You step outside and wonder if your puffer jacket is overkill while your pores experience humidity for the first time in months. Spring is officially here. And while your skin is likely rejoicing in a break from dry, chilly temps, it also might freak out a bit—especially if you’re still in the thick of your winter product rotation. If your pores are experiencing a bit of spring congestion, esthetician Emily Trampetti is here to help you unclog them.
“If we’re not paying attention to how our skin is responding to some of these seasonal changes, we can get ourselves in trouble with congested skin,” says Trampetti, who is based in Chicago. “We’re gonna tend to be a little bit more oily and sweaty in more humid temps, and if we’re using the same products we were in the winter or if we are not controlling our oil flow, you can contest those pores.”
Your pores house your oil glands, so they should never be empty. But when you get a build-up of oil, wax, cholesterol, and dead skin cells, you can experience that unwanted congestion. This happens two ways: when you’re producing way too much oil and when your skin is seriously dehydrated.
When you produce too much oil, your skin holds onto excess debris and creates the perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria to take over, leading to pimples. “When we produce too much oil, it is easier for those pores to get plugged up by oil,” says Trampetti. “And then they mix with that other stuff, like the dead skin cells, the waxy esters, and the cholesterol.”
On the other hand, when your skin is dehydrated, you have a situation where debris collects at the bottom of your pores but doesn’t have any hydration to lift it up to the surface and remove it. Picture an empty bathtub with candles at the bottom (the candles are the gunk that piles up in your pores). “When there’s no water in the bathtub those candles all just sit at the bottom of the bathtub,” says Trampetti. “But when we fill that tub with water and with moisture, those candles will eventually float to the top and then be pushed out. When we have really dehydrated skin and there’s a lot of water loss, we lose functionality and we lose the ability to push debris and stuff out and detoxify the skin naturally the way it’s supposed to.”
Regardless of the cause of your clogged skin, you can decongest your pores with many of the same tips using products tailored to your skin type. Follow Trampeti’s tips below to decongest your pores and get your skin acclimatized for spring.
How to decongest your pores—and keep them clear—in four easy steps
1. Degunk those pores
First things first, it’s time to reset your pores and clear out the gunk that’s not supposed to be there. Trampeti says charcoal masks and exfoliation are key.
“If you are more on the oily side, I would recommend clay and charcoal-based masks that also have stabilized vitamin C and ni and niacinamide in them,” she says. “Those are all wonderful ingredients for pulling out debris and dirt and gunk from the pores, but also then refining the pores to just really help them maintain their health and their elasticity.” The Youth to the People Superclay Purify + Clear Power Mask ($38) fits the bill.
To get deep with exfoliation, try the Shani Darden Skin Care Triple Acid Signature Peel ($125). It pairs exfoliating glycolic acid with brightening lactic acid and anti-inflammatory mandalic acid. “I’m not a big proponent of pure glycolic or pure lactic,” says Trampetti. “I love a good blend because you get all of the multiple benefits out of the different molecular sizes of those acids while counteracting any irritation you might get from the stronger acids.”
2. Get diligent with cleansing
Your cleanser sets the stage for the rest of your routine. “Just be consistent with cleansing,” says Trampeti. “Don’t go to bed with makeup on and don’t skip a cleanse. Try the First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser ($12 to $42). It’s a gentle cleanser that removes makeup, dirt, and grime without stripping the skin.
3. Reassess your moisturizer
Your moisturizer is the cherry on top that seals in the rest of your routine. But if you use one that’s too light for your skin, it’ll evaporate away, leaving you dry and tight; and if you use one that’s too thick, your pores will be drowning and begging for relief. As we switch into spring and experience warmer, dewier weather, it’s important to reconsider your moisturizer and make sure you’re using a formula that suits your skin.
“If you’re an oily-skinned individual, you’re most likely going to have to switch to a lighter-weight moisturizer or something with a tad more salicylic acid, something that will de-grease the skin and help to control the oil flow,” says Trampetti. The Murad Clarifying Water Gel Moisturizer ($49) will do the trick quite well. It’s a lightweight gel moisturizer packed with hyaluronic acid to keep your pores hydrated without gunking them up. Plus, it’s got salicylic acid to exfoliate your skin and niacinamide to help regulate oil production.
If you have dry skin, it’s time to focus on upping your skin hydration to fill that metaphorical bathtub and lift the irritating debris up and out of your pores. “A really good humectant in the skin is only going to help clogged pores because it’s gonna fill that tub with water and eventually push out all of the junk,” says Trampeti. “We talk about all the other sexy ingredients, but like hyaluronic acid, mushroom extract, or glycerin, all those wonderful ingredients that help to keep moisture in the skin only help unclog pores.” The Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Gel Cream Moisturizer ($45) is perfect. It’s a gel-cream moisturizer with five different types of hyaluronic acid to deeply infuse the skin with hydration and attract water. It’s lightweight without leaving dry skin parched.
4. Don’t do your own extractions
“Your pores are not muscles,” says Trampetti. “They don’t expand and contract. But when you push stuff out of them—especially when that stuff might be hard hardened and not very soft—you will damage them and make your pores larger, because you’re essentially poking and prodding and stretching them out. And when they stretch, they won’t go back. A lot of people will just do it , and I know it’s really tempting. But I really discourage poking and picking and prodding because it will only make things worse long term.”
Need a quick fix? Grab a pimple patch, like the Athena Club Clear Skin Loading ($12). They’ll suck out that excess sebum, flood your pimple with anti-inflammatory and oil-regulating niacinamide, and keep your mitts away from your pimple. “I always recommend patches for people that like to touch their face and poke and prod,” says Trampetti.
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