Causes, symptoms and treatments for congested skin

Congested skin is one way to describe rough, bumpy skin. The term is not used to make clinical assessment, so it can mean many different things and be used in different ways.

While not everyone agrees on the exact definition, dermatologists and skin care professionals will usually know what you are talking about when you say you have “congested” skin.

Congested skin is often more prone to acne and clogged pores. It can be caused by a buildup of dead skin cells, exposure to irritants, or even an allergic reaction to makeup.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of congested skin, along with ways to treat it.

Congested skin is frequently associated with an oil buildup on your skin, so it’s no surprise that it typically affects areas of your face where oil tends to build up. Your chin, nose, cheeks, and forehead are places where you might experience it.

Congested skin makes your skin appear visibly distressed. Symptoms may include:

The causes of skin congestion are similar to the causes of acne and skin irritation. The cause may vary depending on your skin type.

Hormones

Hormones play a role in the daily appearance of your skin, and acne caused by hormonal imbalances tends to congregate around your jawline and down your cheeks. This can make your skin appear congested, with visible pores and pimples.

Oil production

Some people have naturally oily skin. It doesn’t always cause acne or blackheads, but it can be a contributing factor. Skin that produces excess sebum (oil) may also be more prone to large and open pores.

Skin elasticity

As you age, the natural elasticity of your skin decreases. This can contribute to the enlargement of facial pores, according to at least a small to study with 60 participants.

Once the pores are open and visible, they can be dirt and oil magnets that lead to blackheads and whiteheads.

Comedogenic products

Using products that irritate your skin can be a trigger for acne and skin irritation.

The following common ingredients in soaps and other skin care products are known to clog pores, but are still used:

  • Isopropyl myristate
  • propylene glycol
  • lanolins

Additionally, triclosan, phthalates and parabens are also present in many products and can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation, among other health risks.

Treatments for congested skin can range from home remedies that you can start now to prescription topicals that you can get from a dermatologist. The severity of your symptoms will ultimately help you determine what is right for you.

Home remedies

Your first-line treatment for congested skin can be started at home. Home remedies for congested skin can be effective in cleaning the area and reducing the risk of symptoms returning. These treatments may include:

  • Natural scrub. You may be able to clean off dead skin cells and give it a clean fresh start using ingredients you already have at home. Homemade masks and scrubs made from honey, ground almonds or sea salt can become a valuable part of your beauty routine. Excessive exfoliation can damage your skin, so don’t use these remedies every day.
  • Moisturizing. Drinking plenty of water each day can sometimes be enough to clear up your skin, and cutting out caffeine and sugary drinks can also help restore balance.
  • To wash one’s face. You can start with a simple cleansing regimen with lukewarm water at the end of each night before bed, if you haven’t already. Always remove all your makeup before going to bed.
  • Dietary changes. Sometimes congested skin can be linked to eating a diet high in processed foods, carbohydrates, and white sugar. Making adjustments to the way you eat can be an easy way to start healing your skin.

Over-the-counter treatments

A simple skin care routine using over the counter products can help remove congested patches of skin on the chin, cheeks, forehead, and nose.

  • Exfoliators. These chemicals or natural products can loosen skin cells and stimulate collagen production. Salicylic acid and lactic acid are ingredients to look for when it comes to liquid exfoliators for congested skin.
  • Serums. Serums that contain retinol or alpha hydroxy acid can help strengthen the elasticity of your skin, giving pores the chance to breathe. Applying a serum after exfoliating a few times a week can help you see a reduction in your congested skin symptoms.
  • Cleaners. A daily cleanser that contains a gentle exfoliant can remove dead skin cells while promoting healthy cell regeneration. Botanical ingredients like green tea extract and grapefruit can do the trick.
  • Moisturizers. While it may seem counterintuitive, sealing in moisture in congested skin that has been cleansed and exfoliated can help restore balance to oil-prone areas. Look for moisturizers with hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic ingredients to help restore your face’s moisture barrier.

Prescription drugs and medical treatment

If you have severe symptoms, you may need to work with a dermatologist to try and resolve the congested patches of skin.

In addition to the above treatments, they may prescribe topical cream or oral medication as a treatment.

  • Retinoids may be prescribed to remove dead skin and promote the growth of new cells.
  • Oral contraceptives are sometimes used as an acne medication if your congested skin is related to hormonal imbalance.
  • Anti-androgenic drugs (such as spironolactone) can also be used to balance your hormones and reduce your symptoms.
  • Isotretinoin (accutane), a prescription drug that can clear up congested skin, but has many side effects and should not be first-line treatment. It is usually only used when other treatments are not working.
  • High-quality chemical peels performed by an esthetician or dermatologist may be able to successfully exfoliate bumpy, rough skin, exposing smooth skin underneath.
  • Laser skin resurfacing to help stimulate areas with clogged pores and damaged skin may also be an option.

If your symptoms are making you so embarrassed that it affects your daily activities, or if you’ve tried home remedies and over-the-counter treatments and are still experiencing symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor for congested skin.

You can start by mentioning the condition to your primary care physician, or you can speak directly to a dermatologist.

The term “congested skin” can refer to any skin that becomes bumpy, irritated, and prone to acne. Since this is a subjective term, symptoms can vary.

Everyone’s skin is different, and that applies to people with congested skin. There is no single treatment approach to achieving smooth, acne-free skin.

You may need to try different treatment options, or combine home remedies with a dermatologist-approved treatment plan, to get the results you’re looking for.

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