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What Causes Clogged Pores?
Essential Takeaways
The oiler the skin, the more likely our pores will clog. If and when this happens to you, do know that it will pass. Everything from hormonal shifts to geographical changes, stress and anxiety, and introducing new skincare products might result in a temporary clogged pore situation. By understanding the risk factors, getting to know your skin, and taking proper care of your largest organ (yep, your skin!), you can help avoid clogged pores.

What Causes Clogged Pores?

Perhaps the only thing worse than a clogged toilet is a clogged pore. Frequently found on our faces (though these suckers can also show up uninvited on our necks, backs, or scalps), a clogged pore is the most surefire way to develop acne.

But fret not. Though most people have them at one time or another, avoiding or addressing clogged pores is easier than you may think. It’s time to open our minds ... and our pores.

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What, exactly, is a clogged pore?

Clogged pores appear when there is a buildup of dead skin cells, dirt, or oil—and they become stuck in your pore. They are what leads to acne.

If you are suffering from clogged pores, don’t worry; it happens to the best of us! Clogged pores happen to be a very common, treatable skin condition caused by a number of factors, including family history, current medications, or a skincare routine that might need some editing.

What causes a clogged pore?

Factors that might exacerbate clogged pores include:

  • anxiety
  • certain lotions
  • hormonal changes (such as puberty or menopause)
  • pollution
  • consuming dairy products
  • being around humidity
  • or wearing certain types of clothing or hats that rub against our skin

How do you know if you have a clogged pore?

Whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, and nodules can all start with a simple clogged pore. Let’s go over some of the differences between those.

Also referred to as a closed comedo (which sounds way cuter than “pore,” don’t you think?), a clogged pore is most visible when it’s a whitehead. A whitehead is generally noticeable by its telltale raised white bump (hence the “white” in “whitehead”).

 

Close up of a face with clogged pores.

 

Same with blackheads; they are noticeable by the raised black bumps. Fun fact: blackheads aren’t black because of dirt; this “open comedo” (open pore) is a chemical reaction of oxygen mixing with the content of the pore.

Whiteheads and blackheads are indeed types of pimples. Other words for pimples (besides zits!) are “papules” or “pustules”—the latter of which are the ones with pus in them.

Finally, a pore that is extremely clogged can become a cyst or nodule, which is very deep in the skin (and often very painful).

Now that you know what a clogged pore is, let’s talk about what to do once they appear (and how to try to avoid them in the first place).

How should I treat clogged pores?

Luckily, clogged pores are easy to treat, and unclogging those pores can help keep pimples at bay. Here are some surefire ways to treat clogged pores:

  1. Salicylic acid is terrific for unclogging those pores—it’s a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) that cuts through sebum, breaking it down.
  2. Charcoal and clay masks pull out impurities, so use one at least once a week for regular maintenance. We love the Prince Charles Detox Mask.
  3. Use a retinol alternative like bakuchiol as part of your skincare routine. We love Aloha Youth Serum.
  4. Regularly invest in a facial, such as a hydrafacial.
  5. Wash your face nightly using a high-quality, gentle cleansing routine, such as Province Apothecary’s Facial Collection.

While we’re on the subject of how to treat clogged pores, remember not to do the following:

  • Do not pick at your pimples.
  • Do not try to pop your pimples.
  • Do not go to sleep with makeup on your face.
  • Do not cake on foundation to try to hide them—this could result in clogging more pores.
  • Do not freak out!

OK, that last one is indeed easier said than done. But there are ways we can prevent clogged pores before they become a problem. Let’s go over them.

How can I prevent clogged pores?

In addition to the aforementioned tried-and-true ways to treat clogged pores, there are ways we can incorporate healthy skin habits to avoid clogged pores in the first place.

A woman washing her face to prevent clogged pores.

Keeping your skin clean, moisturized, and healthy is important for anyone who wants to avoid clogged pores, but due to some circumstances beyond our control (such as genetics and hormones), clogged pores sometimes have a way of happening anyway. Annoying, right?

Well, thankfully, there are ways we can improve the situation to keep clogged pores at bay as much as possible.

  • Be sure to use makeup with clean ingredients, such as those we feature with Kinder Beauty.
  • Remove your makeup before bed—even that pesky waterproof mascara.
  • Try not to touch your face throughout the day, and be sure to wash your hands as much as possible, just in case.
  • Regularly exfoliate parts of your face and body that are prone to clogged pores.
  • Use a mineral sunscreen, such as Eclipse Sheer Mineral Sunscreen.

When do I need a dermatologist?

Despite how hard we work to keep clogged pores at bay, sometimes it seems that whatever we do isn’t enough. When home remedies don’t seem to do any good, and the problem keeps getting worse, it might be time to find a dermatologist.

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A dermatologist might use one of the following treatments to help get rid of clogged pores and the acne they can create:

  • Extractions: This is when a special tool is used to clear a clogged pore, effectively removing blackheads and whiteheads. But don’t try this at home! Leave it to the experts.
  • Microdermabrasion: This removes the top layer of your skin and can effectively fade acne scars and create an evenness of skin tone.
  • Chemical skin peels: This is a procedure where a chemical solution applied to your skin gets rid of the top layer. It might need to be done more than once to be effective.

Final thoughts

The vast majority of people get clogged pores, so know that you are in very good company. The oiler the skin, the more likely our pores will clog. If and when this happens to you, do know that it will pass. Everything from hormonal shifts to geographical changes, stress and anxiety, and introducing new skincare products might result in a temporary clogged pore situation.

By understanding the risk factors, getting to know your skin, and taking proper care of your largest organ (yep, your skin!), you can help avoid clogged pores.

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