The Real Reason Your Pores Always Clog (No Matter How Many Facials You Get)

Photo: Raymond Forbes LLC

When it comes to self-care, it seems there are unlimited ways to spend your time and money. It wouldn't be difficult to fill your days with acupuncture, gua sha facials, lymph drainage sessions, therapy, yoga, foam rolling, and many, many more types of healing modalities that have sprung up as "essentials" for health and well-being. For most of us, though, time, energy, and money are finite resources, and it's important to distinguish which self-care techniques work for you to reap the best benefit and to stretch your dollar well.

As a beauty editor, I'm in the very privileged position of getting to try out new products and techniques regularly, and my hope is to report honestly on what works and what doesn't. For the first time in my life, I have gotten regular monthly facials long enough to make a difference to my skin (my current favorites are gua sha with Britta Plug and Danuta's facial at Rescue Spa, hands down). While my skin is the happiest it's ever been—it's clear, smooth, and glowy—keeping my pores unclogged feels like a maintenance game that depends on more than just regular facials. Is it just me, or do pores require seemingly unlimited maintenance?

Why do pores always seem clogged?

"Pore size is genetic," said integrative dermatologist Cybele Fishman, M.D. "As we age, all our pores get bigger, regardless of where you started." Their increased size means that they have the propensity to clog more easily, too.

Diana Yerkes, head esthetician at Rescue Spa, agrees that genetics and diet play a huge role but insists that skin care regimens and environment can make a remarkable difference. "Heat, humidity, and air pollution increase the likelihood that pores will clog," she told mbg. "For example, my skin was easier to maintain in Seattle than it is in New York City." Good news for those of us in the northern hemisphere who are moving out of the summer season and into fall and winter, which typically tend to be less humid.

Here's how to keep pores healthy and minimize their appearance.

If pore appearance and size is something that concerns you, there are things you can do to reduce their appearance, though their size won't actually change. "Pores are the tiny passageways through which our skin secretes oil," Yerkes said. "Sometimes the excess of sebum mixed with the dirt causes our pores to become clogged."

Dr. Fishman added, "There are certain ingredients that can minimize the look of pores—namely my good friends tretinoin or retinol, and acids (alpha-, beta-, and polyhydroxy)—by helping the pore shed itself of excess sebum and keratin." Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, induces the skin to peel, so pores are less likely to clog when the surface of the skin is being refreshed.

Another preventive pore-unclogging measure you can take is double cleansing, or cleansing your skin twice, once with an oil-based cleanser followed by once with a water-based cleanser. According to the experts, it's your daily skin care habits and products that will change your skin and your pores. Treatments can help, but it's like the gym: It doesn't work if you only go once in a while. Consistency is the magic ingredient.

Want to learn more about how the health of your skin is greatly impacted by the food you eat and the toxins you're exposed to? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

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