Perfect skin is a blessing only a few lucky souls enjoy. Most of us have battled clogged pores at some point in our lives. Because our skin is exposed to dust and dirt daily, clogged pores are an inevitable outcome. While keeping the skin fresh and clean is crucial, just washing is sometimes not enough to fully unclog pores. For most people, constant care – including a deep cleansing routine – is the most effective way to open up the pores and prevent acne.
What Is A Clogged Pore?
Aside from the palms of our hands and soles of our feet, the surface of our skin has hundreds of fine pores that are invisible to the eye. Each pore connects to oil glands, called sebaceous glands, through a tubular passage known as the follicle. The follicle also houses a fine hair that grows out from the pore. Sebaceous glands produce an oily/waxy substance called sebum whose function is to form a thin invisible layer over the skin and keep it lubricated. Sebum also transports dead skin cells, called keratinocytes, to the surface of the skin. Keratinocytes line the hair follicles and live only for a fixed time before dying. The dead skin cells are naturally shed by the skin and new cells appear.1 These skin features are collectively termed pilosebaceous units (PSU) and are found in large numbers on our face, chest, and upper back.2
Sometimes, oil glands produce excess sebum, which blocks the pore. The dead skin cells inside the pore clump together, along with sebum and hair, and remain trapped under the surface. And there you have it – a clogged pore.3
A whitehead forms when the keratinocytes are not exposed to oxygen and remain trapped in the pore, while a blackhead forms when the keratinocytes are exposed to oxygen and become oxidized. More trouble comes in the form of the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) that settle on the skin’s surface and infiltrate the pore. The moist, warm environment of the clogged pore is a happy hunting ground for the bacteria, which thrive in the oily sebum. Inflammatory acne is a result of bacteria such as P. acnes getting trapped in a clogged pore.4
How To Unclog Those Pores
There are myriad remedies available to help you unclog pores, from both conventional, allopathic treatments to alternative, complementary methods that use herbs and other natural ingredients.
Natural Remedies To Clean Clogged Pores
Before turning to conventional treatments, which often depend on powerful chemicals to combat clogged pores, try some of these gentler home remedies first.
1. Facial Steam With Herbs And Essential Oils
Steam is perhaps one of the best ways to open up clogged pores, flush out dirt and grime, and thoroughly clean the skin. Adding some soothing herbs to the steam enhances the treatment.
Take a handful of washed and chopped fresh chamomile flowers and melissa leaves. Pour near-boiling water into a large bowl and scatter the herbs over it. Let the herbs infuse for a few minutes. Next, cover your head with a towel and lean over the bowl to steam your face. Continue steaming for about 15 minutes, then wipe your face with a wet towel and pat dry. It’s best to start with a clean face and follow up with a moisturizer.5
Other herbs that work equally well are lavender flowers, rosemary sprigs, yarrow flowers, and sage leaves. Essential oils also have purifying effects on the body and can be added to the steam as well. Bergamot, juniper, lavender, rosemary, and sage are some safe choices.6
2. Hot And Cold Compress
Clogged pores and pimples can sometimes be removed by using a hot and cold compress. You can use a cotton ball, cotton pad, or any clean cotton cloth to make a hot compress. Ice wrapped in a clean cloth makes an effective cold compress. A compress must be used several times a day for effective results.7 The steam from the hot compress opens up your pores and loosens up any material plugged inside. You can then wash away the loosened particles with warm water and a mild facial cleanser. The cold compress helps lessen any inflammation. Reducing the size of a pimple reduces its lifespan too.
3. Tomato Juice
Tomato juice contains lactic acid, which is an effective exfoliant and can prevent further clogging of pores.8
You can simply dab tomato juice on the clogged pores using a cotton swab. Wash after about 5 minutes. Another remedy involves straining mashed tomato through a sieve. Mix some ground oatmeal to the pulp and apply on clogged pores. Leave for about 20 minutes and then wash off. Honey and curd with tomato paste work equally well.9
4. Lemon Juice And Sugar
Citrus fruit juices, like that of a lemon, work as a natural exfoliant and remove any dead skin cells that may be clogging your pores.
Here’s an easy recipe: To 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, add 2 tablespoons of sugar, and a drop or two of vegetable oil. Rub the mixture on dry skin. The sugar will help remove the debris and the oil will moisturize. Wipe with a warm wet towel to finish.10
5. Clay Masks
Clay-based masks are very effective against clogged pores and acne. These masks are drying and help absorb oils. Clay cleanses and exfoliates skin, opens clogged pores, and removes dead skin cells. Take care not to leave clay masks on your face for too long as they can cause redness and inflammation.11
Prepare a rose clay mask with 1 tablespoon of rose clay, 1 drop each of rose oil and Roman chamomile oil, and 2 teaspoons of avocado oil. Add a few drops of water to make a smooth paste and apply on a clean face. Let it dry and then wash off, first with warm water and then with cold water.12
6. Fuller’s Earth
Another simple substance to unclog your pores is Fuller’s earth, a clay that’s made into a paste with water and applied to inflamed skin. The cool paste unblocks pores, cleanses the skin, and helps to fade marks left by pimples.13
7. Turmeric And Sandalwood
Turmeric can help remove any excess oil and dirt on your skin and effectively prevent accumulation of bacteria that can lead to acne. Sandalwood has a soothing effect on the skin.14
Combine half a teaspoon each of turmeric and sandalwood powder. Add a little water to make a paste and apply over the affected skin.15 Wash off when the paste is dry.
8. Neem Mask
Neem has multiple benefits and is used for skin problems ranging from ringworms and infections to wounds and scabies. It can soothe inflamed skin and reduce the itching and burning sensation.16
Make a paste of neem leaves and add some turmeric to help remove excess oil. You can also boil neem leaves with your bath water. This will help cleanse the whole body and prevent dirt buildup.17
Conventional Treatment To Clean Clogged Pores
If you choose conventional treatment methods to remove clogged pores and acne, the recommended medication will depend on the severity of the acne.
Treatment For Mild To Moderate Acne
A mild outbreak of acne may be controlled with two commonly used preparations – salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. While salicylic acid unplugs the clogged pore and allows the pimple to shrink,18 benzoyl peroxide helps kill the bacteria on the skin, unplug the oil canals, and heal the skin.19
Treatment For Moderate To Severe Acne
Retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A, effectively unplugs pores and helps prevent new flareups.20 Sometimes, antibiotics are recommended along with retinoid so that they can stop bacterial growth in the follicles once the retinoid unblocks the pores.21
Treatment For Severe Acne
Isotretinoin, also a vitamin A derivative, works by shrinking the size of the sebaceous glands. With less oil being produced, the bacteria also reduce in numbers. It effectively clears up acne and helps prevent scars.22
|↑1||What Is Acne? NIH.|
|↑2||Facing Facts about Acne. U.S. Food & Drug Administration.|
|↑3||Acne. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑4, ↑8||Fried, Richard G., Friedberg, Fred. Healing Adult Acne: Your Guide to Clear Skin & Self-confidence. New Harbinger Publications, 2005.|
|↑5||100 Best Ways to Stay Young: 100 Powerful, Natural Strategies to Boost Your Youth and Vitality. Parragon Books Ltd, 2016.|
|↑6||Chopra, Deepak. Grow Younger, Live Longer: Ten steps to reverse ageing. Random House, 2010.|
|↑7||Roberson, Kimberly. Say Goodbye To Acne Problems: Learn Causes, Cures, & Myths. Lulu.com, 2016.|
|↑9||Reejhsinghani, Aroona. Be Beautiful Slim & Trim. B. Jain Publishers, 2002.|
|↑10||Irons, Diane. Bargain Beauty Secrets: Tips and Tricks for Looking Great and Feeling Fabulous. Sourcebooks, Inc., 2002.|
|↑11||Lees, Mark. Clearing Concepts: A Guide to Acne Treatment. Cengage Learning, 2013.|
|↑12||P., Lindsey. Body Butters for Beginners & Homemade Body Scrubs & Masks for Beginners. Lulu Press, Inc, 2015.|
|↑13||Shivanand, Pandey, Meshya Nilam, and D. Viral. “Herbs play an important role in the field of cosmetics.” International Journal of PharmTech Research 2, no. 2 (2010): 632-639.|
|↑14||Brandon, Britt. Turmeric for Health: 100 Amazing and Unexpected Uses for Turmeric. “F+W Media, Inc.”, 2016.|
|↑15||Lad, Vasant. Ayurveda: The Science of Self-healing: A Practical Guide. Lotus Press, 1984.|
|↑16||Biswas, Kausik, Ishita Chattopadhyay, Ranajit K. Banerjee, and Uday Bandyopadhyay. “Biological activities and medicinal properties of neem (Azadirachta indica).” CURRENT SCIENCE-BANGALORE- 82, no. 11 (2002): 1336-1345.|
|↑17||Gamwell, Calvert. 95 Surprisingly Effective Natural Ways to Fight Acne. Human Innovation Labs, 2011.|
|↑18||Salicylic Acid Topical. MedLine Plus.|
|↑19, ↑20||Teens And Acne Treatment. American Academy of Pediatrics.|
|↑21, ↑22||Questions and Answers about Acne. NIH.|