Few things are more frustrating for a skincare fanatic than putting your best foot forward for flawless skin only to feel like you’re coming up short when you catch a glimpse in the magnifying mirror and see clogged pores staring back at you. Despite your best efforts, clogged pores can be pesky and difficult to resolve. Some of us have small pores while others have large and oily pores. Just as some of us have thick hair and some of us have fine hair. The “pores” in our face are an anatomically complex structure impacted by genetics, hormones, and other factors.
What Causes Clogged Pores?
Everyone has pores—more than 20,000 of them on your face alone! Pores are the conduit for oil and sweat to leave your body, which in turn, cools you off and regulates your temperature. Because they are open, pores can build-up dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria that inevitably become clogged. You might notice a clogged pore as a blackhead. This darker color is the dead skin cells that have been exposed to oxygen and this turns the material brown or “black”. When the pore is not exposed to oxygen, it typically turns white (aka a whitehead).
Can You Unclog Your Pores?
The good news is that pores can be “unclogged”, but it’s not as simple as washing your face. Unclogging pores or debriding the keratin proteins within the pore requires certain ingredients to slough off the dead skin cells, dirt, and oil trapped inside.
Here are some of the best ways to keep your pores clean and unclogged from the comfort of your home.
Use a Cleanser with Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide (BPO) is one of the most effective acne treatments and can be equally effective on clogged pores. Benzoyl peroxide has antimicrobial properties and helps eradicate the bacteria inside your pores. "When you decrease the bacterial load you decrease inflammation", Dr. Zenovia shares. Using a product like the 5% Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Spot Treatment from Dr. Zenovia can be effective yet soothing. If you experience dryness, applying a light moisturizer can be an effective way to limit irritation. Dr. Zenovia’s Aloe Vera Blemish Soothing Moisturizer features skin-soothing Squalene and a powerful clinically Curated Antioxidant Blend to provide long-lasting hydration and superior free radical protection.
Use an Alpha Hydroxy Acid-Containing Product
Some of the best-known pore cleaners are alpha hydroxy acids, which include glycolic acid and lactic acid, among others. They’re often found in exfoliating products because they help slough off dead skin cells and also help achieve a more even skin tone. Glycolic acid in particular is especially effective at treating acne. It is best to use glycolic acid at night, sandwiched between your cleanser and your retinol application or moisturizer. Dr. Zenovia’s 10% Glycolic Acne Control Peel Pads are specially formulated to promote the skin’s cellular renewal process, unclog pores, and accelerate the removal of dead skin cells.
Follow Up With Retinol
Retinol is a powerful ingredient known for its cellular repair abilities and collagen-preserving qualities. It helps smooth the skin’s texture, reduces the appearance of fine lines, and wrinkles and is very effective at treating acne and clogged pores. “It is the gold standard for comedones and acne treatment”, Dr. Zenovia shares. Retinol comes in many strengths: both prescription and over the counter. The prescription retinols can be irritating and frequently cause dryness and flaking. It can take some time to tolerate retinols, but your skin will build up the tolerance. Dr. Zenovia recommends sticking with your regular skincare regimen and introducing it slowly – for example: start 2-3 nights per week. Dr. Zenovia’s Advanced Retinol Night Repair Treatment is comparable to a prescription form retinoid because we use a micro polymer system stabilizer. Its effect is similar even though it doesn’t have retinoic acid which requires a prescription.
Note from Dr. Zenovia: It's important to gradually introduce ingredients like Benzoyl Peroxide, Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, and Retinol into your skincare regimen. If excessive dryness or irritation occurs, reduce application.
Give Pore Strips A Try
Pore strips are effective at removing the dirt and build-up clinging to your pores if used correctly. The best way to use them is to apply steam to your face, either in your shower or by using a facial steamer. This helps loosen the pores so that it’s easier to remove what’s lurking inside them. Once you’ve steamed, or washed, the oils will be removed from your skin surface, and then you can apply the pore strips on moist skin. You must follow the directions on the label carefully. It is really cool to see the pore debris pulled out with the strips- they look like little brown dots of trapped dirt and it is so satisfying!
Note from Dr. Zenovia: Along with these treatments, it is important to protect the skin from further damage by wearing sunscreen daily with a minimum of SPF 30 and minimizing UV exposure. This is especially important if you are using Retinol and/or Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) as they will increase skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.
Written by Jenn Sinrich, Freelance Writer & Editor