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If you’ve found yourself searching for the answer to how to unclog pores, you’re far from alone. 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 you can know what to do about clogged pores, you need to learn a few basics. Starting with the answer to one question: What are pores? Here, we’re filling you in on that, settling a few rumors about pores, sharing what can cause clogged pores, and finally, giving you skin care tips—like using the right facial cleanser—to manage clogged pores. That’s a lot of (super important) info, so let’s get to it!
First thing first, what are pores? According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), there are little pockets called sweat glands in the middle layer of your skin (the dermis). These glands make sweat—as you’d expect—which goes through little tubes and comes out of tiny holes. Those holes? Those are your pores! This is why pores are essential; sweating cools you down and flushes out things your body doesn’t need.
When it comes to pores, there are a lot of rumors and misunderstandings. The following myths are in need of debunking:
1. Myth: Pores open and close. Ever hear that hot water—think: steam facials—will open your pores? Hate to break it to you, but that’s not the case. The reality: Pores are always open. As we mentioned, that’s why you’re able to sweat!
2. Myth: You can get rid of pores. Nope, you can’t. Even if you don’t like the way they look, pores serve an important purpose, as a gateway for oil and a home for your hair follicles. The best you can do is use products to help minimize their appearance.
3. Myth: The black dots on your nose are from dirt. According to the Mayo Clinic, those dots are actually blackheads, which are clogged pores that have oxidized and turned a lovely brownish-black hue.
4. Myth: The sun will shrink your pores. Unfortunately, the sun does just the opposite. The AAD says that sun damaged skin can lead to a lack of firmness which can result in more noticeable pores. Just another reason not to skip SPF!
Now that we’ve revealed the truth regarding some of the most common myths about pores, it’s time for a lesson on what can cause pores to become clogged. Here are some of the most common causes:
1. Dead skin. Our skin is always creating new skin cells and shedding old ones. According to Mayo Clinic, pores can become clogged due to excess oils and dead skin cells accumulating on skin’s surface. As you get older, your skin’s ability to shed those dead skin cells from skin’s surface slows down, which can lead to buildup if not exfoliated.
2. Excess oil. As we mentioned above, excess oils can clog your pores. Your skin has sebaceous glands, which work to create natural oils (aka sebum) that are meant to nourish your skin. In a perfect world, sebum would simply keep skin soft and hydrated. However, there are times when sebaceous glands can become overactive. During these periods, your sebaceous glands can actually create too much oil, which can cause dead skin cells to stick together instead of shed off.
3. Over-cleansing or over-exfoliating. This might sound counterintuitive, but hear us out. Cleansing and exfoliating should play an important role in your skin care routine, but it turns out there really is too much of a good thing. When 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. Then, that excess oil can, in turn, clog your pores.
Another reason not to overdo it? According to the AAD, scrubbing can irritate your skin, leading to inflamed, more noticeable pores.
Editor’s tip: When it comes to exfoliation, we recommend using a gentle face scrub two to three times each week.
4. Using the wrong beauty products. Sad as it is to say, some of your very favorite beauty products may be to blame for your clogged pores. How to deal: Look for non-comedogenic formulas—these products are formulated with ingredients that don’t clog pores. In addition to using products that are non-comedogenic, the AAD recommends sticking with face products (makeup and skin care) that specify they are oil free.
So, you know what causes your pores to become clogged—what’s next? It’s time to learn how to help purify them. Here are a few tips to help unclog pores, including clogged pores on your nose and cheeks:
The AAD recommends cleansing your face twice a day to keep your pores clean and reduce oiliness. Use a gentle cleanser, like the L’Oréal Paris Pure-Clay Purify & Mattify Cleanser, which removes excess dirt, oil, and pollution without over-drying. The clay-to-mousse formula will leave your skin feeling refreshed with a matte finish.
How to use it: Once a day, squeeze the product into hands, adding water to transform the formula from a clay to a mousse consistency. Gently massage the mousse onto your face using circular motions. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry.
While your pores don’t open and close, there are certain factors that can make them appear larger. According to the AAD, hot water can irritate your skin and cause pores to appear bigger. To avoid this, opt to wash your face and bathe in lukewarm water. Bonus: This will also help prevent your skin from drying out!
Face masks aren’t reserved for pampering your skin, they can also be an important step in helping to minimize the appearance of clogged and enlarged-looking pores. Try the L’Oréal Paris Pure-Clay Exfoliate & Refining Face Mask. Formulated with pure clays and red algae, this mask can help exfoliate oil, dirt, and dead skin cells that have piled up on your skin’s surface. Pores are left visibly minimized and imperfections are less visible.
How to use it: Apply an even layer to dry, clean skin, avoiding the lip and eye area. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes, then wash off with lukewarm water. Use the mask three times a week for best results.
According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information, greasy skin care products can clog your pores even more. To avoid this, skip greasy moisturizers and serums, opting instead for products that are non-comedogenic and free of parabens, fragrances, synthetic dyes, and mineral oil. Here are two paraben-free, fragrance-free face serums to add to your routine:
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum: This highly potent vitamin C serum contains 10% pure vitamin C concentrate in its formula. The serum is formulated without water and in controlled conditions to minimize exposure to oxygen, keeping it from degrading. Its air-tight metal tube keeps the formula protectively sealed to maximize stability and potency.
How to use it: Apply a dime-sized amount onto your fingertips and apply the serum to your face and neck, gently smoothing it onto your skin. Use it every morning and evening.
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum: This intensive hydrating 1.5% hyaluronic acid serum will replenish moisture for plumped, youthfully supple skin. The light-as-air gel serum absorbs quickly, enhances skin’s own moisture retention, and results in smoother-feeling skin.
How to use it: Apply two to three drops of the serum to your face and neck every morning and evening. Gently smooth it onto skin, avoiding your eye area.
While you may think that purifying clogged pores is all about your skin care routine, the makeup products you use play a big role as well! Consider swapping your current makeup favorites for products formulated without oils and other pore-clogging ingredients. One that fits the bill? The L’Oréal Paris True Match™ Super Blendable Makeup. This foundation will not only leave you with radiant, flawless skin, but it also has a formula that’s free of oils, fragrances, and pore-clogging fillers. Apply it using the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Blend Artist Foundation Blender.
If you prefer a powder foundation, the L’Oréal Paris True Match™ Super-Blendable Compact Makeup also has an ultra-pure formula with no oils or pore-clogging fillers. This foundation has flawless natural coverage, a weightless feel, and the seamless blendability of liquid makeup.
The AAD states that pores can appear larger when skin sags. To help address this issue, we recommend using anti-aging products like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Cicacream Face Moisturizer Pro Retinol & Centella Asiatica. This lightweight, protective cream strengthens the skin barrier to help resist loss of firmness and other signs of aging. The formula also contains retinol, a powerful anti-aging ingredient.
How to use it: Every morning and evening, smooth the lightweight cream over your face until thoroughly absorbed. Since products containing retinol can increase sun sensitivity, be sure to follow with a broad-spectrum sunscreen in the morning. You’ll also need to reapply throughout the day.
Of course, exfoliating is key when it comes to unclogging your pores. The AAD shares that exfoliation may make pores less noticeable. The L’Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Purify & Unclog Kiwi Scrub is formulated with three naturally derived sugars and real kiwi seeds. The sugars eventually melt, preventing harsh exfoliation while purifying and unclogging pores for smooth, soft skin.
How to use it: Smooth a small amount of the scrub onto your face using dry fingertips. Then, wet your fingers and massage the scrub over your face before rinsing with warm water. Use the scrub up to three times a week.
Your makeup brushes and blenders can accumulate oils, dirt, and makeup from daily use. This buildup can lead to breakouts and clogged pores if you don’t properly clean your beauty tools. Not sure where to start when it comes to cleaning your brushes and blenders? Head over to our article, How to Clean Makeup Brushes and Makeup Blenders.
If you’re thinking your pillowcase has nothing to do with your pores—think again. Silk pillowcases are better for your skin than the cotton alternative—not to mention, they feel seriously luxurious!
No matter what material your pillowcase is, hair products can build-up on it over time, leading to breakouts and clogged pores. To prevent this, before bed, wrap your hair in a silk scarf that will help keep your hair products from getting on your skin.
Next: The Complete Makeup Routine for Large Pores