Clogged pores. Whether they’re a daily annoyance for your oily-prone complexion or they rear their ugly heads as soon as summer rolls around, the fact is, we’ve all been plagued with them at one point or another.
As such, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the term #cloggedpores has 497 million views on TikTok with countless Google searches for ‘how to unclog pores’ and just as many Instagram videos showing experts lifting dirt and oil from pores as if by magic. While it can be satisfying to watch experts unclog pores, playing DIY dermatologist yourself (read: squeezing blackheads on the daily) is not the way to get the job done.
What you need are the right ingredients and products to keep those pesky clogged pores away. That’s why we’ve called upon a few experts to help lay down some of the facts, from what causes them in the first place to the foolproof ways to unclog your pores, safely and effectively.
What exactly are clogged pores?
First things first, a pore is a follicle where there’s a duct in the skin attached to the oil glands. These oil glands known as the sebaceous glands which produce oil, or sebum, in your skin.
What causes clogged pores?
“A clogged pore is a hair follicle which has become blocked with a combination of oil and dead skin cells,” says Dr Catriona Maybury, Consultant Dermatologist and Dermatica Medical Lead.
“This then allows bacteria to multiply within the hair follicle, leading to a spot in some cases.” There are many different factors that can lead to clogged pores and genetics (how much oil our skin produces), skincare products and makeup all play a part, she says.
What’s the most effective way to get rid of clogged pores?
To begin with, says Maybury, your first port of call is to pay close attention to your skincare products. “These can clog pores and cause blackheads.” She recommends looking for formulas that state they are non-comedogenic (not likely to cause blackheads), oil-free and won’t clog pores.
To actually get rid of clogged pores takes a targetted approach and adding certain ingredients, like salicylic acid and retinol, into your existing routine.
What are the best ingredients for clogged pores?
Prescription strength retinoids (adapalene and tretinoin) are the most effective creams to use to unclog pores, says Maybury. “Some of our formulas contain a topical retinoid called Adapalene, a powerful vitamin A compound that treats acne by increasing skin turnover and unclogging pores,” she adds.
Azelaic acid could also help unclog pores. “This naturally occurring antioxidant helps reduce the appearance of blemishes, clogged pores and inflammation whilst fading dark spots and marks left by acne,” she adds.
How to treat clogged pores
“If we are not cleansing, we’re essentially allowing build-up on the skin which can open up a whole range of issues. Even if you don’t wear makeup, you still need to remove other products which your skin comes into contact with from moisturisers to SPF as well as daily pollutants, dirt, oils and sweat,” says Dr Alexis Granite, CeraVe consultant dermatologist.’
“Build-up of these toxins can result in everything from lack of luminosity to clogged pores, dry, irritated skin, breakouts and even acne,” she adds. She recommends the CeraVe Blemish Control cleanser which penetrates pores to eliminate the cause of spots & blemishes, while respecting the skin’s natural barrier thanks to ceramides.
Exfoliate once or twice a week using gentle exfoliating acids such as glycolic or salicylic acid, says Dr Maruthappu. “Use products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide as they help to unclog pores and prevent pimples,” she adds.
“Consider a retinol product that can help to reduce sebum (oil) production which reduces the likelihood of blockages developing,” concludes Dr Maruthappu.
Best products to unclog pores
The OG of pore-unclogging formulas. This skincare mainstay earns its stripes thanks to a cocktail of active ingredients that help slough away dead skin cells, remove blackheads and impart a serious glow.
Find those pesky blackheads just won’t go away? Trust us when we say this hardworking clay-infused mask by Soho Skin really lives up to the hype, thanks to salicylic acid that helps decongest pores and a probiotic ferment to support skin cell renewal.
If you’re familiar with the brand’s famed Rice Polish (a blackhead-clearing formula supposedly loved by Meghan Markle) can we turn your attention to this tonic? Thanks to AHAs, niacinamide and Japanese mugwort, it helps clear and clarify your skin for a glowier, smoother-looking complexion.
A brand making waves for its farm-to-face formulas and dedication to sustainability, this toner harnesses 2% salicylic acid, papaya enzyme and chlorella to help boost your glow, unclog pores and exfoliate the skin, all without stripping your precious skin barrier.
A science-backed favourite, Murad’s cult mask harnesses microfine kaolin and bentonite clays to effectively get rid of blackheads and whiteheads.
Designed for oily and blemish-prone skin, this cleanser helps keep your skin clear on the daily, thanks to the likes of pore-improving salicylic acid and brightening niacinamide.
To help unclog pores and deliver a hit of hydration, look no further than Fresh’s tea-powered essence, which adds additional protection from environmental aggressors all while making your skin glow, too.
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