Pores are designed to release oil and sweat, but they can get clogged by dead skin cells, debris, and excess sebum. Clogged pores often result in acne, usually in the form of whiteheads and blackheads, which can lead to larger, more painful cysts if left untreated. Even disregarding the acne, clogged pores can keep your skin from looking as smooth, vibrant, and youthful as it could.
Unclogging your pores is easier than you think. Read on to learn how you can get rid of clogged pores.
Face cleansing on its own will not keep your pores from getting clogged, but it can help to regulate oil and remove dirt and debris. The main problem with clogged pores comes from skin cells that are “sticky,” meaning that they are more prone to clumping together and clogging pores. Face cleansing can help to break up those “sticky cells” to unclog your pores.1
To help break down those sticky skin cells, look for face cleansers containing salicylic acid or alpha-hydroxy acids, including glycolic and lactic acids. Salicylic acid is a natural peeling agent that works as a desmolytic agent to disrupt cellular bonds. This essentially helps your skin shed dead skin cells more effectively.2
Alpha-hydroxy acids also act as a chemical peel to unclog pores. Studies show that a topical 4% AHA solution could significantly improve whiteheads and blackheads.3 Outside of face cleansers, salicylic acid and AHAs can also be found in moisturizers and serums.
Manually popping zits (closed comedones) is generally ill-advised, as it may result in infections, damage to the skin, and permanent scarring, on top of exacerbating acne. You are essentially causing trauma to your skin by pushing bacteria and debris out of pores. Not all bacteria and debris are pushed out and the lesion is turned into an open wound. These open wounds can scar and darken as they heal, causing postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Comedone extraction tools are easily available for those who want to extract open comedones (blackheads). To use an extraction tool:
- Using a warm towel, apply heat to the area affected by blackheads. This will help to open up the pores, allowing for easier extraction.
- Wear gloves to maintain a sterile environment and prevent the introduction of bacteria into your pores.
- Wipe the area using alcohol.
- Use the extraction tool to apply gentle pressure, rocking back and forth until the blackhead is fully extracted.
- There will likely be blood, so use gauze to staunch the bleeding.
Improper use of an extraction tool can still cause scarring and capillary damage. It may even push bacteria deeper into the skin, making the breakout even worse. Even if you think you can easily remove the contents of a whitehead or blackhead, misaligning the extraction tool even slightly can cause some serious pain and skin problems. Extraction is still best left to a professional.4
Professional facials can help you keep your pores clear while calming your acne. The traditional facial comprises:
- An exfoliating scrub
- A face massage
- Face mask
- Toner and moisturizer
This provides deep cleansing, exfoliation, and hydration to clear out your pores and support healthier tone.5
Exfoliating removes dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin, preventing clogged pores. Along with the immediate effects of smooth, even skin, regular exfoliation helps to promote cell turnover to reduce clogged pores.6
Exfoliation generally takes two forms: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliation involves the manual scrubbing away of dead skin cells using a brush or formulations containing small grains. Chemical exfoliation comprises peeling agents (like the salicylic acid and AHAs previously mentioned) to break down dead skin cells chemically. Along with AHAs, which break down the glue that holds dead skin cells together, look into BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids), which are oil soluble, allowing them to reach deeper into pores.7
Ultimately, both physical and chemical exfoliants can be effective, but those with sensitive skin should avoid physical exfoliants. No one should use scrubs containing nut shells or fruit pits, which are harsh and known to cause micro-tears in the skin. Avoid using any exfoliants if you have sunburns or any open cuts or wounds. Limit your exfoliation process to just two or three times per week.7
Pore strips comprise a woven material and an adhesive polymer. They are applied to the nose, left to dry, and removed to unclog pores. Often advertised for pulling out blackheads, pore strips actually do not provide a deep cleansing experience.
Although pore strips and masks may help remove junk from your pores, they can also remove elements that actually help your skin. This includes natural oils and hair follicles. Removing all of these elements can cause your skin to dry out and become irritated. When irritation occurs, your sebaceous glands may go into survival mode and produce even more oil — resulting in more blackheads.
Ultimately, they are not as effective in the long-term as other treatments, but if they make you feel better, you can continue using your pore strips.8
Diet can play an integral role in your skin’s health. Certain foods may actually contribute to clogged pores. To potentially reduce clogged pores, avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and simple carbohydrates. Instead, eat more fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and lean proteins, including fish and poultry.9
Clogged pores can make your skin look and feel dirty and unpleasant, but with some simple steps, you can unclog those pores to keep your skin bright and blemish-free. If you’re dealing with clogged pores and acne looking to start with some changes to your nutrition, consider using DrFormulas® Dermatrope Clear Skin Support which is formulated to lower inflammation, support hormonal balance, and address nutrient deficiencies that can impede clear skin.
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