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What Causes Clogged Pores and How Do You Get Rid of Them?

This pesky skin concern is more common than you think.

If you’ve found yourself searching for a remedy to banish clogged pores from your face, join the club. Clogged pores are a common skin care concern that can be a major pain, and knowing how to handle them can be a challenge, too. The truth is, before even knowing how to clean out clogged pores, you’ll need to learn a few basics, starting with the answer to one important question: What causes clogged pores? 


Here, we’re sharing what you should know about clogged pores, including what clogged pores look like, some of the most effective pore-clogging ingredients you can use to help reduce them and skin care tips you can use to manage and get rid of clogged pores.

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What Are Pores?

Pores are tiny holes (of varying sizes) that connect to sweat glands in the middle layer of your skin (the dermis), as per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). These tiny holes play an essential role in keeping our bodies cool and flushing out toxins the body doesn’t need. 

When pores get clogged with dirt, oils or dead skin, they can lead to breakouts and severe acne. The specific pore size depends on several factors including genetics, aging and skin care practices, per the Cleveland Clinic.

What Do Clogged Pores Look Like?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, when dirt, oil or dead skin gets trapped in your pores they can become clogged. This can lead to skin congestion, which includes pimples, whiteheads, blackheads and cysts. If you look closely in a mirror, you may even notice your pore size enlarged as it’s filled with impurities like dirt or oil that lead to clogged pores. 

You can experience clogged pores anywhere on your skin that has oil glands. Clogged pores on the nose, forehead and chin are most common but fortunately, they can be addressed with a dedicated skin care routine.

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4 Common Causes Of Clogged Pores

If you’ve been experiencing breakouts, it could be due to clogged pores. Read on to learn about four of the main causes of clogged pores.

1. Dead Skin 

The skin goes through a frequent cycle of shedding and creating new skin cells. According to the Mayo Clinic, pores can become clogged when dead skin cells accumulate on the skin’s surface. As you get older, your skin’s ability to shed those dead skin cells from the skin’s surface slows down, which can lead to a dull complexion and buildup. 

To avoid this, make sure to exfoliate one to three times a week. You can use a physical exfoliator with microbeads like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Scrub Cleanser to manually buff away dead skin. Or, you can use an exfoliating toner, like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 5% Glycolic Acid Peeling Toner to chemically exfoliate dead skin cells, while unveiling a brighter, smoother complexion. 


Editor’s tip: If you need another reason to use SPF daily, exfoliation makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. To stay protected, we suggest adding the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Invisible UV Fluid to your daily morning routine.

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2. Excess Oil

Your skin has sebaceous glands, which create natural oils (aka sebum) that are meant to nourish it. In a perfect world, sebum would simply keep the skin soft and hydrated. However, there are times when sebaceous glands can become overactive, leading to an excess amount of oil being created. This can then cause dead skin cells to stick together instead of shedding off, which can lead to clogged pores. 

If you have a skin type that produces an excess of oil (like oily skin and acne-prone skin), there’s a good chance that you deal with clogged pores on the forehead or clogged pores on the chin, because the T-zone has the most oil glands. To manage excess oils, reach for a detoxifying cleanser like L’Oréal Paris Pure-Clay Detox & Brighten Cleanser, at least once a day. It’s formulated with charcoal to help draw out impurities from the skin, like dirt and oil with a clay-to-mousse texture that won’t dry skin out. After each use, the skin feels clean and appears more luminous with minimized pores.  

3. Over-Cleansing and Over-Exfoliating 

As stated previously, cleansing and exfoliating should play an essential role in your skin care routine, but too much of a good thing can turn bad. If you cleanse or exfoliate too much, you may risk stripping your skin of its natural oils, which can cause your oil glands to overcompensate and create even more oil, per the AAD. Then, that excess oil can clog your pores. The AAD also suggests that scrubbing your skin too frequently can irritate the skin, leading to inflammation and enlarged pores

Make sure you cleanse twice a day (once in the morning and once before bed) and pay attention to your skin when you exfoliate. According to the AAD, how often you exfoliate depends on your skin type and the type of exfoliation (chemical vs physical) you practice. start by using an exfoliant only once a week to see how your specific skin type reacts before increasing frequency. If you notice irritation, reduce the number of times you exfoliate per week.

4. Using the Wrong Beauty Products 

Sad as it is to say, some of your favorite beauty products could be to blame for your clogged pores because of their ingredients. So, look for skin care and makeup products with non-comedogenic formulas, which are created with ingredients that won’t clog pores. When it comes to your face makeup, use drugstore favorites like the lightweight L’Oréal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Foundation with buildable coverage, L’Oréal Paris Infallible Up to 24H Fresh Wear Foundation in a Powder which blends seamlessly into skin without caking or clogging pores. 

In addition to using non-comedogenic makeup, the Cleveland Clinic recommends sticking with face products (makeup and skin care) that are oil-free if you have acne-prone skin as oils can be one of the main causes of clogged pores. 

What Are Pore-Clogging Ingredients? 

Some ingredients in your favorite skin care and makeup products may be another cause of your clogged pores. According to the NCBI, ingredients like coconut oil, lanolin, kernel oil and avocado oil can also clog pores.  

Lanolin and coconut oil are emollients that are commonly found in moisturizers to lock in moisture and boost hydration. If you’re looking for a formula with these benefits but without ingredients that won’t clog your pores, try L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Micro Hyaluronic Acid + Ceramides Line-Plumping Water Cream. It includes hyaluronic acid and ceramides to draw in moisture and strengthen the skin barrier without leaving the skin feeling heavy or greasy.

How to Get Rid Of Clogged Pores

Now that you know what clogged pores are and what causes clogged pores, here are a few things you can do to clean pores and minimize pore size.

1. Double Cleanse Before Bed

Before bed, double cleanse with a cream cleanser and a water-based cleanser. The cream or oil-based cleanser will remove all your makeup and sunscreen, while the water-based cleanser removes any leftover dirt and oils to make sure that your skin is fully clean. Depending on how oily your skin is you can double cleanse your face in the morning, or opt for a water-based cleanser to rid your skin of any residue or oil your skin has accumulated overnight.

As a first cleanse, reach for something gentle like micellar water or cleansing balm that can easily remove your makeup without clogging your pores. For the second cleanse, try L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Radiant Smoothing Cream Cleanser, a gentle face wash that cleanses while lightly exfoliating the skin for a refined complexion. Or, reach for something with a deeper exfoliating like L’Oréal Paris Revitalift 3.5% Glycolic Acid Cleanser, a gel cleanser that includes glycolic acid to dissolve dead skin cells and reveal smoother, brighter skin.

2. Use Products With Salicylic Acid and Retinol

Routinely exfoliating with topical acids like salicylic acid, and using a topical retinol is a good way to manage clogged pores as they help to clear out the dirt, oils and debris that clog pores, per the Cleveland Clinic. 

The L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 12% Pure Vitamin C + E + Salicylic Acid Serum is a brightening serum that contains salicylic acid to address enlarged pores. Add it to your morning routine after cleansing and before applying your moisturizer and broad-spectrum sunscreen. At night, use L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Pressed Night Moisturizer with Retinol + Niacinamide. With a blend of retinol and niacinamide, this non-comedogenic moisturizer quickly absorbs into the skin and smooths uneven texture with continued use over time.

3. Moisturize 

While you may want to skip moisturizer because you feel like it clogs your pores or makes your skin oily, it’s a bad idea because it may have a negative effect on your overall complexion. Instead, use a lightweight, non-comedogenic formula, like the aforementioned Revitalift Derm Intensives Micro Hyaluronic Acid + Ceramides Line-Plumping Water Cream. It contains hyaluronic acid to retain hydration in the skin and its silky, lightweight texture is fast-absorbing without feeling heavy or greasy.

4. See a Professional for Extractions

If your clogged pores manifest as blackheads on your face, avoid picking at them and save that for a professional, like a dermatologist. Picking at blackheads and acne can lead to infection, scarring, dark marks and worsening of the breakout. 

If you are dealing with dark marks from picking at a clogged pore or blemish, add L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal 12% [Niacinamide + Amino Sulfonic + Ferulic Acid] Dark Spot Serum to your routine to reduce the appearance of dark spots and post-acne marks. Additionally, this serum is non-comedogenic so it won’t clog your pores and offers gentle exfoliation to resurface skin cells. 

5. Consult With Your Doctor

If your acne becomes painful or if you’re doing the right things for your clogged pores and you’re still not seeing results, talk to your dermatologist. You may be a good candidate for topical creams or prescription medications that can help manage clogged pores. 

Next: 6 Tips for Minimizing Large Pores With Makeup

Photo Credit: iStock

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