Are you looking to clear clogged pores on your nose, chin, or other areas on your face? Whether your skin is oily, acne-prone or dry, clogged pores can occur. Discover the causes of clogged pores, how you can help prevent them and how to treat clogged pores when they do show up.
What are clogged pores?
Pores are openings in skin that release sweat and oil that tend to be most visible on oily areas of the face, like the nose and chin.i As part of skin’s natural renewal process, dead skin cells surface to the top layer of skin while new skin cells are regenerated underneath. When skin produces excess oil, this dead skin – along with dirt and other debris – can stick to the sides of individual pores and cause them to become clogged.
What do clogged pores look like?
When pores are clogged with dirt and oil, they often become enlarged and appear more visible. A pore is defined as an opening in skin that is wider than 0.2 square millimeters but a clogged or enlarged pore may be three times as wide.ii You may also be able to see buildup within the pores.
What causes clogged pores?
Excess oil and dead skin can both lead to clogged pores as can dirt, pollution and other external aggressors. Some of the main causes of clogged pores include:
- Excess Oil Production When your skin produces excess sebum, or oil, it can become trapped within the pore and cause it to clog. Even if it doesn’t contribute to clogged pores, excess oil will often cause pores to be more visible.
Especially when left on overnight, makeup can become trapped in skin and cause clogged pores. Cleanse skin before bed with a makeup-removing cleanser and regularly cleanse your makeup brushes to remove any impurities that build up over time.
- Pillowcases & Bedsheets From makeup to hair products to oil, your pillowcase absorbs impurities as you sleep. Frequently washing your sheets can help prevent these oils and impurities from ending up on your face.
- Pollution In addition to dirt you may be able to see, your skin also comes into contact with pollutants every day from the environment. These external aggressors can cause skin to become irritated and can also become trapped within your pores.
- Skin Type While you cannot control your genetics, it is true that your skin type will affect your pores. Oily skin types are more prone to clogged pores as their skin is already producing excess sebum which can contribute to pores becoming clogged. Oily skin types also tend to have more visible pores since excess oil causes pores to expand. By removing excess oil, pores can appear visibly diminished.
What is the difference between clogged pores and blackheads or whiteheads?
If clogged pores remain blocked, they will often form a comedone – a blackhead or whitehead – and can also turn into a blemish or pimple. When a pore is blocked, the skin continues to produce oil but this oil and the dead skin and sweat that would normally escape through the pore become trapped and can cause acne to form.iii All forms of acne, including blackheads and whiteheads, begin with clogged pores which is why it is important to help prevent and care for clogged pores when they arise.
How can you help prevent clogged pores?
Ensuring that dead skin, debris and impurities are effectively removed, you can help prevent some of the main causes of clogged pores. When dead skin builds up, pores become more visible and enlarged and skin can even appear rough or dull. To help prevent clogged pores, follow these tips:
- Exfoliate skin several times per week. More than any other step, exfoliating is one of the key ways you can help prevent clogged pores. Exfoliating helps remove dead skin and also improves skin’s renewal process.iv
- Cleanse skin twice a day and after exercise or excessive sweating. By removing dirt, oil and debris from skin’s surface you can help reduce the likelihood that they will become stuck in your pores.
- Remove makeup thoroughly at the end of the day to help prevent pores from becoming clogged overnight.
- Ensure that your moisturizers and other skincare products are non-comedogenic, which means they won’t clog pores.
- If you have oily skin, you may also want to look for formulas targeted to help control excess shine.
- Take care not to overly touch your face throughout the day as this can transfer dirt, oil and impurities to your face.
How should you exfoliate clogged pores?
Look for an exfoliating scrub or use a formula with Salicylic Acid or another chemical exfoliant to help remove dead skin. When using an exfoliating scrub, be careful to massage skin gently. Scrubbing skin too hard can cause damage or irritation which may even prompt skin to produce even more oil.
How do you treat clogged pores?
If you take steps to prevent clogged pores and they still appear, cleansing and exfoliating are key ways to help loosen trapped dirt and impurities. Cleanse skin morning and night and after excessive sweat or exercise. Several times a week, use an exfoliating or detoxifying face mask to help purify skin. If your pores are persistently clogged, they can be expertly extracted but resist picking at or trying to remove them yourself which can cause irritation that may even leave a dark spot.
Do clogged pores go away on their own?
While clogged pores will eventually go away, they can be persistent and often need the help of skincare formulas. A routine that includes daily cleansing, removing makeup and exfoliating regularly can help remove excess oil and loosen buildup within these pores.
Can dry skin types have clogged pores?
Even though clogged pores are more common in oily skin, dry skin types can still experience blockages. When skin is too dry, dead skin can build up and contribute to clogged pores. A dry, rough skin texture can also cause pores to appear more visible even if they are not clogged. Moisturizing dry skin can help prevent this while also keeping skin soft and supple.
What are the best skincare ingredients for clogged pores?
- Amazonian White Clay Also known as "Magic Earth," Amazonian White Clay has been traditionally used for centuries to help relieve stress and detoxify. An extremely porous material, Amazonian White Clay is known to help absorb excess oil and detoxify skin. Kiehl’s skincare formulas with Amazonian White Clay help visibly diminish pores for smoother skin texture.
- Salicylic Acid Salicylic Acid is a beta-hydroxy acid known to help refine skin’s texture. This efficacious ingredient is also known to help exfoliate skin and regulate oil over time. Especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin, formulas with Salicylic Acid can balance skin and help prevent clogged pores.
- Sulfur Sulfur is an active mineral that is known to help reduce blemishes. Using skincare formulas with Sulfur on clogged pores can help treat them while also helping to prevent them from turning into a blackhead, whitehead or blemish.
What are the best skincare products for clogged pores?
If clogged pores are one of your top skin concerns, start a routine that can help prevent and treat clogged pores.
- Purify Skin with an Exfoliating Cleanser Gently remove dirt, oil and debris with a daily pore facial cleanser to exfoliate and detoxify skin.
- Mattify Skin with a Pore-Refining Toner After cleansing, sweep on a pore-minimizing toner to help remove any leftover dirt, surface oil or residue.
- Visibly Minimize Pores with a Clay Mask Several times a week, apply a deep cleansing clay mask to detoxify skin and help remove dirt, oil and toxins which can cause clogged pores.
- Refine Skin Texture with a Mattifying Lotion Twice a day, smooth on a pore minimizing moisturizer to help replenish moisture while helping control excess oil.
- Defend Skin with Daily SPFEven on cloudy days, UV rays can damage skin which can lead to enlarged pores and irritation. Sun damage can even cause skin to produce excess oil which can increase the likelihood of clogged pores. Use a non-comedogenic sunscreen to help protect skin without clogging pores.
What are the best men’s skincare products for clogged pores?
Men’s skin is oilier than women’s skin which can contribute to enlarged and clogged pores.v Shaving can also leave men’s skin more vulnerable which can contribute to irritations and sensitivities that can cause skin to produce excess oil. Men can use the same products for clogged pores as women or choose formulas uniquely designed for men’s oily skin that can be helpful for preventing and treating clogged pores.
Defend Skin with a Daily SPF
Even on cloudy days, UV rays can damage skin which can lead to enlarged pores and irritation. Sun damage can even cause skin to produce excess oil which can increase the likelihood of clogged pores. Use a non-comedogenic sunscreen to help protect skin without clogging pores.
Roh, Mr, et al. "Treatment of Enlarged Pores with the Quasi Long-Pulsed versus Q-Switched 1064 Nm Nd: YAG Lasers: A Split-Face, Comparative, Controlled Study." Laser Therapy, Japan Medical Laser Laboratory, 2011.
ii Lee, Sook, Jeong, Park, Li and Seo. "Facial Pores: Definition, Causes and Treatment Options." American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Inc. 2016; 42:277-285.
iii "Understanding Acne." National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13 July 2017.
iv "How to Unclog Pores: Safe Methods, What to Avoid, and More." Healthline, Healthline Media.
v "It’s a Guy Thing: Cosmetic Procedures Surge Among Men." American Academy of Dermatology. 2013.