What is the most common skin issue experienced by teenagers? Well, it is none other than pore-clogging. Sometimes, the problem does not seem to disappear even after trying many remedies and treatments, and you may end up struggling with it throughout your life. Though clogged pores are harmless until they give severe breakouts, the cosmetic condition is annoying and embarrassing. It has long been thought that diet has no connection with pore-clogging, but advanced studies have proved this wrong. Today, in this article, let us discuss the ideal diet for clogged pores and determine the eating rules to prevent and eliminate them.
What Causes Clogged Pores?
The surface of our skin is covered in tiny openings called ‘pores,’ which connect to the sebaceous glands lying underneath. The sebum (oil) produced by these glands, along with sweat, reaches the superficial layer of the skin through pores. They also allow hair to break through the skin and rise to its surface while the follicle remains deep in its dermal layer. But how do these pores get clogged? Check out the reasons below (1):
- Excess Sebum: When hormones in the body make the sebaceous glands in the skin overproductive, they begin to produce too much sebum. As the excess sebum cannot exit through the pores, it sits into the pores and clogs them.
- Skin Debris: Sometimes dirt, dust, and dead cells from the outermost layer of the skin get trapped in the pores rather than being shed. When these are mixed with sebum, the pores become clogged.
- Cellular Turnover: If the speed of cellular turnover decreases, dead cells start piling up and clog the skin pores. This mostly happens due to poor diet, lack of a proper skincare regime, excessive stress, etc.
- Environmental Factors: Certain environmental factors like sweat, pollutants in the air, oil transferred from the hands to the facial skin, etc., also play significant roles in clogging pores.
Clogged pores prevent the skin from breathing and turns it into a breeding ground of P. acnes bacteria, which causes inflammation and leads to acne. There are three types of acne i.e. whiteheads (hard whitish bumps), blackheads (tiny dark spots), and pimples (red bumps with pus-filled white tops). Pore-clogging also results in a dull and lifeless complexion.
How is Diet Linked to Clogged Pores?
Surprisingly, dermatologists have not found any link between diet and clogged pores for decades. However, the latest studies have indicated that we must look more closely at the foods in our diet than our skincare habits to avoid issues like pore-clogging and acne flare-ups. It is the most common skin condition in the USA, affecting as many as 50 million people yearly (2). While practicing proper skincare and making lifestyle changes work very well, an intelligent selection of foods is also necessary to prevent pore-clogging and reduce acne symptoms. Researchers found that the body produces a lot of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) hormone during puberty, which increases sebum production and clogs skin pores, thus leading to acne (3). Hence, teenagers break out so much and so frequently. Certain foods boost the release of IGF-1 even more in the body by raising blood sugar more quickly than others. This increases insulin levels in the bloodstream and stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, resulting in clogged pores and acne.
How do you plan a diet for clogged pores?
If you are desperately trying to stop this frustrating issue and get a clear complexion, you must pay attention to your nutrition. According to experts, a diet that is not so healthy and nutritious may cause clogged pores, thereby leading to blackheads, whiteheads, and other similar breakouts. A standard American diet primarily consists of high-glycemic carbohydrates, refined sugar, dairy, saturated fats, trans fats, etc., while lacking sufficient proteins and skin-nourishing vitamins. According to a report published in the Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, this raises the levels of sebum-secreting hormones in the body and increases inflammation (4). Therefore, the objective is to plan a diet with healthful food components that neither over-activates the sebaceous gland nor cause inflammation.
Diet for Clogged Pores: What Not to Eat
We will start with a list of food items that should not be included in your diet to keep your skin pores clean and open. A 2016 study revealed that the following foods may increase IGF-1 levels in the body and, hence, should be avoided (5):
1. High-Glycemic Index Foods
The glycemic index (GI) measurement indicates how fast and how high the food can elevate sugar levels in the blood. Regarding pore clogging, foods with a high glycemic index (made of simple sugars) are always considered the main culprit. The more you eat high-GI foods, the more you become vulnerable. While many lists have been provided by experts on the GIs of various foods (6), here are the foods that trigger insulin spikes according to the American Diabetes Association (7):
- Refined carbohydrates (short-grain white rice, puffed wheat, white bread, bagels, rice-based pasta, sugary items)
- Sweetened breakfast cereals (cornflakes, bran flakes, puffed rice)
- Instant cereals (oatmeal, grits)
- Snacks (pretzels, rice cakes, donuts, popcorn, corn chips)
- Certain fruits and veggies (potatoes, melons, pineapples, and pumpkins)
2. Dairy Products
Too much milk consumption and other dairy products, such as yogurt, butter, cheese, ice cream, cream sauce, etc., can affect skin pores. They come packed with natural sugars, many hormones, and other additives, which increase the release of insulin hormones inside the body and contribute to pore clogging significantly.
3. Processed Foods
Modern diets heavily feature processed or highly refined foods, yet their impact on skin health is adverse. These items, often with a high glycemic index and excessive sugar content, induce insulin spikes in the bloodstream, gradually leading to clogged pores and skin issues.
4. Fried Foods
You should also avoid fried foods that contain too many unhealthy fats. In most cases, these foods are prepared with low-quality oils that are highly processed. It gives the production of insulin hormones a boost in our body and aggravates the condition of pore-clogging to a large extent.
Try to limit the amount of salt in your diet as much as possible. Excessive salty foods can dehydrate your body and swell your skin, which is closely linked to pore clogging and acne formation.
It has been seen that if taken in considerably high quantities, iodine can irritate our skin and clog its pores. Shellfish like shrimp, lobster, crab, etc., are very high in this mineral and should be avoided to prevent irritating skin conditions.
Treating yourself with chocolates may be a curse for your skin pores. These sweet delights are loaded with sugar and milk, caffeine, theobromine, and serotonin, which increase the secretion of sebaceous glands, clogging the pores. However, a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that chocolate does not affect all people regarding pore-clogging and acne (8).
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) concluded that high GI foods are more pore-clogging than dairy products (9). Coffee, caffeinated tea, alcohol, and similar beverages may also interfere with your hormonal balance and clog pores. Whey protein bars and drinks should be avoided too (10).
Read Also – Homemade Face Packs to Treat Open Pores
Diet for Clogged Pores: What to Eat
Now that you know which food items to ditch for poreless skin, knowing what skin-friendly foods can help you is essential. Here is a list of eatables that should be included in your diet to stay blemish-free:
- Low-glycemic index foods (made of complex carbohydrates) like whole-grain, organic, and gluten-free items
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Protein-rich foods like fish, meat, eggs, dry beans (all types), legumes, and pulses
- Fresh and dried fruits, including grapefruits, peaches, dates, cherries, and plums
- Naturally sweet veggies, such as sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, etc.
- Calcium-rich cruciferous veggies like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and collard greens
- Zinc-rich foods like skinless chicken, lean meat (grass-fed beef, ground turkey), quinoa, lentils, nuts (cashews), and seeds (pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and mustard seeds)
- Vitamin- and antioxidant-rich (vitamin A, B6, C, and E) foods including carrots, mangoes, apricots, spinach, and liver
- Healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids) found in nuts (almonds, walnuts), avocado, fish (salmon, mackerel, and sardines), fish oil, cod liver oil, pastured eggs, soybeans, and tofu
- Baked foods rather than oily fried junk
- Lots of water
Always change your diet under the supervision of a doctor and plan it by keeping your food sensitivities and allergies in mind. Also, wait for at least 10-12 weeks to see noticeable effects on the skin.
Other Ways to Unclog Skin Pores
Apart from rectifying your food habits, you should treat your skin correctly to keep your pores gunk-free. Here are some highly effective methods that can unclog your skin pores and make your skin look healthy:
- Use pore strips to get rid of everything (hair, bacteria, oil, dead skin, etc.) on the surface of your skin. Choose the shapes based on your requirements and follow all package directions while using them.
- Try activated charcoal masks for deep cleansing of your pores. They will remove dirt, dust, and other toxins from your skin and leave it flawless and radiant.
- Skin extractions can also help you unclog your pores. But make sure that you opt for a professional treatment for this purpose to avoid unexpected results.
- Both chemical exfoliation (alpha-hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, retinol, or topical enzymes) and mechanical exfoliation (brushes, scrubs, or cleansing cloths) are effective in cleansing the skin thoroughly by sloughing off dead cells from its pores.
- Steam your face regularly with the help of a facial steamer to help your clogged skin pores open up completely.
The surface of our skin is covered in millions of pores, which not only house hair follicles but also release sebum and sweat through them. These pores may get clogged due to the overproduction of sebum, presence of skin debris, decreased cellular turnover, and certain environmental factors, thereby leading to acne (whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples) and dull complexion. A smart selection of foods is necessary to prevent pore-clogging and reducing acne symptoms. Some foods increase the secretion of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) hormone in the body and stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, which results in clogged pores and acne. Hence, planning a diet with healthful food components that neither over-activates the sebaceous gland nor causes inflammation is important. High-glycemic index foods, dairy products, processed foods, Fried junks, salt, shellfish, and chocolate are some items that you should avoid to keep your pores clean. On the other hand, have low-glycemic index foods that are rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant as much as possible. Including more and more dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, baked foods, and lots of water in your diet will also help a lot. Apart from diet, you can also try pore strips, activated charcoal masks, exfoliation (both chemical and mechanical), and facial steaming to unclog pores and look flawless.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Does a Clogged Pore Look Like?
Clogged pores, also known as comedones, look like tiny white or skin-colored bumps, making the skin rough or uneven.
How Can I Deep Clean My Pores at Home?
Prepare a paste by mixing one teaspoon of water with two teaspoons of baking soda and gently scrub your facial skin for 2-3 minutes. Once done, rinse it off with tepid water. This will deep cleanse your pores naturally and effectively.
Does Drinking Water Help Reduce Pores?
Drinking more and more water brings a balance between the oil content and the water content of the skin. This helps in reducing the size of the pores to a great extent.
Can Apple Cider Vinegar Shrink Pores?
Apple cider vinegar contains certain organic acids called alpha-hydroxy acids, which help improve cell turnover. This not only shrinks large pores but also smoothes wrinkles and fine lines.
Do Clogged Pores Go Away on Their Own?
If you keep a close eye on your regular diet and take the best care of your skin, your clogged pores will go away on their own eventually.
- “5 Ways to Unclog Pores and 2 Methods to Avoid“, Healthline.com
- “Skin Conditions by the Numbers: Acne,” AAD.org
- “Diet and Dermatology: The Role of Dietary Intervention in Skin Disease,” NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology,” DovePress.com
- “Significance of Diet in Treated and Untreated Acne vulgaris,” NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “International Tables of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2008“, NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Eating Doesn’t Have to Be Boring,” Diabetes.org
- “Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Assessing the Effect of Chocolate Consumption in Subjects with a History of Acne Vulgaris,” NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Can the Right Diest Get Rid of Acne?“, AAD.org
- “This Healthy Food Might Be Causing Your Acne,” WomensHealthMag.com