What Really Causes Clogged Pores?

Most of us have what we might consider to be an "ignore them or hate them" relationship with our pores. We barely notice them when they look good, but the agony is real when the pores reveal minute black spots and all we want to do is squeeze! 

When pores are clogged, board certified dermatologist Shereene Idriss tells Cosmopolitan that they can look like they have little black dots in them, but these aren't blackheads. Don't worry, because dermatologists say they don't make a clear distinction between these things, and as Joshua Zeicher also tells Cosmo, they are treated the same way.

Healthline says clogged pores are usually triggered by factors that include airborne toxins, the oils from your hands which transfer when you touch your face, and sweat. Dermatologist Anna Guanche tells Elle that "Another contributing factor is slow cellular turnover. Increased stress, bad diet, and lack of a great skin care routine can cause your dead skin cells to pile up and clog pores."

The best ways to fix your clogged pores

The last thing you should do is to squeeze out whatever is in your pores. "Trying to extract them at home can lead to hyperpigmentation, permanent scarring, and additional breakouts," esthetician Annet King tells Glamour. Instead, try double cleansing, and stock up on products with ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, activated charcoal, and a white clay known as kaolin. Pore strips, which have a fan following, are fine but dermatologists tell Glamour that the strips are only a short-term, temporary fix.

Guanche suggests visiting a dermatologist for chemical exfoliation and extraction to get rid of whatever junk your pores happen to be holding. She also recommends exfoliators with ingredients like AHA (glycolic and lactic acid) as well as BHAs (salicylic acid), while retinol can help with your skin's turnover. Because these chemical compounds can be found in many creams and lotions today, you'll only need to find a brand and routine that works for you.

The two ingredients Healthline cautions against using on your pores are baking soda and lemon juice because both ingredients can dry out and irritate your skin. Baking soda can even strip your skin of its natural barrier, exposing it to environmental irritants.