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How to unclog pores for a clearer complexion

The question of how to unclog pores is one that comes up time and time again. There’s a lot to learn about the little dots that pepper the surface of our skin– including ways to clear them out and make them smaller.

How do pores become clogged?


Pores become clogged when dead skin cells and oil create a blockage. There are a number of reasons as to why this might happen, and it can be related to hormones, age and stress, all of which can impact cell turnover and oil flow. The oilier your skin is, the more likely you are to experience clogged pores, as there is more oil naturally existing in the skin and on its surface.


Blockages within our pores can then lead to breakouts such as blackheads and whiteheads. Blackheads are open at the top, causing them to oxidise and take on a darker colour, while whiteheads are closed. Think of it like an apple left cut open and left on the side to brown versus one which has remained intact in the fruit bowl.


It’s worth noting that just because your pores are large, it doesn’t mean that they’re clogged. Some people’s pores are simply more prominent than others, thanks to factors including genes, age and skin type. If it’s something that bothers you, blurring makeup can go a long way towards disguising prominent pores on a day-to-day basis.


How to unclog pores


Counting clear pores and blemish-free skin among your skin goals? Learning how to unclog your pores is the first step.


Double cleanse


Far more than a passing skincare fad, double cleansing is an effective way to ensure your skin is properly cleansed, leading to clear pores in the process. It does exactly as it says, – you simply wash your face twice at the end of the day. If you wear makeup or SPF and only cleanse once in the evening, all you’re doing is removing the top film from the surface of your skin. And of course it isn’t just what we’ve applied to the skin that’s sitting atop it, but an unavoidable cocktail of daily grime and pollution too. By washing your face twice, the second cleanse has the chance to actually clean your pores and skin, rather than just removing what’s on top of it. Think of it as the difference between dusting a shelf that’s covered in ornaments versus clearing everything off in order to give it a thorough clean. Using a muslin cloth will help you go the extra mile, gently exfoliating skin in the process.


Introduce a liquid exfoliant


The aim of the exfoliation game is to whisk away dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. Liquid exfoliants are a slightly less messy alternative to gritty manual scrubs, and do a brilliant job at breaking down the bonds that hold these dead skin cells to the surface.


There are three key types of liquid exfoliant, all of which meet slightly different needs. If you’re new to liquid exfoliants, start with a poly-hydroxy acid. The larger molecule size makes them perfect for beginners, gently exfoliating on the very top of your skin. Experienced users will be able to tolerate alpha-hydroxy acids, which, thanks to their smaller size, work at a deeper level and at a faster rate. Beta-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, is the real hero for oily complexions. It’s oil soluble, allowing them to dive deep in and clear pores.


Get to grips with retinoids


Not simply a solution for fine lines and wrinkles, retinoids have a role to play in keeping your complexion clear too. They speed up cell turnover, sending those pesky pore-clogging dead skin cells on their way before they have a chance to cause a blockage. As we age, cell turnover naturally slows, which is one of the reasons (along with hormone imbalances) why you might be finding you have more breakouts later in life, even if you hadn’t experienced them previously. Retinoids have also been seen to have benefits when it comes to balancing excess oil in the skin – another way to help keep breakouts at bay.


Pores can also become more prominent when dwindling collagen and elastin levels cause skin to slacken. Retinoids encourage the skin to make more of these skin-plumping proteins, and will help to create visibly smaller pores in the process.


Steer clear of gimmicks


Step away from the pore-strips! They might offer short-term satisfaction in your quest for clear pores, but most peel-off pore masks and extraction tools are nothing more than a gimmick. At best, they’re not offering any kind of benefits in comparison to sophisticated skincare, and at worst, they can cause real damage to your skin. Anything that encourages you to prod, rip or tear at your skin is bad news, and can lead to things like inflammation, redness and even broken blood vessels. Don’t let online videos convince you otherwise.


Treat yourself to a facial


Blackheads getting you down? Consider a visit to a facialist for extraction. They are trained in techniques that enable them to gently persuade the gunk out of your blackheads with minimal irritation, and crucially without causing damage to the skin. A far better route to clear pores than attempting any DIY extractions at home...