What Is Skin Congestion (& How To Get Rid Of It)

Skincare

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why is my skin always congested

How Do I Treat My Congested Skin?

We are all on the quest for smooth, clear and flawless skin. But that’s easier said than done, especially if you suffer from congested skin. Skin congestion is often confused with acne, which can make treating congested skin super frustrating. What is skin congestion exactly, and how do you know if you have it?

If skin congestion is left ignored, it will often lead to angry breakouts, clogged pores, blackheads and dull skin. And that’s not what you want, right?

Although you might be quick to reach for all the exfoliants and acne treatments to get rid of clogged skin, they can actually make congested skin worse!

So, here’s everything you need to know about what is congestion skin, how to know if your skin is congested and how to get rid of it.

What Is Skin Congestion?

Essentially, skin congestion is when your pores get clogged with dead skin cells, dirt, oil or even bacteria. When things get clogged in your pores, your skin becomes congested, which can lead to things like whiteheads, blackheads and even acne.

It’s important to note that skin congestion is not the same thing as acne. Your skin can be congested even if you don’t have any acne.

Skin congestion can really happen anywhere on your body, but the most common is congested skin on face or neck. But you can get congested skin on your legs, back, chest, etc. Your body lotion could be clogging your pores, or you’re not washing properly after a workout, etc.

What Causes Skin Congestion?

products for congested skin

There are a number of things that can cause clogged skin, so it’s important to be aware of all the factor that can contribute to it. That way, you’ll be able to make changes in your routine and start seeing improvement quickly.

  • Not cleaning your skin properly: this can be from not washing your face, not washing your face correctly and not removing all of the makeup, dirt, oil, etc from your skin. When your skin isn’t getting properly cleaned, you are leaving things behind that can get trapped in your pores, leading to congested skin.
  • Heavy makeup: If you tend to wear a lot of makeup or very full coverage makeup, it’s possible those products are too heavy on your skin. This is especially true if you use heavier formulated products (with oils, butters, silicones, etc).
  • Rich skincare products: along with heavy makeup, heavy skincare products can also lead to skin congestion. Rich and nourishing creams can sometimes be too heavy for oilier skin types. Products with lots of oils and butters can clog pores and lead to congestion. If you’re skin is prone to clogging, look for oil free and non-comedogenic products.
  • Not exfoliating enough: If you are exfoliating your skin too little, or not at all, chances are your skin will be congested.
  • Exfoliating too much: There is a fine line between exfoliating enough but not too much. And it can be tricky to figure out! Over exfoliation can cause your skin to produce more oil, which can lead to more clogged pores and inflammation.
  • Dehydration: dehydrated skin oftentimes becomes congested and angry. It can also cause your skin to look and feel extra bumpy and rough. Keeping skin hydrated is one of the easiest ways to keep skin congestion at bay. If you’re wondering any your skin is always congested, chances are it’s because of dehydration!

How Do You Know If Your Skin Is Congested?

Now that we know what skin congestion is, let’s talk about how to know if your skin is actually congested or not. Congested skin will often look and feel bumpy and rough. If you run your fingers across your skin, you will be able to feel the bumps. You can also look at your skin closely in a brightly lit room. You should also be able to see raised bumps, clogged pores and blackheads.

Skin congestion is most common on the chin, nose and forehead (aka the t-zone). You may only have skin congestion in certain areas, or you may have congested skin all over.

Congested skin on the chin, nose and forehead are usually a sign of overactive oil glands. This is because the t-zone tends to be more oily for most people, which means that more oil is there and could get trapped in the pores.

You can even have it just on certain parts of your face, like congested skin on chin, cheeks or forehead.

What Does Congested Skin Look Like?

congested skin vs acne

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to tell if you have congested skin just by looking at it or touching it. Essentially, if you have congested skin, your skin will appear and feel bumpy.

If you run your hand across your skin and feel lots of texture and bumps, then chances are your skin is congested.

Typically, congested skin will have flesh colored bumps, like comedones or just bumps the color of your skin.

How To Tell If You Have Dehydrated Congested Skin

Dehydrated congested skin should be treated differently because the congested pores and skin are caused by dehydration. Dehydration affects your skin’s ability to function normally and that includes things like cell turnover. When your skin cells are not shedding like they are supposed to, then they will accumulate on your skin and cause congested pores and congested skin.

To treat dehydrated congested skin, you first need to focus on re-hydrating your skin and repairing your moisture barrier. Stop using exfoliants and focusing on hydrating ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid. Be sure to check out my full guide on dehydrated skin.

How To Treat Congested Skin

how do I cure my congested skin

Now that we’ve established you’ve got congested skin, now you want to know how to treat congested skin, right?

So, if you’re wondering “how do I get rid of congestion on my face?” or “how can I help my congested skin?” then this is the spot for you! Luckily, there are lots of options when it comes to treating congested skin. And with most people, it’s a fairly quick fix and you can be on your way to congestion free skin!

  • Ensure you’re cleansing well: make sure you’re washing your face at least once a day and properly removing all your makeup! It can be helpful to double cleanse if you wear a lot of makeup or sunscreen. Oftentimes, one cleanse is not enough to get rid of sunscreen, makeup and clean your face. Use an oil cleanser first to dissolve makeup, sunscreen and oil. Then follow up with a regular cleanser to remove any residue and ensure your face is nice and clean!
  • Use oil free products: make sure your makeup and skincare products are oil-free and non-comedogenic! This way, you’ll ensure that your skin isn’t being clogged by the products you are using.
  • Switch to lighter formulations: Instead of using a rich, thick night cream with lots of butters and oils, switch to a simple gel or oil free moisturizer. Additionally, if you use heavy, full coverage foundation, try opting for a light tinted moisturizer instead.
  • Exfoliate gently: try exfoliating 2-3 times a week with either chemical, physical or enzyme exfoliants. These will help shed dead skin cells so they don’t get clogged in your pores and lead to skin congestion
  • Keep skin hydrated: Not only should you be drinking a lot of water to hydrate skin from the inside out, but you should also make sure you’re using a hydrating serum to add water back into the skin and keep it from getting dehydrated.
  • Microdermabrasion: microdermabrasion for congested skin is a great option for stubborn and oilier skin types. Microdermabrasion is a procedure that removes the superficial layer of skin cells, revealing new, healthy skin cells. This can help with skin congestion as it’s essentially a very deep exfoliation.
  • Facials: it can also be helpful for congested skin to get regular facials. A professional facial can’t always be replicated at home, but there are some ways you can give yourself an at home facial if you truly can’t afford to go to the spa.

Exfoliants For Skin Congestion

Using exfoliants is one of the best (and easiest) ways to treat skin congestion. Exfoliants can be physical, chemical or enzymes. They all work differently but essentially do the same thing.

To really help clear congested skin, it’s usually helpful to have multiple treatments to help tackle all aspects of clogged skin.

For example, you may need to do clay masks or facials, use a BHA and a physical exfoliator to keep your skin congestion free.

Congestion under the skin can come up at any time, so it’s most helpful to stick with a regular routine and use regular exfoliation products to help keep congestion under the skin at bay.

However, you must be careful with exfoliants for congested skin because they can actually lead to dehydrated congested skin, which can make the problem even worse!

Chemical Exfoliants For Skin Congestion

what causes congestion on face

Chemical exfoliants work by “ungluing” skin cells that are stuck on the surface of your skin. When these skin cells get trapped on the skin, they cause dullness and can lead to skin congestion if they get trapped in your pores.

Types of chemical exfoliants:

  • AHA
  • BHA
  • PHA
  • Retinol/Retinoids

Physical Exfoliants For Congested Skin

Physical exfoliants aid in removing the dead skin cells that are stuck on the surface of the skin. By removing them, they will not get clogged in the pores, which prevents skin congestion.

Physical exfoliants usually use some kind of mechanical form (think microbeads, shells, etc) to exfoliate. Physical exfoliation can even include using a washcloth or microfiber cloth to exfoliate the dead skin away.

Enzyme Exfoliants For Skin Congestion

Enzymes work similarly to chemical exfoliants, in that they “unglue” skin cells so they are easily removed and shed from the skin. Enzymes are great for those with sensitive skin, as they’re nice and gentle.

Other Products For Skin Congestion

In addition to regular exfoliation, it can be helpful to make a few other changes in your skincare routine to keep skin congestion at bay. As we discussed earlier, keeping your skin hydrated can help with clogged pores and congestion.

  • Hyaluronic acid serum: a hyaluronic acid serum is the simplest way to keep your skin from getting dehydrated and keeping any skin congestion away.
  • Clay masks: It can also be helpful to add a clay mask into your weekly skincare routine. Clay masks work by drawing out any dirt, oil, bacteria from your pores and can also help gently exfoliate dead skin away. This will keep your skin smooth and free of any bumps
  • Moisturizing regularly: Keeping your skin moisturized will also help it from becoming dehydrated, which will help get rid of any congestion in your skin and pores.

What Is The Best Treatment For Congested Skin?

dehydrated congested skin

I have been asked “How do I cure my congested skin?” And the answer is never straightforward! With all the different treatment options for skin congestion, you may be wondering what is the best treatment for congested skin? Well, unfortunately, there is no one size fits all when it comes to skincare.

In order to get rid of the congestion on your face, you will need to experiment with different products and see what works best for you and your skin congestion.

Skincare always takes a lot of trial and error because what works for me may not work for you! For example, one of my friends swears by this toner to keep her skin clear and glowing. So, of course, I had to try it out! And every time I did, my skin was so angry! It was a red, irritated and broken out mess. But the product worked amazingly for her!

If you’ve ever wondered why your pores are so congested all the time, chances are it’s because you aren’t exfoliating enough (or at all), or your skin is dehydrated, which can lead to skin congestion as well.

Products For Congested Skin

Now let’s talk about how you can get rid of congestion on your face with these amazing products. If you’re wondering what is the best treatment for congested skin then keep on reading to find out the best products to treat skin congestion. The key to getting good results with your products, is choosing products that are well-formulated. Just because it’s on the shelf, doesn’t mean it’s a good option!

These products are well formulated and will help with clearing skin congestion quickly. You may find that you need a cleanser for congested skin, along with a serum to help with skin congestion.

Again, you will need to experiment to find what ingredients and products work best at getting rid of your skin congestion!

1. Fresh Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask

A potent mask that will draw out impurities, instantly smooth skin texture, and minimize pores without overdrying or stripping the skin. Clay masks are also great at minimizing oil, gently exfoliating and treating and preventing acne.

2. Farmacy Honeymoon Glow

An all in one serum that resurfaces, hydrates, clarifies and brightens! A combination of AHA/BHA/flower acid blend will treat and prevent skin congestion, unclog pores and right breakouts, all while diminishing fine lines and brightening the skin. Plus, hyaluronic acid will hydrate and honey will soothe and moisturize, so your skin is never dry. If you’re trying to clear skin congestion quickly, this is your product.

3. Paula’s Choice 2% BHA

A cult favorite, salicylic acid exfoliant that will unclog pores, lessen oil production and fight breakouts. This leave on exfoliant will get you smoother skin in no time! If you want to know how to clear congested skin as quickly as possible, this is your product.

4. Paula’s Choice Daily Smoothing Treatment 5% AHA

Another HG exfoliant that smooths skin, unclogs congestion and helps fight breakouts, fine lines and discolorations. This treatment is packed full of anti-oxidants, hydrating and skin restoring ingredients making it a great choice for everyday use.

5. Differin Gel

Once a prescription-only product, this retinoid is now available over the counter. Meaning you get prescription strength treatment to get rid of skin congestion, clogged pores and blackheads.

6. Andalou Fruit Enzyme Mask

An antioxidant and enzyme rich formula will soften and shed dead skin cells, leaving soft, smooth and radiant skin behind without over drying or irritating sensitive skin types.

7. Fourth Ray A-HA Moment Exfoliating Enzyme Mask

A combo physical and chemical treatment mask with exfoliating AHA and enzymes, plus exfoliating cranberry seed polish, this powerful treatment will smooth out and unclog skin congestion fast.

8. Summer Friday’s Overtime Mask

This clarifying mask will polish and perfect your skin with pumpkin and apricot seed powder to exfoliate and unclog skin. Packed with soothing oats and antioxidants will leave your skin feeling soft, smooth and supple and never dry.

9. Fresh Strawberry Exfoliating Face Wash

A gentle cleanser full of white sugar crystals to exfoliate dead skin cells away, leaving your skin soft and smooth. Full of grapeseed oil and fruit extracts to soothe, hydrate and nourish skin.

10. Cerave Daily Moisturizing Lotion

This oil free, non-comedogenic moisturizer packs a punch with hyaluronic acid and ceramides without being heavy or greasy. It congested skin friendly and will keep your skin healthy, hydrated and happy – which will keep it free from congestion!

11. Skinceuticals Renew Overnight Moisturizer

This moisturizer, packed with AHA’s will smooth out skin texture overnight, so you’ll wake up with smooth, congestion free skin! A powerful blend of lactic, glycolic malic acids and more will seriously smooth even the roughest skin texture. All while the moisturizing ingredients will work their magic to keep skin from drying out.


Now that you’ve learned all about skin congestion, you should be on your way to getting smoother, softer and healthier looking skin in no time! And if you’re a beginner to exfoliants, then be sure to check out my posts on chemical exfoliants and retinoids.

The Best Congested Skin Routine

A skincare routine for congested skin and clogged pores doesn’t have to fancy or consist of 20 steps. Really, for a good skincare routine, you just need a few simple steps. And treating congested skin is no different.

Here’s an ideal routine for congested skin:

Morning Routine For Congested Skin

  • Splash with water (or cleanser, if your skin needs it)
  • Serum (BHA, AHA, or chemical exfoliant)
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen

Evening Routine For Congested Skin

  • Cleanse/physical exfoliation (But don’t physically exfoliate every day!)
  • Treat (chemical exfolaiant, retinol, tretinoin, etc.)
  • Moisturize

You can add in masks weekly depending on how your skin handles things. If you’re new to chemical exfoliants check out my guide on chemical exfoliants and retinols to make sure you’re using them correctly. Remember, you don’t want dehydrated congested skin!

How do you treat skin congestion?

Getting rid of bumpy congested skin does take some time, but with these tips you’ll be able to clear congested skin as quick as possible. Like any skin exfoliant, it can take a few weeks to start working. Knowing how to clear congested skin is the first step. But, with these tips and keeping your skin hydrated, you’ll get rid of your congested skin in no time!

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