Clogged Pores: How to Prevent and Minimize Congested Pores for Smooth Skin

Woman with her hands on her face

Visible, clogged pores can be just as annoying as acne.

No matter what your skint type, pores can become clogged. 

But, if not treated properly, these clogged pores can lead to blackheads, whiteheads and even acne. 

So, knowing how to avoid clogged pores, reduce the appearance of large pores, and how to properly clean your face are the first steps to a fresher, cleaner, healthier face.

If congested skin is troubling you, keep reading to find out what you need to do to clean out the debris and restore your skin to glowing health.

What are Pores?

Pores are tiny openings to hair follicles and each one produces a natural oil which helps us maintain healthy skin. 

These openings extend downward from the epidermis of our skin to several layers of the skin below.

Pores are responsible for allowing oil to lubricate the skin. 

It is this natural oil (sebum) which moisturises the skin and these oils work to protect us against infection, dryness and skin chapping.

Hence, oily skin types which create more sebum are more prone to experience blockages in their pores.

Your pores might be more apparent on the areas of your face that produce more oil such as your forehead, chin, and around your nose. 

This is because these pores contain larger sebaceous glands.

But, when these pores become blogged, it can result in blackheads, whiteheads and acne.

The number of pores you have, along with the size of each pore, is genetically determined.

Other factors include skin type, how much oil your skin produces and how much collagen is included in the structure of your skin.

What Causes Clogged Pores?

If you have clogged pores, it doesn’t mean you’re not cleaning your face enough. 

Instead, it means you likely have oily or combination skin, and tend to produce more natural skin oils than those with normal or dry skin.

But there can be a number of different reasons as to why you have conjested skin.

This can be from a combination of several different factors rather than just from one singular factor.

Here are a few different factors that could be contributing to your clogged pores.

Dead Skin

Clogged pores are the result of dead skin cells getting trapped in your skin.

Our skin is always creating new skin cells and shedding old ones.

So, the pores g can get clogged when new skin cells begin to grow in a pore where dead skin cells are still accumulated.

This happens when the body makes too many skin cells, or if dead skin cells haven’t been sloughed off.

When these dead skin cells, oil and debris and become trapped in a hair follicle, this results in a clogged pore. And once the pore is blocked, the skin is unable to breath. 

The build-up of excessive dead skin cells will cause unwanted blemishes and skin problems if not taken care of on a daily basis.

Excess Oils

Your skin has sebaceous glands, which work to create natural oils that are meant to nourish your skin.

However, when sebaceous glands become overactive, they can actually create too much oil, which can cause dead skin cells to stick together instead of shedding off.

This is more common for oily and acne-prone skin types.

Cleansing and exfoliating should be an important part of every skincare routine.

However, if you over-do it, you may risk stripping your skin of its natural oils, which can cause your oil glands to overcompensate and create even more oil. 

This excess oil can then lead to clogged pores, which then eventually can lead to acne. 

So, avoid exfoliating too often and avoid using products that are too harsh on your skin. 

Age

Woman touching her face

As we get older, our skin loses firmness and elasticity causing it to sag. 

This sagging can make pores look bigger as our skin lacks plumpness and structure, making them more visible as we age.

This is because the skin around each pore is not as firm and collagen-rich as in younger skin.

So, make sure you use sunscreen year-round as part of your regular skincare routine to help lessen the effects of UV damage, and keep your skin firmer even as its ages.

Seasonal Changes

You may notice that your pores appear larger and produce more oil during certain times of the year than others. 

This is because seasonal changes can affect how much natural oil your skin is producing. 

So, during times of the warmer months, you might need to take extra steps to absorb the excess oil from your skin, to reduce oily skin and clogged pores.

Improper Diet

Diet also plays a role when you have congested pores. 

Pores often experience clogs when the sebaceous glands start to produce unusually high amounts of sebum.

Researchers have determined that a rise in insulin levels, due to excessive intake of foods high in sugar, will increase testosterone which also increases the overproduction of oil. 

A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein, healthy fats, nuts and seeds is good for our skin because it contains many vitamins, antioxidants and minerals that promote a healthier skin.

So, ensure you are having a nutrient-rich, balanced diet to keep your skin and body in great condition.

Toxins

Skin cells are supplied with nutrients by the blood and lymphatic fluid, they also transport toxic material to skin for elimination through sweat. 

But, if toxins produced in our body are not disposed of properly, they may contribute to congestion and other problems such as skin irritations and acne. 

So, to purify the skin, use a detoxifying face mask once we week to pull dirt and toxins out from deep within your pores.

Hormonal Changes

The formation ofclogged pores can be greatly affected by hormonal factors.

When there is an increased secretion of various hormones in your body, it stimulates the secretion of more sebum, which causes clogged pores.

Hormonal changes also occur during the menstrual cycle, puberty and pregnancy and these can also act as triggers.

Dehydrated Skin

If your skin cells are not properly hydrated on a daily basis, they will have a difficult time functioning correctly. 

When your skin becomes dehydrated, the pores will dry out and harden, and this can often lead to inflammation in the form of acne and other unwanted skin reactions.

Without enough moisture, sebum can’t move as efficiently, and its movements become slower, causing it to clog your pores.

So, make sure you are drinking enough water and moisturizing your skin regularly to keep your skin and body hydrated.

Stress

Have you ever noticed that you break out more when you’re stressed?

This is because physical stress on the body can also affect your skin.

Stress has been linked to pimples and blemishes due to the hormones your body releases during a stressful situation. 

When you’re under stress, your body pumps out more of certain hormones, such as cortisol. 

These hormones trigger your sebum glands to produce excessive amounts of sebum which clog your pores.

How to Tell If Your Pores Are Clogged

Woman touching her face

You can tell if your pores are clogged if you notice whiteheads, blackheads, or an overall dullness to your skin’s complexion.

Examine your skin with a hand-held mirror to look for the signs of clogged pores. 

Pores that are clogged are often large, as they are stretched with the skin cells and other matter that is inside of them.

Congested pores, dull complexion, uneven skin, whiteheads and blackheads are actually signing of clogged skin.

Another way to tell if you have congested skin is to run your hand across your face. 

If your skin feels bumpy and uneven to touch, chances are it’s congested.

How to Prevent Clogging Your Pores

Cleanse Your Face Daily

Build-up of makeup on your skin can quickly clog, causing your face to become irritated fast. 

So, get into the habit of washing your face with a cleanser that suits you in the morning and at night, using a deep cleanser to really see the effects.

But while you might think that a heavy-duty cleanser is your best bet for oily skin – it’s actually better to use a gentler formulation. 

Make sure you’re using a cleanser that is tailored to your skin type.

If you use one that is too harsh, you could end up stripping your skin of natural oils which, in turn, causes your skin to overcompensate by producing excess oil.

Avoid Pore-Clogging Ingredients

Woman wearing a black face mask with a towel around her neck

Pores can get clogged by the products you use on your face, so take a closer look at the ingredients in your beauty and skincare products.

Some of the biggest offenders are coconut oil, sodium lauryl sulphate, lanolin, alcohol, cetyl acetate, and cocoa butter. 

So, if you’re noticing clogged pores, check your products for these ingredients.

Avoid Touching Your Face

Think about all the dirt and germs that are on your hands. 

When you touch your face, you’re transferring whatever’s on your fingers to your face. 

Bacteria, viruses and allergens transfer from fingertips onto the skin

That gunk can leave you with clogged pores and make your acne worse.

So, before you touch your face, make sure your hands are clean to prevent contaminating your skin. 

Clean Your Beauty Tools Regularly

Dirty makeup applicators can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Your makeup brushes and blenders can accumulate oils, dirt, and makeup from daily use. 

This build-up can lead to breakouts and clogged pores if you don’t clean them properly.

Dirty brushes can also become more abrasive and drier as they become more caked with product and debris from your face, which in turn, this irritates your skin. 

Cleaning your brushes regularly keeps them soft enough to not cause damage to your face.

So, ensure you are cleaning your makeup brushes regularly to avoid transferring bacteria and dirt from the brushes to your face. 

Wear SPF Daily

Sun damage can really do a number on pores by breaking down collagen and elastin and thickening your skin’s surface, and it’s the number one cause of skin aging.

When our skin’s structure breaks down, it allows the opening of the pore to expand and become more noticeable.

So, make SPF a part of your regular skincare routine and reapply it during the day to keep your skin protected. 

Avoid Sleeping with Makeup On

Sleeping with makeup on can really do some damage to the skin.

Leaving makeup on your face at night means that the oils, dirt, and chemicals in the makeup will likely sink into your pores and cause problems in the future.

When makeup clogs the pores, the bacteria involved with acne formation can get trapped in those pores and cause breakouts.

Not only does this cause breakouts and speed up the aging process, but it also contributes to enlarged pores.

Make sure you wash your makeup off at the end of the day and moisturize it before bed to keep your skin clean and healthy. 

Use Non-Comedogenic Skincare Products

A good skincare routine is essential to congested skin, however you need to ensure that you are using the right products for your skin.

Non-comedogenic skincare products are products that do not congest your skin and are formulated to help reduce potential blockage of visible pores

They are formulated to break down the excess oils on your skin without stripping your skin of the moisture it needs. 

These products can also help to reduce and treat clogged pores by cleaning them out.

So, look out for products with labels that say “noncomedogenic” or “non-acnegenic,” which means they are not made of any oily ingredients.

How to Minimize the Appearance of Clogged Pores

Woman touching her face

When handling large pores, it’s important to understand what you can and can’t expect from treatment. 

The size of your pores will never be made smaller with a product, treatment, or home remedy.

But while pores can’t technically be shrunken, their appearance can be minimized with various tips, tricks, and good skincare habits. 

Pore Strips

Pore strips contain water-activated ingredients that adhere to the top layers of dirt, oil and dead skin cells. 

They are used remove top layers of dead skin cells and blackheads by using a very strong adhesive.

The strips lock onto the skin and once removed will take with it the build-up of dirt behind the pore.

When used properly, though, nose strips can clear the pores temporarily and make them appear smaller.

But, try not to use them too often as using them too frequently can cause inflammation and irritation.

So, don’t use more than one pore strip a week.

Exfoliation

Exfoliation is one of the simplest and most fundamental ways to unclog pores and keep them that way.

This will deeply penetrate the pores and help remove any blockages.  

Combined with cleansing, moisturizing masks and treatments, exfoliating is the ultimate way to improve your skin’s clogged pore problem and overall condition.

But you do need to be very gentle and use a product that does not contain harsh, abrasive grains that can scratch the surface of your skin and allow bacteria to get in.

This can make your clogged pores and acne worse rather than better.

Facial Steaming

One of the best ways to cleanse your facial pores is by giving them a steam bath.

Facial steaming helps to increase circulation in your face and opens your pores so you can cleanse away impurities.

To steam your face, fill a bowl with boiling water, and angle your face over the bowl to allow the steam to rise up over your skin. 

After the pores are open, the skincare specialist can better and more easily apply treatments like masks and moisturizers because they’re absorbed more deeply into the skin. 

This may offer better results.

Always remember to close the pores after by applying a splash of cold water and follow with a gentle moisturiser.

Add Retinol to Your Skincare Routine

Retinoid is a derivative of vitamin A, and it has the ability to minimize the size of sebaceous glands and curb the excess oil production that can lead to clogged pores.

Also, since blackheads can exacerbate the size of the pores, topical retinoids for acne can help clean them out to even out the skin texture.

This means smoother skin, fewer breakouts and blackheads, and tighter pores.

But, if you have sensitive skin, you should be especially careful.

Retinoids can cause redness, peeling, and overall skin irritability.

So, if you are trying it out for the first time, choose a less potent, over-the-counter form of retinoid and apply it at night to limit sun sensitivity.

What to Avoid Doing if you Have Clogged Pores

Woman with blonde hair touching her face

Harsh Scrubbing

Sometimes clogged pores are too deep in the pore to respond to scrubbing, so you won’t get rid of them this way. 

This can also irritate the skin and can cause redness and inflammation, which will only cause it to produce more oil.

So, make sure you use a gentle exfoliator to clean your skin and avoid using it too often. 

Products That Can Clog the Skin

Perhaps the most important thing to avoid when you suffer from congestion is using products known to clog the skin. 

So, steer clear of comedogenic makeup and skin care products, and avoid ingredients like mineral oil, alcohol and artificial colours.

Picking at Your Pores

It’s so tempting to try to out clogged pores, but don’t do it. 

Your pores and delicate, and if you push them, you can break them. 

Then, the oil and bacteria in the pore will turn into an inflamed pimple. 

When you squeeze and stretch skin, you’re contributing to the formation of fine lines, inflammation, and irritation, all of which affect pore size over time.

These harsh motions and pressure make the transfer of oil, bacteria, and other impurities from your hands more of a risk, which can lead to clogging.

By following a tailored skincare routine and ensuring that you are practicing good hygiene habits, you can prevent your pores from clogging to reveal a smooth and healthy complexion. 

But, if you have tried everything and still have persistent clogged pores and acne, it may be best to visit a dermatologist who can give you tailored advice for your skin. 

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