Our skin comprises of many tiny openings called pores. They are called sebaceous glands (oil generating) and can be in the form of a sweat gland or the foundation of a hair follicle. These pores are what produce oils which make our skin soft, supple and allows it to retain moisture to prevent cracking and flaking.
A problem which affects people of all ages but, more typically, young adults and teenagers is Clogged Pores (comedones). Acne, zits, pimples, blackheads, white heads etc are the results of clogged pores. Clogged pores will occur when a gland or hair follicle becomes clogged with dead skin cells, oil or debris. It is important to identify the problem of clogged pores as soon as possible so an effective treatment can be implemented without haste. If clogged pores remain untreated, it will probably cause the skin to develop mild to severe acne or, in some cases, infections, which can form deep under your skin.
The symptoms of clogged pores are relatively simple to identify.
Symptoms of Clogged Pores:
The development of pimples is a common, recognizable symptom of having clogged pores. They are formed when pores become clogged with dead skin cells and dried oil. The severity of pimples can range from a few small, isolated patches to numerous, large patches, which can cover your whole face, back and/or chest. If left untreated, it may lead to an infection causing more severe problems like an infected acne cyst or abscesses. This can be avoided if you keep your skin well washed and as clean as possible. For real problem skin it is advisable to use over the counter or prescribed treatments for best results.
Another sign of clogged pores is the development of whiteheads. Whiteheads are characterized by a semisolid white looking plug which develops within a pore. They are caused when there is complete blockage of a hair follicle. As with a pimple, if left untreated, it can become infected. The infection can worsen and lead to acne cysts, which would then need to be treated by a physician. You should try and resist the urge to try and pinch out the whitehead as this can lead to scarring of the skin.
Another sign of clogged pores is the development of blackheads. They are caused when there is an incomplete blockage of a hair follicle. Blackheads are characterized by their black appearance (due to their exposure to air and not from dirt getting into the pore as is commonly believed). If a blackhead worsens, then the forming bacteria can lead to the development of cysts and nodules deeper in your skin, which can be quite painful and harder to heal. A physician may then be needed for medical treatment to bring the condition under control with oral medication.
Acne is a collection of clogged pores which manifest themselves in a collection of pimples, whiteheads or blackheads.
Factors which can cause Clogged Pores and Acne:
- Exposure to the sun
- Pollution (e.g. Dust and debris)
- Poor eating habits (from high consumption of sugary and fatty foods)
- Smoking (which causes an increase in sebum secretions)
- Hormone swings
- Production of too much oil by the body
- Dry skin
- Residue from skin care products
- Accumulation of bacteria
- Accumulation of dead skin
- A general lack of good skin hygiene.
When the conditions are right, a build up of impurities and sebum (produced by the skin oil glands) around the pore edges causes them to become more conspicuous. If there is a lack of proper exfoliation of the skin, then the pores will become clogged. Sebum will then be unable to reach the surface of the skin and will start to accumulate within the pore causing the pore to expand. Bacteria, dead skin cells and oils pool within this follicular opening giving rise to the open comedones.
How to Treat Clogged Pores and Acne
It is important to learn the correct methods for clearing clogged pores because if done incorrectly it may result in scarring. A common harmful method people employ is to try and manually squeeze out the clogged pores with their fingernails. This technique is usually ineffective and often leads to damaged skin around the pore (as well as being a temporary solution). It would be a much better choice to opt for one of the many and highly effective treatments available today for treating your clogged pores. Once you have your clogged pores under control, continued use will help to prevent the condition from returning.
The majority of most treatments involve exfoliation. Exfoliation is a term used for the process of removing debris and dead skin cells, which adhere to the surface of your skin. It is the clogging of the surface layer of skin, which can lead to the condition of acne so by keeping this layer of skin as clean as possible you will help reduce the chance of your pores becoming clogged as well as allowing your skin care products to be more properly absorbed and thus more effective.
Exfoliants – Alpha / Beta Hydroxy Acids and Salicylic Acid
A very effective way to help treat clogged pores is to use products which contain hydroxy acids. The two types of hydroxy acids found in skin care products are Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs for short). These will include glycolic and lactic acid which will exfoliate away debris and dead skin cells. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs for short). These will include salicylic acid, which is lipid soluble and will be absorbed into your clogged pores allowing it to dissolve the clog making it very effective for getting rid of clogged pores. Alpha hydroxy acid products are good to use to prevent and help stop recurrence of clogged pores due to their ability to regulate the production of oils in your skin along with removing the dead skin cells and debris which clog the pores in the first place. Of course a good product designed for getting rid of clogged pores will have both of the acids.
The commonest type of clogged pores is blackheads. Several treatments will be needed to get rid of your blackheads so it is important to persevere and be patient. Products which contain salicylic acids will work best here to dissolve the clog but in order for it to be effective it needs to be properly absorbed. Exfoliating will allow the salicylic acid to reach the clog. By using an AHA product, microdermabrasion treatment or a quality facial scrub prior to using salicylic acid, it will make the product far more effective.
If you have had clogged pores for a while, quite often you may need to initially remove the clogged pore manually after your first treatments with hydroxyl acids. In this instance you will want to use a proper pore/blackhead extractor rather than squeezing them out with your fingers. An extractor will have two loops on each end. Applying pressure from a loop evenly around a pore will cause the clog to push out safely without damage to the surrounding skin. If used after treating the skin a few times with salicylic acid, then the clog will come out more easily and will require less pressure.
Other treatments for getting rid of Clogged Pores and Acne
Clay masks are a popular, effective, natural treatment for treating clogged pores. With clay masks you have the added benefit of it drawing out impurities from your skin. For oily skin types your best choices are French green clay or dead sea mud. If you have dry skin your best choices are rose clay and Rhassoul. To get better results from your clay mask it is a good idea to gently steam your face first to allow the pores to open up.