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

Visible, clogged pores can be just as annoying as acne. No matter what your skin type, pores can become clogged. More so, 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 larger pores, and how to properly clean your face are the first steps to a fresher, cleaner, healthier look.

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.

woman close up picking her face/clogged pores.

What are Pores?

Pores are tiny openings to hair follicles and each one produces natural oils, which lubricate the skin, which in turn help the skin to remain healthy. These openings extend downward from the epidermis of our skin to several layers of the skin below.

It is this natural oil, known as sebum, which moisturises the skin. 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 due to these pores containing larger sebaceous glands. When these pores become blogged, it can result in blackheads, whiteheads and acne.

woman magnifying clogged pores on her face with magnifying glasses.

The number of pores you have, along with the size of each pore, is genetically set. Other factors include skin type, how much oil your skin produces and how much collagen is held in the structure of your skin.

Suggested Article: Blackheads: Natural Ways To Remove Them Once And For All.

What Causes Clogged Pores?

If you have clogged pores, it doesn’t mean you’re not cleaning your face enough. Instead, it means that you likely have oily or combination skin, and therefore tend to produce more natural skin oils than those with normal or dry skin.

There can be a number of different reasons as to why you may have congested skin. This can be from a combination of several different factors rather than just from one singular reason.

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

Clogged Pores due to 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 can get clogged when new skin cells begin to grow. This tends to happen 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 can then result in a clogged pore. And once the pore is blocked, the skin is unable to breathe. The build-up of excessive dead skin cells will cause unwanted blemishes and skin problems if not taken care of on a daily basis.

a close up of a person touching their face.

Clogged Pores due to 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. 

Clogged Pores due to Age

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 it once was with your 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.

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Clogged Pores due to 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 and to reduce the likelihood of clogged pores.

Clogged Pores due to 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 healthier skin.

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

Clogged Pores due to 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.

woman wearing a t-zone face mask.

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Clogged Pores due to Hormonal Changes

The formation of clogged pores can be greatly affected by hormonal factorsWhen 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 where these can also act as triggers.

Clogged Pores due to 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 moisturising your skin regularly to keep your skin and body hydrated.

Suggested Article: Hydration Hacks: 12 Easy Ways to Drink More Water.

Clogged Pores due to 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, in turn, clog your pores.

woman holding a feather pen looking stressed.

Suggested Article: Here’s How Stress Affects Your Skin And How To Reduce The Effects Of It.

How to Tell if Your Pores are Clogged

You can tell if your pores are full 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 full are often large, as skin cells and other matter remain inside of them. Congested pores, dull complexion, uneven skin, whiteheads and blackheads are actually signs of clogged pores. Another way to tell if you have congested skin is to run your clean hand across your face. If your skin feels bumpy and uneven to touch, chances are it’s congested.

How to Prevent Clogging Your Pores

To Avoid Clogged Pores Cleanse Your Face Daily 

A 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.

It’s important to note that while you may think that a heavy-duty cleanser is your best bet for oily skin – it’s actually best to use a gentler formula. Make sure you’re using a cleanser that is specific 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.

Suggested Article: Here’s How to Determine your Specific Skin Type Once and for All.

Avoid Pore-Clogging Ingredients

Pores can clog 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.

woman applying green paste to her cheeks.

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, in turn, 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. More so, dirty brushes can also become more abrasive and drier as they become more caked with product and debris from your face, which in turn, 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. 

makeup brushes in soap bubbles.

Wear SPF Daily

Sun damage can really do some damage to pores by breaking down collagen and elastin. This then results in the thickening of your skin’s surface, and it’s the number one cause of skin ageing.

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. 

Suggested Article: How To Choose The Right Sun Protection For You.

Avoid Sleeping with Makeup On

Sleeping with makeup on can really do 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 may cause problems in the future.

When makeup clogs the pores, the bacteria left within can develop into breakouts. Not only does this cause breakouts and speed up the ageing process, but it also contributes to enlarged pores.

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

woman sleeping in bed wearing her makeup.

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Use Non-Comedogenic Skincare Products

A good skincare routine is essential on congested skin, however, you need to ensure that you are using the right products for your skin. Non-comedogenic skincare products are those that do not overburden your skin and they help reduce the potential blockage of visible pores. Furthermore, their use is 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 that they are not made of any oily ingredients.

How to Minimise the Appearance of Clogged Pores

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 smaller with a product, treatment, or home remedy. You should note that whilst pores can’t technically be shrunken, their appearance may minimise with various tips, tricks, and good skincare habits. 

Pore Strips on Clogged Pores

Pore strips contain water-activated ingredients that adhere to the top layers of dirt, oil and dead skin cells. These types of facial strips remove the top layers of dead skin cells and blackheads by using a very strong adhesive. Where the strips lock onto the skin they then help remove built-up dirt within the pore, when you peel them off. 

When used properly nose strips can clear the pores temporarily and make them appear smaller. However, try not to use them too often as using them too frequently can cause inflammation and irritation. So, we recommend that you don’t use more than one pore strip a week.

woman wearing a pore strip over her nose, for treating clogged pores.

Exfoliation of Clogged Pores

Exfoliation is one of the simplest, and one of the most fundamental ways, to unclog pores and keep them that way. The use of exfoliates will deeply penetrate the pores and help remove any blockages.  

YouTube: How to Exfoliate Your Face

Combining your exfoliating with cleansing, moisturising masks and treatments, is the ultimate way to improve your skin’s pore-clogging problem as well as its overall condition. However, it is important that you are very gentle. Be sure to use a product that does not contain harsh, abrasive grains that can scratch the surface of your skin and, therefore, allow bacteria to get in. This can make your clogged pores and acne worse rather than better.

woman exfoliating her face.

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Facial Steaming on Clogged Pores

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, specific products can easily be applied. Products like masks and moisturisers work best as the skin absorbs them more deeply.

Always remember to close the pores after by applying a splash of cold water and follow with a gentle moisturiser. Otherwise, they may simply clog back up!

a woman lying in a spa, having a facial steam.

Add Retinol to Your Skincare Routine

Retinoid is a derivative of vitamin A, and it has the ability to minimise the size of sebaceous glands. The use of it can also curb excess oil production, which tends to 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.

The result? Smoother skin, fewer breakouts and blackheads, and tighter pores.

However, 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.

three blue bottles with droppers, each titled 'retinol' on the front.

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What to Avoid Doing if you Have Clogged Pores

Avoid Harsh Scrubbing

Sometimes clogged pores are too deeply congested to respond to scrubbing, so you won’t get rid of them this way. Doing so can also irritate the skin and can cause redness and inflammation. Frustratingly, this will only cause it to produce more oil.

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

Avoid Products That Can Clog the Skin

Perhaps the most important thing to avoid is the use of products that may clog the skin. Steer clear of comedogenic makeup and skincare products, as well as, avoiding 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 are delicate, and if you push them, you can break them! Then, the oil and bacteria in the pore will turn into an inflamed pimple. Yikes.

When you squeeze and stretch the skin, you’re contributing to the formation of fine lines. Moreover, this can result in inflammation and irritation. All of which affect pore size over time. Furthermore, these harsh motions make the transfer of oil, bacteria, and other impurities from your hands more of a risk. This evidentially leads to clogging.

woman close up picking her face/clogged pores.

By following a tailored skincare routine and ensuring good hygiene habits, you can prevent your pores from clogging.

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

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