What Causes Clogged Pores and Comedones?

image of a clogged skin pore open comedone

Clogged pores, also called comedones, are caused when underlying issues or the wrong skin care products or skin care routine and habits distrupt the skin's natural exfoliation process called desquamation.  Comedones are very common on the face, especially the nose and forehead where the skin has an increased amount of sebaceous glands (oil glands). Clogged pores are more common in oily skin types.  However, dry skin types are also at risk for clogged pores.  We explain why dry skin causes clogged poresbelow.

Clogged pores can be caused by comedogenic skin care ingredients, however there are other causes as well such as using the wrong skin care products for your Baumann Skin Type.

If you are like many of my patients in my dermatology practice, you might believe that exfoliating the skin will help clogged pores.  However, over-exfoliating the skin is actually a cause of clogged pores. Over exfoliating disrupts the desquamation process, which causes pores to get filled with dead skin cells.

Clogged pores cause bumps on the face. Other names for clogged pores are: 

  • blackheads (closed comedones)
  • whiteheads (open comedones)
  • milia
  • acne cysts

What is the  meaning of the phrase "clogged pore" ?

Clogged pores are defined as  "when the opening of the hair follicle to the skin’s surface is blocked by debris. "

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What is in a clogged pore? What is in comedones?

Blocked pores are filled with debris.  What is in the debris that is blocking the pores?

The normal outward movement (powered by desquamation) of the hair follicle contents pushes this debris up to the hair follicle opening. 

When there are too many dead skin cells, oil, keratin and debris, there is a traffic jam at the pore opening. 

A closed comedone occurs when the pore is very tightly packed with debris.  

An open comedone occurs when the pore is slightly packed but not completely obstructed.

 

Why are my pores always clogged?

Why do the pore openings of the hair follicle get clogged?

Pores get blocked when the desquamation process inside the hair follicle is not working properly.  This is called dyskeratinization or abnormal follicular keratinization.

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 When dyskeratinization occurs, the keratinocytes clump together and clog up the hair follicle.

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What causes the keratinocytes to clump together and block the hair follicle? Why does dyskeratinization occur?

There are many things that can cause dyskeratinization or the skin cells to cling to each other and clog the hair follicle and pore such as:

  • Using the wrong skin care products for your skin type
  • Inflammation
  • Dehydration
  • Over-exfoliation
  • Genetics
  • Medications
  • Increase sebum (oil)- depending upon the types of lipids in your sebum
  • The types of lipids found in sebum (which can be related to diet)
  • Growth factors like epidermal-derived growth hormone
  • Low Vitamin A levels

Hair Products and clogged pores

Many hair products to smooth the hair and get rid of frizziness can clog pores. Avoid use of hair products  that contain acne causing ingredients such as isopropyl myristate and coconut oil.  Wash your face after rinsing off hair conditioners.

The face should be washed thoroughly at night to remove all sweat, dirt, oil, hair products and makeup from the skin.

How to get rid of clogged pores?

One interesting study showed that the medication Metformin can reduce the amount of comedones.  This is likely due to Metformin's effects on the types of lipids found in sebum.

But there are much easier ways to get rid of comedones.  The best way is to use the right skin care products for your Baumann Skin Type!

Remember - every single product you put on your skin matters. and the order that you use them is important. 

Using the wrong cleanser or moisturizer can cause comedones because it can lead to inflammation and/ or dehydration that are known to cause clogged pores. 

Avoid comedogenic ingredients if you have a problem with clogged pores, comedones, and milia.

The two best ingredients to clear pores are salicylic acid and retinol- but make sure these are right or your Baumann Skin Type before you use them.

You can find a list of comedogenic cosmeceutical ingredient here at this link.

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References:

  1. Lavker, R. M., Leyden, J. J., & McGinley, K. J. (1981). The relationship between bacteria and the abnormal follicular keratinization in acne vulgaris. Journal of Investigative Dermatology77(3), 325-330.
  2. Heilman, E. R., & Lavker, R. M. (1983). Abnormal follicular keratinization. Dermatologic clinics1(3), 353-359.
  3. Yamamoto, A., Takenouchi, K., & Ito, M. (1995). Impaired water barrier function in acne vulgaris. Archives of dermatological research287(2), 214-218.
  4. Kamboj, P., Bishnoi, A., Handa, S., Dutta, P., Nahar Saikia, U., Pal, A., & De, D. (2021). Effects of metformin on experimentally induced acne on rabbit ear. Experimental Dermatology30(7), 966-972.

 

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