How to unblock pores (and prevent them from getting clogged)

Clogged Pores: How to Unclog Pores - Shanina Shaik

What you need to know for perfect pores

Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / February 04 2019

Ah, pores. We can’t live without them, but they sure are a pain to deal with on the daily. Because they just love to get clogged. And with blocked pores comes breakouts, blackheads, congested skin, dull skin, bumpy skin...basically, not a good time.

How to unclog pores

Dirt, debris, dead skin cells, pollution, makeup and even your skin care products can clog your pores, so the best way to unclog them is to keep your skin clean and clear, and use the right products.

What are pores?

Oil and pores don’t mix, right? Actually, producing oil is what pores do, and it’s an essential part of ensuring your skin is healthy. Pores are tiny openings in the skin where hair follicles grow, and they’re responsible for producing sebum - your skin’s natural oil - to keep skin nourished, youthful and protected against infection. It’s only when your skin’s oil production is out of whack or things plug your pores and prevent them from working properly that your skin plays up. 

How do pores get clogged?

There are a number of reasons your pores can become clogged. The top culprits are too much sebum and dead skin cells getting in the way. 

Your hormone levels are often to blame for an over-production of oil, which is why you tend to have more breakouts during your menstrual cycle. Another reason could be your skin care products. If you’re using the wrong formulas for your skin type, you could be encouraging your skin to produce more oil; this tends to happen when you’re using products that are too harsh and drying, which strip the skin of oil - this then tells your skin it needs to create more oil.  

“Another reason pores can get blocked and enlarged is a process called incomplete keratinisation,” says Daniel Isaacs, Director of Research at Medik8. “This means that a skin cell is not able to fully mature to a dead skin cell.” Isaacs explains that this prevents the skin cells from falling off the skin’s surface easily and “this can lead to an accumulation of these dead skin cells at the entrance of a pore, clogging the orifice and leading to mechanical pore dilation”.

“Clogged pores lead to enlarged pores. Pores stretch out to accommodate for the oil flowing through them. Sebum can also harden and oxidise to form blackheads, which leave pores even more noticeable.”
Daniel Isaacs
Director of Research

How to unclog pores?

The best thing you can do to unclog your pores is to exfoliate. Preferably with something that rebalances your oil levels and removes dead skin cells. According to Isaacs, one of the best ingredients for the job is mandelic acid. “Mandelic acid is an exfoliating acid which harnesses the power of both AHAs with BHAs - [it] is both oil and water soluble, therefore it is able to get into the pores and remove blockages in the skin, but also acts as an exfoliator to buff away at the surface of the skin to refine texture.” Mandelic acid also helps regulate your skin’s sebum production. Two birds, one powerhouse ingredient.

Another great ingredient for getting excess oil production under control is red clover extract, which Isaacs says is a key ingredient in Medik8’s Pore Refining range. “Red clover extract is a natural botanical extract which can help to reduce sebum production. It has three modes of action to work against enlarged pores. Firstly, red clover extract can block the enzyme that creates sebum; stopping excess oils from clogging up pores and forming blemishes. Secondly, the extract increases skin cell renewal which stops dead skin cells from stretching out pores. Finally, as a natural astringent, red clover extract can gently contract the pores; visually reducing their appearance on the face.”

As a preventative measure, consider adding retinol to your skin care routine. This vitamin A superstar increases your cell turnover, which helps keep skin clear and smooth (read: it gets rid of potential pore-clogging debris).

What products should you use?

Regular exfoliation and properly cleaning your skin are among the most important steps for unblocking pores - and preventing them from clogging in the first place. Micellar water is great as a first step in your cleansing routine because the micelles in the formula act like magnets to attract dirt, impurities, oil and makeup away from the skin, without stripping your complexion of moisture.

When it comes to your skin care and makeup, always seek out non-comedogenic formulas because they are specifically designed to not clog pores (these foundations fit the bill).

Regularly including a pore mask into your routine will also help treat congestion and prevent pores from becoming blocked - these are some of our favourites

Products to try: Garnier Skin Naturals Micellar Cleansing Water for Combination to Oily Skin; Medik8 Pore Minimising Tonic; La Roche-Posay Redermic R

Garnier Skin Naturals Micellar Cleansing Water for Combination to Oily Skin

Medik8 Pore Minimising Tonic

La Roche-Posay Redermic R

What not to do

Isaacs warns against using products that contain high quantities of alcohol. “This can dry out the skin and impair its natural protective barrier over time. Taking a much gentler approach will ensure exceptional results over time, without damaging the skin.”

If you’re wondering how to get rid of pores, we have some bad news for you. You can’t. Like we said, they’re essential for proper skin function. But, you can *minimise* their appearance - here’s what you need to know. Plus, we weigh in on whether pore strips are an effective pore cleaner for your nose area.

Do you know how to clean your skin properly? Here’s how to improve your cleansing routine

Do you suffer from clogged pores? What are your go-to products for keeping your skin clear?

Main image credit: Getty

Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.