Pimples were meant to be relegated to the horror years of high school, right? So when they return, even though I’m in my 20s now, I get so frustrated. Although I rarely get a full-blown breakout these days, the pre-pimple (i.e. clogged pore) is the bane of my existence. These tiny bumps that are barely visible all over my face are nasty things that will develop into a pimple once infected.
As I have dry skin, I could never understand why there was so much oil stuck in the depths of my pores. From exfoliants to microdermabrasion and facial extractions, my skin has been through a scrub-a-doodle expunge ━ but the clogged pores still remain. I finally gave up and spoke to skin expert, Dr Georgia Lee, on what causes our pores to become clogged, and how we can go about treating the problem effectively.
WHAT THEY ARE
Clogged pores are simply pores which are not clean. There are a few reasons why pores get stuck with gunk, with sebum and bacteria being the most obvious reasons. However, improper cleansing and using the wrong facial products also lead to pore congestion, says Dr Lee.
Although people with oily skin types are naturally more prone to developing congested pores, dry skin sufferers are not exempt from them either. According to Dr Lee, dry skin types often experience clogged pores when there is dead skin buildup on the skin’s surface. This buildup prevents facial products’ active ingredients from working on your skin. As you apply your creams, they get stuck on the surface (due to the dead skin buildup), and as a result, sebum and dirt is trapped along the way. Which is why you may experience skin that appears dry to the touch, but is actually oily underneath.
The most obvious signs of a congested pore are whiteheads and blackheads. Whiteheads, as the name suggest, is a “closed” white pimple hidden beneath the surface of the skin. They are often not painful, and are often hidden in appearance. When left unattended for a long time, however, they turn into blackheads. Blackheads on the other hand, are obvious in visibility and texture. They are raised bumps of sebum that often appear on the nose, forehead, and chin. The visibility often makes blackheads easy to extract and remove.
If they are left untreated and stuck in the pore, an infected, clogged pore (blackhead or whitehead) may turn into acne. This, as we know, results in the unpleasant experience of having to deal with a mini volcano that may erupt at any time. Unfortunately for many of us, getting rid of blackheads and whiteheads is no walk in the park. Even if you manage to remove them, they often return within days.
HOW TO GET RID OF THEM
Before you can get to the root of the problem, it is important to find out what exactly causes the congestion to begin with. The good news is that clogged pores can be solved using non-invasive treatments. Keeping your skin clean is key, but tailoring your skin care according to your needs will also help.
For starters, ensure that your skin is really clean at the start and end of each day. Exfoliating regularly will help remove dead skin buildup and increase your cellular turnover rate, says Dr Lee. A note of caution though: Over-exfoliating can lead to your skin producing extra sebum. So when do you know if you should scrub? According to Dr Lee, “A general rule of thumb is to run the back of our hand over the face ━ if it feels “sandy”, it is time to exfoliate.”
In terms of products, use the moisturiser that is best suited for your skin on that given day and climate. Hot humid weather causes our skin to perspire and excrete greater amounts of sebum, so opt for a water-based moisturiser instead of cream, as heavier moisturisers mixed with sebum can contribute to pore obstruction as well.
If you suffer from oily skin, Dr Lee recommends the use of products with Vitamin A derivatives or AHA, as these ingredients will help control sebum excretion as well as speed up cell turnover rates. This means that it will keep sebum levels at bay, while renewing your skin from the inside out. In addition, you may also wish to avoid high glycaemic index foods and dairy products, as these foods are known to cause acne, says Dr Lee.
Information overload and don’t know where to start? I gathered some of the best products on the market that will help you unclog your pores in no time.
Clarisonic Decongesting Solution
When it comes to cleansing devices, Clarisonic is well known for giving your skin a real good clean. With the Clarisonic Decongesting Solution, the company is now offering a “complete” skin care solution. Targeting enlarged pores and impurities, the decongesting solution features the Deep Pore Daily Cleanser and Decongesting Clay Mask. According to Clarisonic, the use of these two products with its deep pore cleansing brush head will help to reduce pore appearance by 25 percent with just one use.
The Clarisonic comes with interchangeable brush heads, and if you have dry skin, you might want to try the new Luxe brush heads. These luxurious brush heads are made with ultra long filaments in two layers, the first of its kind by the company. The brush is great for dry skin as it is said to increase your skin’s hydration levels. Pair it with the cleanser and mask, and you may well be on your way to a smaller pore size!
DrGL Moisturiser All Skin Types & DrGL Skin Repair
If you’re already suffering from severe clogged pores, try DrGL’s Skin Repair. The mini bottle of goodness is often raved about ━ and with good reason. Using active plant stem cell extracts, the brand claims that it can replenish damaged skin cells while promoting and protecting the growth of new ones. Which means it is healing your pimple while making sure a new one isn’t forming in the process. The serum is also gentle enough to be used as a daily moisturiser if you are battling severe acne.
According to Dr Georgia Lee herself, DrGL’s Moisturiser for All Skin Types is a lightweight moisturiser that does not clog your pores. Using Hyaluronic Acid for hydration at the cellular level, this emollient aims to make your skin supple and elastic to the touch. With the added ingredient of Vitamin C, a proven anti-ageing agent, this moisturiser works well in battling free radical damage too.
For Beloved One Mandelic Renewal Series
A chemical exfoliator in the comfort of your own home. You can now renew your skin daily with For Beloved One’s Mandelic Renewal Series. The Mandelic series is said to clear your skin of dullness, acne, pigmentation, and wrinkles ━ while still retaining its moisture. The company says it does so by using the safest and highest concentration of mandelic acid, a gentle but highly efficient exfoliant.
Mandelic acid is a part of the Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA) family, and like similar AHA products, works to dissolve fats and unclog pores. If you’re taken aback by the idea of a “chemical peel”, you’ll be pleased to know that the brand added a cocktail of moisturising ingredients (patented and unique to the company) which it claims will soothe and ease the most sensitive of skins.
The Mandelic series first launched its serum last year, and riding on its success, a toner and lotion was added to the range. I’m loving this range because unlike the serum which should be used sparingly, the toner and lotion is a daily skin care product. Which means you get to eliminate and replenish your skin every day and night.
Dr Georgia Lee is the founder and medical director of TLC Lifestyle clinic at 27 Lorong Liput Singapore 277738, and she has her own skincare range, DrGL, found in leading departmental stores. For more information, visit www.drgl.com and follow the brand on Facebook.
Clarisonic Decongesting Solution, $270, is available from June - August at the Clarisonic store in Biotherm Homme Ion orchard, Sephora stores, and select Robinson stores. For more information, visit www.clarisonic.com.sg and follow the brand on Facebook.
DrGL Moisturiser All Skin Types, $198, and DrGL Skin Repair, $98, is available in Sephora Ion, Robinsons Orchard, Raffles City and JEM, Escentials Paragon and CK Tangs, and online via www.drgl.com. For more information visit www.drgl.com, www.escentials.com.sg and follow the brand on Facebook.