Whether you’re a self-certified skincare guru or a novice skincare dabbler, you’ve likely suffered from clogged pores at least once in your life. One of the greatest barriers standing in the way of the bright, smooth, glowing skin of our dreams is those pesky clogged pores.
Natural oils can build up and leave you with a dull, undesirable complexion. But we’ve got some great news for you: There’s something we can do about it. Actually, there are many things we can do about it!
A few good habits, some new products, and powerful beauty tools can make all the difference in your complexion even if you have oily skin or sensitive skin. We’ll walk you through 10 steps to unblocking your pores and achieving the skin you only thought was possible in commercials.
Why Are My Pores Clogged in the First Place?
As annoying as they are, congested and clogged pores are extremely common and often occur from your body’s natural skin cell turnover. Most clogged pores are a combination of dead skin, excess sebum (oil), makeup remnants, bacteria, and other gunk from our daily environment. We know… gross!
Pores are the small holes in your skin that allow oil and sweat to exit the body and reach the surface of your skin. While oil collecting on your skin may trigger alarm bells, sebum actually isn’t bad for you. In fact, it is released to help protect and hydrate the skin by forming a barrier to lock in moisture. (WOO!)
But sometimes, oil combines with the dead skin cells that we naturally shed and can clog up a pore, leading to a bump or blemish on the skin. (BOO!)
There are a variety of blemishes caused by clogged pores, including:
- Blackheads: When a pore clogs with debris but remains open to the surface of the skin.
- Whiteheads: When a pore becomes blocked by oil and dead skin but closes over, appearing as a small bump of white pus.
- Pimples: A type of acne that occurs when bacteria is also trapped in the pore and causes inflammation and swelling.
- Cyst: A more severe form of acne where the bacteria is trapped deep below the skin’s surface.
As many of us know, acne and clogged pores occur most frequently in adolescence (those pesky teenage hormones got us again!) but almost anyone can encounter congested skin at any age for a variety of reasons.
While acne and clogged pores do not pose serious medical risks, they can be disruptive to your day-to-day life and in severe cases lead to scarring and hyperpigmentation.
Am I Doomed To Suffer From Clogged Pores Forever?
You are NOT! Fortunately, there is a range of solutions to clogged pores. Through proper skin care and skin treatments, you can free your pores from the clutches of blockages like dirt and excess oil.
Here are 10 steps (and a bonus one) to help you get on the road to clear, clog-free skin.
Wash Your Face!
For those who are long-time skincare connoisseurs, this is old news. But some of you (👀) need to hear it.
The first and most basic step toward healthier skin is consistently washing your face every day (preferably twice a day). We highly recommend choosing a gentle, hydrating facial cleanser that won’t strip or dry out your skin.
Rinse your face morning and night with warm water (not hot), lather a small amount of cleanser in your hands, and gently (please do not go crazy on your delicate skin) massage the product all over your face. Rinse thoroughly, and pat dry with a towel.
For extra good measure, double cleanse at night, especially if you’re a frequent makeup user. Taking the time to wash your face daily ensures that no environmental debris and pollutants linger on your skin before heading off to sleep. It also allows for a clean canvas for any skincare products you may use to aid in unclogging your pores (don’t worry we will get there too).
Cleanse With Baking Soda
Little did you know, the key to unclogging pores might just be hiding in your kitchen cabinet. Baking soda may be a common cooking ingredient, but it is also an effective deep pore cleanser and exfoliator. Just make sure you only do this one up to twice a week.
Baking soda even has neutralizing properties that can help balance out your skin’s pH levels. (Skin with a balanced pH level is less prone to dryness and breakouts). So, here’s the simplest recipe you’ll ever follow for a super effective DIY scrub:
- Mix 2 teaspoons of baking soda with 1 teaspoonof water until a paste forms.
We weren’t kidding: It’s actually that simple.
Once you have your paste, scoop it with your fingers, and massage it onto your face in gentle circles. Leave it on for 10 minutes to harden and rinse clean.
If you aren’t super game for the DIY method, there are a host of products that contain baking soda or baking soda cleansers available for purchase.
Don’t Touch Your Face
Seriously, don’t do it.
We know how badly you want to scratch, pop, or pick at that blemish, but it is much better if you don’t. Picking or popping a pimple prematurely could damage and irritate your skin even more than it already is.
Plus, it’ll prolong the healing process AND popping a fresh pimple could spread the bacteria inside the clogged pore across your face — creating even more pimples. All not good things.
Aside from pimple-picking, it's just good practice to avoid touching or rubbing your face throughout the day. With the amount of touching, eating, and grabbing you do in your daily life, your hands collect the most germs and dirt by far. You don’t want to be rubbing all that into your precious pores.
If you need to touch your face for any reason, always thoroughly wash your hands first, especially before washing your face in the morning and at night (even if you think your hands are clean).
Pop on a Hydrocolloid Patch
If you (like us) have a hard time resisting the urge to pick and poke at your blemishes, this fairly recent trend sweeping the skincare community might just be the trick you need.
Hydrocolloid pimple patches are the hottest new acne “quick fix” to hit the market. By soaking up moisture and toxins clogged in your pore, hydrocolloid patches (designed as dime-sized adhesives you stick over a blemish) effectively dry out your zit while also protecting the blemish from unwanted picking, sun exposure, and environmental bacteria. By, bye acne scars!
When used properly, hydrocolloid patches can rapidly accelerate the healing process for bothersome zits. Still, it’s important to note that while these patches are effective for treating superficial blemishes (like whiteheads and pimples), they are less helpful for those suffering from deeper cystic acne.
Exfoliate Your Skin Regularly
Exfoliating your skin is a great way to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your face. (AKA, skin cells that frequently contribute to clogged pores if left lingering on the skin’s surface).
There are two different exfoliation methods: physical and chemical. Physical or “mechanical” exfoliation removes dead skin with a brush, scrub, or cloth, whereas chemical exfoliation removes dead skin using skin-safe acids that dissolve excess debris.
Exfoliating face scrubs can be purchased to help a variety of other skin concerns (hydration, brightening, tightening… you get the picture). A face scrub is a method of physical exfoliation and should be used after cleansing.
Despite your passionate desire to erase all dead skin from your face, you only need to use light pressure for it to be effective (and avoid unnecessary redness).
Chemical exfoliators can be purchased as cleansers or toners with acids such as salicylic acid or lactic acid. Chemical exfoliators are easy to incorporate into a skincare routine and are very effective. Still, when using acids, always be sure to spot test first to assure that your skin is okay with the active ingredient.
One Extra Note: Be sure to avoid the eye area when exfoliating, as the skin around the eye is incredibly sensitive.
Go Deep With Pore Cleansing Strips
Some of the most likely places you’ve noticed a condensed area of clogged pores are likely around your nose, chin, and between your eyebrows. This is because these areas have high sebum production.
Pore strips have been around for as long as we can remember, can be purchased at your local drug store, and are super user-friendly.
Keep the area you are treating wet after cleansing, and press the pore strip smooth side down. (Press it deep into the crease of your nose if that is where you are using it).
Wait 10 to 15 minutes for the strip to harden, and slowly peel it back to reveal your bounty. Pore strips are a great way to see immediate results and will give you that satisfying *rip & reveal* (kind of like eyebrow waxing). Still, they’re not great as a long-term fix. If immediate gratification is what you’re after, though, these can be a fun way to get there.
Incorporate Beauty Tools Into Your Skincare Routine
If the thought of adding yet another skincare product into your routine is more than you can bear, consider investing in a beauty tool to add some *oomph* to your skin care. An ultrasonic facial cleansing brush is a great way to cleanse, exfoliate, and attack the build-up in your deep pores more effectively than just your hands.
Cleansing brushes can be made of real bristles (which tend to be more aggressive) or silicone “bristles” (which are less abrasive and can be antibacterial and hypoallergenic).
Facial brushes feature battery-operated or cable-charged motors that control a moving head that rotates in circular, pulsing, or back-and-forth patterns to aid in deep cleaning your pores and removing dead skin.
Apply a Clay or Charcoal Face Mask
We love using the occasional clay mask to help clear up our skin (and not only because laying in bed with a book and a mask on makes us feel like the main character in a rom-com). Clay masks are great for removing impurities and brightening the skin.
They are a perfect addition to a skincare routine for anyone who has both sensitive and dry skin but still experiences congested pores.
Many clay masks contain moisturizing ingredients which help to draw out excess sebum while nourishing the skin at the same time. So, if you struggle with acne products being too drying, give clay masks a try!
Introduce a Retinol Product Into Your Routine
Retinol. The golden child of face-saving products.
Retinols, or retinoid creams, can be used to treat a laundry list of skin issues and complexion concerns. Retinol decreases oil production over time and rids your skin’s surface of dead skin cells (clearly our two favorite things when it comes to clogged pore prevention).
It also increases the rate of cell turnover and can promote the natural production of collagen, which helps keep the skin tight and firm (a win-win).
Retinol is a very powerful product when it comes to skincare, so it also comes with a few warnings. Overuse of retinol can lead to dry skin, so start out with only using a retinol a few times a week and increase as your skin becomes accustomed to the routine (and you can sus out how much your own skin can handle).
Additionally, retinol makes your skin more sensitive, especially to UVs, so it is important to commit to using proper sun protection while using retinol. (We’re talking sunscreen with SPF 30 every day, no exceptions!).
Treat Yourself to a Facial
Okay, we admit it: This one is just because we like being pampered. Jokes aside, seeing a trained esthetician for a facial can greatly benefit your skin. Estheticians have the knowledge (and tools) to open your pores and complete extractions safely without damaging your skin.
Facials can be extra beneficial to those who are acne-prone as it is time dedicated solely to the purpose of manually removing as many clogged pores and debris from your face as possible. These treatments can help the appearance of pores, especially if you have large pores.
Estheticians are also extremely knowledgeable in skin care products and practices and can help recommend products that are right for you based on your skin type and lifestyle.
If you’ve made it all the way here, you can basically consider yourself a certified expert (okay not really, but just go with it) on unclogging your pores. Our final advice to you is if you truly struggle to find what works for you, seek the help of a licensed dermatologist. They are able to prescribe more specific and more potent medications and remedies for your unique skin condition.
As much as we are here to guide you, sometimes there are things you just can’t DIY.
At the end of the day, struggling to achieve clear skin is extremely normal (despite what the internet and TV make us think). Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting about 50 million people each year. So, don’t fret: Many others have gone through it and there are professionals to help. (And we’ve got your back, too!)
So, give these 10 steps a try and you should be on your way to beautiful, clog-free pores in no time!
How To Clear and Prevent Clogged Pores | Medical News Today
Clogged Pores | Cleveland Clinic
Are Facial Cleansing Brushes Really Worth It? | Best Health
Skin Conditions By the Numbers | American Academy of Dermatology