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Updated: Aug 27, 2023

Clogged or congested pores are very common skincare problem, when left untreated would result in acne formation, breakout and permanent scarring. So, what causes clogged pores, common myths and how to manage congested pores, keep reading to find out more.

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What are pores?

The dermis (middle layer of your skin) contains sweat glands that regulate the body temperature, allowing toxin or waste from our body to travel through the pores to the skin’s surface. Therefore, pores are the skin's small opening to help release sweat, oils and are connected to hair follicles. The size of your pores is mostly genetic, you can’t change the size.

What causes clogged or congested pores?

What causes clogged pores? Main factors that cause clogged pores are:

  • Increased sebum production from sebaceous glands

  • Accumulate dead skin cells over time

  • Under or over cleansing your face

Your skin collects dirt, oil and impurities throughout the day as well as dead skin cells on the surface. Washing your face twice a day (morning and evening) will help get rid of these skin irritants that cause clogged pores, premature aging and acne breakouts. Having said that , you don’t want to over-wash or over-exfoliate your skin that strips all your skin natural oils, resulting in over production of skin’s oil. Skin eruptions occur when the skin’s pores are blocked, increases in sebum production and dead skin cells. This is a perfect environment for bacteria to interact with the oil, irritate the skin and cause inflammation.

How to unclog pores?

Use a right cleanser for your skin type & skin concerns Cleansing and treating your skin daily would help in keeping the breakouts at bay. Aim for twice a day, in the morning, at the end of the day and after sweating activities. Choose a mild and gentle cleanser that contains low percentage salicylic acid, glycolic acid or lactic acid to help remove dirt and oil in skin pores. Also, don’t forget to fully remove makeup or sunscreen as anything left on your skin due to not cleanse properly could contribute to acne formations.

Exfoliating regularly Chemical exfoliators encourage healthy cell turnover, helping improve dull, uneven texture on your skin. If your skin is prone to breakouts and clogged pores like mine, AHAs and BHAs would help when using regularly. It is recommended to exfoliate at least once a week to promote faster cell turnover. Try to test out your skin by exfoliating 1 a week, then build up your skin’s tolerance to 2–3 times a week.

Incorporate masks into your routine (clay, wash off or sheet mask) Adding masks into your routine is helpful to minimize clogged pores as they are nourishing, soothing, hydrating and much more, assist to keep pores clean and prevent new acne formation.

Misunderstanding about pores

Myth #1: Pores can get smaller or larger

There is a myth going around that cold water shrinks your pores. Cold water could tighten the look of pores, appearing to be smaller. The truth is the size of your pores stay the same, never actually change. What could happen is when dirt, debris, dead skin cells clog pores, it appears to swell up and larger to the naked eye. When all the impurities are removed, our pores return to normal size, but their walls are weakened and could change how the pores look.

Myth #2: Pores open and close

Many people believe that pores open and close to get rid of the impurities trapped inside. The truth is pores are always open as its purpose is to assist our body to release sweat, oils, etc. Higher temperature could help open your pores more, make it easier to deep cleanse impurities in your skin. You could influence the appearance of the pores but pores never really close.

Myth #3: Blackheads are pores with trapped dirt

Blackheads occur when dead skin cells accumulate at the opening of our pores, resulting in blockage as our natural oils couldn’t exit as they normally do. When the inner of the clogged pores comes in contact with air, it oxidizes, becomes a brown-blackish color and is easily mistaken as dirt.

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