culprits of clogged pores, dermatology doctor in greeley

Most acne and skin issues come from one place: the pores. These small areas can easily get clogged and blocked, which leads to redness, breakouts, and inflammation. A dermatology doctor in Greeley can help with enlarged pores and provide a personalized skin care plan.

There’s not one source for all clogged pores. In fact, many of our daily activities contribute to the health and size of our pores. Understanding what clogs your pores and how to keep them clean can help your skin stay fresh, clean, and beautiful.


What Are Clogged Pores?

Before you treat them, it’s important to understand what clogged pores actually are. Our skin is covered with pores, which are tiny openings in the skin to release sweat and oil. These pores can clog when dead skin cells, excess oil, or dirt get trapped inside. Clogged pores look like large pores or have blackheads or whiteheads that can lead to acne and other skin conditions. 

Most clogged pores are due to dead skin cells or sebum, an oily and waxy substance created by your sebaceous glands. Sebum helps to keep the skin lubricated and moisturized, but it can block pores when combined with things like bacteria and dirt. But your daily habits can also impact your pore health and cause pores to get clogged. 


What Can Clog Pores?

Just about everyone experiences clogged pores in their lifetime and it can be from a variety of different factors. Clogged pores can come from going about your daily life, your own bodily functions and fluids, and the environment surrounding you. Here are 10 common culprits that might be causing your pores to clog with oils and debris. 



Every time you touch your face, you spread all the dirt and grime on your hands to your pores. Even resting your hand on your face can spread oil and block your pores. Popping pimples may seem like it gets rid of them faster, but it actually spreads more dirt to the infected area and can lead to wrinkles and inflammation. Scratching and picking at your face can easily clog pores.

One of the most effective ways to prevent clogged pores is simply to touch your face less, although it can be a difficult habit to break. If needed, try replacing your habit of fidgeting by touching your face with another outlet like tapping a toe.



Your body naturally releases sweat and other toxins when you sleep, which end up on your sheets and pillowcase. Your pillowcase is also full of dead skin cells and bacteria, no matter how clean you are. As you sleep, your face is pressed against the pillow for hours, allowing for plenty of opportunities to clog your pores. As a result, you may wake up with clogged, blocked pores instead of feeling refreshed.

Wash your pillowcase regularly to clear the dirt and oil and dead skin cells and give your pores a break. Or try a silk pillowcase for less friction against the pores. 



woman stressed with her hand over her face

When you’re stressed, your body naturally produces more sweat and toxins, which can clog your pores. Stress can also affect your hormones and cause more breakouts and clogged pores from the inside out. There’s a reason a big pimple always seems to pop up right before big life events—it’s probably because you are stressed and your hormones are out of whack.

Staying in control of your stress can lead to positive benefits for your entire body, not just your skin. Taking just a few minutes to calm down and meditate when you feel overwhelmed can relax your entire body and help your mental and physical health. Find an outlet to help yourself relax when you feel stressed, such as taking a walk, exercising, or reading a book.


Unhealthy Foods

Some unhealthy items can change the chemical balance in your body and lead to clogged pores and acne. You may also find that when you are stressed, you eat sugary and fatty foods that make your skin inflamed and red.

To keep your skin clear, follow a healthy, balanced diet. The best diet for your skin is low in sugar and fat and includes whole grains, legumes, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods that are high in sugar and carbs or that are heavily processed. And be sure to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps your overall health and helps wash toxins through your body that could potentially harm your skin and block your pores.



woman applying makeup which can cause clogged pores

Makeup may help you feel more confident, but it can also be a major contributor to clogged pores. Makeup can get caked on your face and clog the pores, as well as act as an attractive surface for bacteria that cause inflammation. It’s helpful also to know about specific cosmetics ingredients that can lead to clogged pores so that you can make better decisions as you shop for makeup.

One of the best things you can do for your face is wash your makeup off at night. It only takes a few minutes, but it makes a huge difference in giving your skin time to breathe and refresh while you sleep. Check that your makeup products are labeled as “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic”, which means they don’t contain ingredients that can get stuck in your pores.


Cell Phone

The device you’re always connected to is one of the dirtiest things you own. You take your phone with you everywhere, including the bathroom, and then hold it on your cheek when you’re talking to someone. Without thinking about it, you’re likely pushing dirt and germs straight into your pores.

To avoid spreading germs from your phone to your pores, wipe your phone daily with antibacterial wipes or avoid putting your phone directly on your face. Leave your phone away from particularly dirty areas like the bathroom.


Air Pollution

cars emitting exhaust and air pollution that causes clogged pores

Smog and dirty air particles are all around us and end up on our skin every day. It’s especially bad if you live in urban areas or places with poor air quality. There’s a reason your skin might feel grimy after being in an area with lots of cars or pollution.

Wash your face every night to remove the particles and create healthy skin.


Dead Skin

As your skin regenerates, the dead, flaky skin tends to stay on your face and fall back into your pores. Dead skin cells are one of the biggest culprits of clogged pores and can be difficult to track because they are so small and hard to notice.

The best way to avoid this problem is to exfoliate. Scrubbing off the dead skin cells allows the new skin cells underneath to shine at the surface and removes the chance that the dead skin will block the pores. 



sweating face causing clogged pores

Working out may give you a glow, but if you don’t wash the sweat off your face, it may also give you a breakout. Sweat is full of salt, which can clog pores as it dries and make them look larger.

For best results, wash your face soon after every workout or after you’ve sweated a lot outside. The simple action can refresh your face and clear your pores.


Skin Care Products

Believe it or not, the products you put on your face to improve your skin may actually make it worse. If you’re using a product that isn’t suited to your skin type, the ingredients could just be sitting on your skin, blocking the pores instead of getting absorbed into the skin to help it.

In general, avoid thicker, waxier products and look for things with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to clear the pores without clogging them. Dermatologists call these products comedogenic, and they can include things like makeup, sunscreen, and lotions.


How to Clear Pores

The best way to avoid clogged pores is to change your habits to avoid products and actions that can clog pores, such as updating your makeup routine with cleaner products, washing your face after sweating, or eating a balanced diet.

Those actions are great for preventing future clogged pores, but how do you clean pores that are already clogged? You often don’t need the flashy tools that claim to clear pores. Dermatologists recommend a few simple steps.

six stage diagram of skin care products being used to unclog pores

Use a Gentle Cleanser

The best way to remove clogged pores is by cleaning your skin regularly. You can’t control the dirt and air pollution that gets in your pores, but you can control how often you wash your face. Use a gentle cleanser that doesn’t clog pores. These items are typically labeled as “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic”. Use a gentle cleanser and warm water to wash your face twice a day. Follow that up with an oil-free moisturizer to protect the pores and prevent dry skin. This is especially important if you have acne-prone skin.



Exfoliation removes dirt, sebum, dead skin, and other particles from the pores. Exfoliation can reduce the texture of clogged pores and help clean them. Most people probably think of using a harsh physical exfoliant, such as a cleanser with large particles that physically scrub the dirt from the face.

That type of exfoliation can be effective for some people, but it also comes with a high risk of damaging the skin and causing other issues. Instead, clear your pores through chemical exfoliation, which uses a safe acid to remove unwanted dirt and particles from the skin.

Use products that contain retinol or salicylic acid to clear the skin in a gentler manner. These products can still cause irritation for some people, so be sure to keep an eye on how your skin reacts. Products like pore strips can also remove the particles that are blocking your skin.


Dermatologist Treatments

If at-home treatments aren’t effective in clearing clogged pores, your dermatologist can recommend specialized treatment. Not every type of treatment works for everyone, but your dermatologist will consider your lifestyle, skin type, and overall health to make the right recommendation for you.

A dermatologist may perform an extraction to extract sebum plugs using special tools. They may also try to smooth skin and clogged pores with a chemical skin peel or microdermabrasion. These treatments can lessen the appearance of clogged pores and remove much of the sebum and dead skin causing the issues.

Clogged pores are common, but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. By understanding what causes clogged pores and adjusting your lifestyle and skincare routine, you can unclog pores and create habits for clear skin and beautiful pores.

Still suffering from clogged pores after following all these tips? It may be time to visit a dermatologist. Contact us today to learn how we can help.