If you have acne you probably obsess over clogged pores. You watch them closely in the mirror as they enlarge and clog resulting in whiteheads, blackheads, and/or pimples. You try your best to keep them clear, but it seems as soon as you rip off that pore strip it will only be a matter of time before they are clogged again. But why? Why is it that some people have perfectly clear, tight pores and for others it is a daily struggle?
When it comes to acne there are 3 major problems within the pore that cause it to become clogged.
- Hyperplasia of the oil-producing sebaceous gland. In simple terms, this means that the gland that produces sebum is over-active. Over-active sebaceous glands can be genetic or in response to environmental conditions.
- Hyperkeratinization within the pore. This is an increase in turnover/production of skin cells lining the pore. Instead of the cells loosening and being cleared like normal, they are being produced too quickly and get stuck within the pore causing a clog. You can thank your genetics for this one.
- Over-population and colonization of P. acnes and/or a yeast called Malassezia (found in 68% of pimples). While our skin is covered in bacteria and yeasts, it is when the wrong ones become dominant that it leads to a problem. Everyone carries the P. acnes bacteria on their skin, but it depends on the strain of P. acnes and their frequency that can lead to a problem. This bacteria and yeast can contribute to the blockage and inflammation of the pores creating the perfect environment for acne.
Each of these problems lead to clogged pores. Add in the inflammation process and you end up with a large, red, and sometimes painful pimples. When pores are continually clogged they can stretch leading to enlarged pores, which are unsightly and easily clogged.
The goal is to keep your pores clear, allowing oxygen to flow through them. To do this takes a bit of effort incorporating some pore-clearing techniques and products into your skincare routine, but anyone who has suffered from acne knows it is worth it!
- Salicylic Acid (BHA)
Use products that contain white willow bark or salicylic acid (SA) in your everyday skincare routine. White willow bark is a natural source of salicylic acid, which is a beta hydroxyl acid (BHA). This is best known for its ability to exfoliate deep within the pores helping to remove dead skin cells, dirt, and other debris that may be clogging the pores. Used everyday, it will insure that your pores remain clear. Research has shown that it is an incredibly effective ingredient for maintaining clear skin.
- Clay Face Masks
Clay is an amazing natural ingredient that when wetted has a charge that literally pulls debris with the opposite charge out of the pores like a magnet (yay science!). It is incredibly effective. Bentonite clay is the best type of clay for acne and oily skin types. It absorbs an impressive amount of oil, pulls dirt and toxins out of the skin, increases circulation to the skin, and gently exfoliates. A clay face mask should be performed 2-3 times per week to help keep the pores clear and manage oil production.
- Green and White Tea
These teas are natural skincare ingredients that have been proven to play important roles in treating the causes of acne. First, green tea has been shown reduce sebum production in those over-active sebaceous glands. Next, white tea has potent antibacterial properties and is effective at killing P. acnes preventing over-population. Lastly, both green and white teas have potent anti-inflammatory properties. This helps to calm the inflammation process, which is the very first step in the formation of a pimple. Used everyday, these teas are incredibly effective ingredients that should be within your daily skincare products.
- Beta-Carotene / Vitamin A (Retinol)
Vitamin A (retinol) down-regulates the production of keratin, the protein that binds skin cells together, and slows down the turnover of dead skin cells. It addresses hyperkeratinization and is why vitamin A is the most verified strategy for treating acne (hello Accutane). Synthetic vitamin A treatments like Accutane, retinoids, and trentinoin can be effective, but can be extremely irritating with skin becoming red and dry. A natural, gentler way to get the benefits of vitamin A without the irritation is to use a natural source that contains beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is the precursor molecule to vitamin A and is converted to vitamin a within the human body. It has been shown that beta-carotene is readily absorbed into skin cells and is converted into vitamin A. Ingredients such as sea buckthorn oil and rosehip oil are excellent sources of beta-carotene and should be included in your daily skincare regimen.
While definitely not the most fun part of a facial, extractions are an excellent way to remove deep rooted clogged pores. During the extraction process, an esthetician will use a simple set of metal tools to manually clear out the pore. Leave this one to the professionals who have been specially trained to do this. This is not something to DIY as you can damage your skin without the right technique.
What pore clearing treatment works for you? Tell us about it in the comments!