In the world of skin care, the topic of clogged pores often comes up when discussing things like acne, breakouts and pimples. Yet, despite being one of the most common beauty woes, it doesn’t make dealing with congestion any better. The good news is that there are a handful of ways to rid the skin of congestion. Some of which involve at-home facials using face masks that detox, purify and promote a more clear complexion.
Up ahead, we take a closer look at what causes congestion to occur, ingredients that help promote clear skin and the best face masks for clogged pores.
What Are Clogged Pores
“Clogged pores happen when oil, dirt or dead skin cells start to build up,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified NYC dermatologist, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. “People with oily or acne-prone skin produce more oil, which can cause clogged pores,” she explains. “Clogged pores can cause blackheads, pimples and [might also] lead to skin irritation,” she adds.
What Causes Pores to Get Clogged
Clogged pores—especially the kinds that turn into pimples—can be frustrating, to say the least. But, knowing what causes pores to get clogged in the first place can help you make a more informed decision on how to get rid of clogged pores and prevent future breakouts.
“Makeup and pollution can irritate the pores of the face,” says Dr. Jaliman. “Make sure the makeup you use is non-comedogenic [specially formulated to not clog pores],” she adds. She further explains, “to avoid clogging your pores with makeup, try to use products that are oil-free,” and always remember to remove all of your makeup and cleanse thoroughly before going to bed.
Physical factors like makeup and pollution aren’t the only factors—breakout-prone skin can be hereditary, too. “The size of your pores depends primarily on your genes,” explains Dr. Jaliman. “If you have larger pores, the dead skin inside them is more likely to make you break out,” she adds.
How to Keep Pores Clean
Despite some of the causes of clogged pores, there are a few things you can do to keep your pores clean. In addition to trying a deep-cleaning face mask, Dr. Jaliman says, “Exfoliating is crucial since it removes pore-enlarging dead skin cells.”
On top of that, she suggests visiting a dermatologist for in-office extractions. “You can also minimize pore size by getting the pores cleaned out by way of a facial,” she adds. “Also, microdermabrasion is helpful for the same reason—it gets rid of the dead surface skin,” she notes.
The Best Ingredients for Clogged Pores
Like many things in beauty, ingredients matter, especially when navigating congestion. When shopping for skin care products that help purge the skin—including face masks—Dr. Jaliman says to look for ingredients such as “salicylic acid, zinc, retinol [and] alpha hydroxy acids.” Discover why Dr. Jaliman believes these are the best ingredients for clogged pores, below.
- Retinol: According to Dr. Jaliman, “Retinols are effective as they decrease the cohesiveness of the cells and help with exfoliation. Pores [can appear] smaller [since] there is no debris inside.”
- Salicylic acid: Dr. Jaliman loves salicylic acid for clogged pores because it can “lessen the symptoms of acne.” In addition, “Salicylic acid encourages exfoliation of the skin and unclogging pores,” she adds.
- Alpha hydroxy acid: Alpha hydroxy acids, a type of chemical exfoliant, are another ingredient to look out for. According to Jaliman, one of the most popular kinds of alpha hydroxy acid is lactic acid. “It plumps the skin, [makes] fine lines look less visible [and] gently exfoliates to reveal smoother and more glowing skin.” On top of lactic acid, you might also run into citric acids with similar benefits. “It can be used to treat multiple skin problems such as acne, hyperpigmentation, clogged pores, fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots,” says Dr. Jaliman. “Citric acid can be used on the skin in the form of peels, toners and masks,” she concludes.
- Zinc: Did you know that the same ingredient found in sunscreen can also help keep clogged pores at bay? According to Dr. Jaliman, “Zinc reduces the inflammatory response to bacteria [and] helps with clogged pores.”
- Charcoal and clay: Commonly seen in masks and cleansers for oily skin, these highly absorbent ingredients work like magnets, drawing out excess oil and dirt from your skin.
In addition to discovering the best ingredients for clogged pores, it’s important to be mindful of the ingredients that can make congestion worse. Dr. Jaliman says to avoid ingredients such as “mineral oil and petroleum” as “these ingredients [are known to] clog pores.”
The Best Face Masks for Clogged Pores
When it comes to clogged pores, knowledge is key. Now that you know some of the best ways to keep congestion at bay—and the best ingredients to use—take your skin care routine a step further with these best face masks for clogged pores.