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7 Bad Habits That Are Clogging Your Pores

If you have oversized pores, your genes may be only partly to blame. Nix these bad habits to keep your skin clear.

A woman's hand holds a cigarette. Smoking cigarettes. Nicotine. Smoking is bad for your health. Woman's face, lips. Smoking killsAnastassiaVassiljeva/Shutterstock


If gobs of evidence on the health dangers of smoking haven’t yet convinced you to kick butt, perhaps vanity will be the motivation you’ve been looking for. According to a 2017 study in the International Journal of Research in Dermatologymen who smoked were twice as likely to have acne than those who didn’t. Doctors have also long known that smoking severely damages skin by weakening its elasticity, along with a slew of other negative effects.  Check out the mind-blowing ways your body starts to heal after you quit smoking.

Unmade bed with multiple white pillows on it.iStock/bgwalker

Sleeping on dirty sheets

Conventional wisdom dictates washing your sheets weekly, but if you have clogged pores, you might want to do it more often. Pillowcases and bed sheets can easily harbor a buildup of oil, dirt, and dead skin, which transfers back to your skin at night, clogging pores and causing blemishes. “You want your sheets to be clean and not clogging your pores,” says Samer Jaber, MD, a dermatologist in New York, NY. “Washing bed sheets can make a difference, especially if you are a sweater.” Consider switching out your pillowcase at least every three days. Use these 10 laundry hacks to make the job faster and easier.

pores on the skin of the face. Cleansing the face skinGeinz Angelina/Shutterstock

Touching your face all day

“Touching your face regularly can trigger acne through the spread of the P. acnes bacteria,” Dr. Jaber says. On an average day, we touch countless germ-ridden objects and materials: cash, sink handles, public transportation surfaces, handrails, doorknobs, and the list goes on. (These are the 15 germiest items you touch on a daily basis.) By touching your face throughout the day, you are transferring the many bacteria, viruses, oils, allergens, and impurities from your hands to your skin, which can clog your pores. The best way to combat this bad habit is to regularly sanitize your hands, and ask friends to point out when you touch your face so you can start to kick the habit.

Girl-tanningAndrey Arkusha/Shutterstock


When it comes to protecting yourself from the sun without blocking pores, certain sunscreens seem to provide a win-win scenario. The sunscreens with the potentially best coverage against dangerous UV rays are also often the ones that are least comedogenic (pore-blocking). Soaking up the rays in any capacity can be bad for your pores. “Sun tanning and resultant sun damage can worsen pores, as the sun can damage the surrounding skin tissues, making the pores appear larger,” Dr. Jaber says. Add to that the fact that many sunscreens out there are comedogenic. Take steps to reduce your sun exposure and make sure to choose the right sunscreen. Research your ingredients. The best sunscreens are lightweight and have zinc and titanium dioxide as active ingredients. (We’re loving Colorescience Daily UV Protector SPF 30 Whipped Mineral Sunscreen, which blocks harmful UVA and UVB rays as well as environmental aggressors using zinc and titanium dioxide. It also has a universal tint that doubles as foundation.) Here’s what these 8 labels on your sunscreen really mean.

Happy cheerful young woman talking on the phone at home, smiling teen girl making answering call by cellphone sitting on chair, beautiful lady having pleasant funny conversation speaking by mobilefizkes/Shutterstock

Talking on the phone

If you regularly have a phone screen glued to your face, you may notice localized breakouts on your cheeks, along the sides of your face. Phones are exceptionally filthy, collecting makeup, dirt, oil, and bacteria from any surface they come into contact with (think of the tables and chairs they’re set on, plus the germs they mingle with in purses and pockets). In a study of medical students in Saudi Arabia, researchers found that 96 percent of the 105 cell phones tested were contaminated with some type of bacteria. To avoid clogging your pores every time you talk on the phone, switch to a hands-free device or wipe down the screen before each use or at least daily.

Closeup of a young woman doing makeup eyebrow brushpopcorner/Shutterstock

Wearing makeup during a workout

“Sweating is your body’s natural method of cooling your skin, and wearing makeup can trap sweat and bacteria, blocking your pores. This can result in skin congestion, which can cause blackheads, skin irritation, and increased breakouts,” says Dr. Jaber. “Over time, if you repeatedly wear heavy gym makeup, you may notice that you develop worsening acne and uneven skin tone on your face.” No matter how gorgeous you want to look during your spin or yoga class, it’s not worth clogging your pores. You can melt off makeup super quickly, like while you’re walking from the dressing room to the fitness studio, with makeup-removing wipes such as Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes. Read more about how bad it is to wear makeup at the gym.

african girl checking her face for pimple looking in the mirrormichaeljung/Shutterstock

Picking at blemishes

This can be a vicious cycle: You compulsively pick at your blemishes in an effort to remove them, which in turn causes even more blemishes. By picking at every little bump and zit, you are contributing to skin inflammation and irritation, which greatly affects pore size in the long run. Further, the squeezing and stretching of skin makes the transfer of impurities from your hands highly likely, which can clog pores. Though it’s easier said than done, it’s important that you find a way to resist the temptation to pick at your skin, and instead use a spot treatment to rid of any blemishes. (We love MD Complete Skin Clearing Acne Breakout Treatment, which comes with zit-zapping benzoyl peroxide and soothing natural botanicals.)

Medically reviewed by S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, on September 01, 2019
Originally Published in Reader's Digest