Saturday, 31 December 2011

Prevent Acne and Remove Those Dreaded Clogged Pores

One of the most frequent concerns I hear from my dermatology patients involves how to handle clogged pores. Seems even just washing their face more frequently doesn't quite address the issue. However, there are some easy ways you can both remove these unsightly skin blemishes and diminish their return. Here's how.

Clogged Pores - What Can You Do About Them?

It's fairly simple - what clogs pores is a buildup of a greasy, waxy sebum containing dead skin cells, dirt, and skin germs. Sometimes this debris can be removed with just a good washing with a stiffer nap washcloth and other times a whitehead forms, which is a milky, pus-like collection inside the pore that eventually works its way out. Sometimes, blackheads forms, which are hardened, darkened plugs of this material, which usually has to be manually removed. The more pores get clogged by whiteheads or blackheads, the more they stretch out the pores so that, even after the clog gets removed, these pores are likely to re-clog again. So, let's talk about reducing, and/or preventing, this waxy sebum and dead skin cells from building up on the skin in the first place.

Diet: Recent research out of Australia has shown that diet and acne are closely linked. However, it's not the fat in our diet that's the culprit. In the past it was thought that greasy foods caused whiteheads, blackheads, and angry red acne. Rather, it appears that the level of sugar in our diets is the major contributing factor. Researchers found that diets high in sugar, and high glycemic index carbohydrates, is what really influences the development of acne.

They also found that a diet low in sugar, low glycemic index carbohydrates, and higher protein, helped clear the skin with 50% of the subjects studied having a significant reduction in their acne. Likely if your diet is high in sugar and carbohydrates you're missing out on crucial skin-nourishing vitamins like Vitamin A, the B vitamins, and Vitamin C. You're also most likely not eating enough protein to maintain skin integrity. Therefore, eat lower glycemic index carbohydrates, omit/cut down refined sugar (count sugar-sweetened sodas as well), eat at least 0.3 grams of protein per lb of your body weight.

Water: I always stress the importance of drinking enough water for the health of your entire body, but it couldn't be more important in keeping your skin clear. Adequate water helps flush out toxins and debris from your intestinal tract which can show up on your skin. Be sure to drink at least eight, 8 ounce glasses of water a day, more if you are sweating heavily and/or taking prescription drugs.

Hygiene: As I mentioned above, simply washing your face more often, although a good start, may not be all that is needed to clear clogged pores of its whiteheads and blackheads. A good battery operated sonic facial cleansing brush system, the bristles of which can get into the pores and clean them out, is a good choice. In addition, a facial sponge available at cosmetic counters, under different brand names, can also work. Wet your face and apply cleanser to the pad, or your face if you're using the brush, and work in a circular motion around your entire face. Be sure to rinse well with cool water which helps close the pores.

1. Normal/sensitive skin: If your skin occasionally collects some whiteheads and blackheads use a gentle cleanser so as not to irritate the skin. A good, old-fashioned, gentle, natural soap to try is glycerine, or even a castile soap. These are usually available in the cosmetics or soap aisle of your pharmacy and can also be bought at most health food stores that carry skin products.

2. Oilier skin: This skin tends to collect blackheads and white heads more easily; a cleanser with some exfoliation ingredients can help clear clogged pores. Look for a finer-grit exfoliation/cleanser product, or you can make your own out of plain sugar. Follow the same procedure as noted above, except to take about a quarter-size amount of the exfoliating cleanser, or sugar, and apply to your face with your fingertips before using the brush or pad.

3. Acne prone: This type of skin can have a variety of both whitehead/ blackhead clogged pores as well as red pustule-like formations. It requires a mild cleanser with a mixture of keratinics, agents that break down the dead material in the pores and include glycolic acid, Retin-A, salicylic acids and/or benzoyl peroxide to both quiet down the acne and clear clogged pores. There are also leave-on keratinics that do extra duty after the cleaning to help clear the skin.

Removing Whiteheads/Blackheads: Even with the best of cleaning, sometimes very hardened blackhead plugs or difficult whiteheads need to be manually removed. You can do this by first cleaning the skin as noted above. Then, very carefully, using both index fingers, place your fingers on either side of the clogged pore and gently push down. After a good cleansing, this should be enough to pump the debris out of the pore. However, do not aggressively pinch the area to prevent breaking capillaries and causing redness in the skin. A professional facial every 4-6 weeks can also help remove these clogged pores as they use special instruments to do this.

Shrinking Enlarged Pores: After you get your face very clean with either the brush or the pad, and you have removed as many clogged pores as you can, you will need to use a good astringent, an agent that will help shrink the pores, so they will not be as quick to re-clog again. Astringents can be commercially purchased cosmetics or you can use simple witch hazel, aloe vera, tomato juice, rose water (for normal to sensitive skin), rice water, lime/lemon juice (for oilier to acne skins) apple cider vinegar, or green tea (which also disinfects acne).

Most of us have memories of having clogged pores and acne more frequently as teenagers, but this condition can still cause skin troubles even in the over 40 population. As noted above, check your diet to be sure you are eating the most beneficial diet and drinking enough water. Your skin is your largest organ of your body and reflects your overall health. It follows then that keeping your body as healthy as possible will also help you keep your pores clear of debris and your face with a youthful, healthy glow!

Stay Healthy,

Jay Brachfeld, M.D.

For tips on staying healthy and living naturally, visit

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