin. Try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. This will reduce stress and keep your hormones balanced. Too much testosterone can cause an overproduction of sebum. Daily exercise is amazing for circulation, which will enhance your complexion and keep blood sugar levels in check. Fluctuating blood sugar causes inflammation, which shows up in the skin as swelling and puffiness.
The number one food to eliminate from your diet, if you have any skin issues, is dairy. Casein, a protein in dairy, is difficult to digest for a high percentage of people. Milk is also full of GMOs, antibiotics, and pesticides, which can impact gut bacteria, imbalance hormones, and burden the liver, which greatly impacts the skin. Milk contains IGF-1, an inflammatory hormone, that has been linked to acne. Dairy also correlates with excess sebum production, a setup for clogged pores. If that weren’t enough to convict dairy, it also traps dead skin cells within the pores, and as you might have guessed, clogs them.
Periodic liver cleanses can relieve the liver of toxins, which frees up the skin from having to clear them. Choose nutrient-dense, low-glycemic foods that prevent blood-sugar spikes. This is one way you can reduce inflammation, and the puffiness that accompanies it. Keeping your lymphatic system humming along smoothly is another way to keep your complexion renewed and refreshed. Daily skin brushing and rebounding are great ways to stimulate the flow and drainage of lymph.
6. Stay Hydrated
Did you know that staying adequately hydrated is one of the best remedies for beautiful skin? Dehydration, on the other hand, can make your skin look dull and lackluster. Aim for a water intake of half your body weight in ounces per day. For instance, if you weigh 130 pounds, you’ll want to drink 65 ounces of water per day. Sipping four ounces every half hour is better than drinking large amounts of water at one sitting.
Optimal water intake is vital to flush toxins from the skin and keep it plump and properly hydrated. Optimal hydration is something you can do everyday to keep your skin clear and your complexion bright. Pay close attention to hydration on days that are hot and humid, when you perspire more. Humidity can exacerbate oily skin. One strategy to keep your skin clean is to use medicated pads, which you can carry in your purse.
Caffeine consumption is rampant in our society, but is unfortunately, problematic for the skin on a number of levels. This pervasive stimulant can stimulate the production of androgens, leading to increased oil production and clogged pores. Caffeine stimulates the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands, a stress hormone that can cause skin cells to over-produce. This overproduction plugs pores. Caffeine is also dehydrating, meaning you will need to drink even more water to compensate.
7. Professional Treatments
Getting periodic facials and microdermabrasion treatments, which are performed at spas and clinics, can be extremely helpful for unclogging pores. During a facial, an esthetician will use a pore extractor to gently squeeze oil and dead skin cells from pores. You’ll love how your skin looks afterwards.
Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive exfoliation procedure that removes dead skin cells from the top layer of skin using tiny crystals. It is used to unclog pores, even out complexion, and reduce fine lines and hyperpigmentation .Typically, a series of treatments are recommended.
Chemical peels can also yield good results in regard to clearing clogged pores and reducing pore size. They work by removing the outermost layer of the epidermis using an acidic solution that penetrates deeply into the pores to eliminate bacteria and other debris .
Any skin condition can make you feel unattractive. At least there are strategies you can implement to lessen the potential for breakouts, puffiness, and clogged pores. Establish a regular skincare routine, exfoliation twice a week, use clays masks and retinoids, steam your face periodically, clean up your diet and reduce stress, and drink more water throughout the day. Thirst is not a good barometer of whether your body is screaming for water. You might also want to eliminate dairy from your diet to see if your notice improvements in your skin. Best of luck to you…
Which of these strategies most resonated with you? Let me know in the comments:)