Are you obsessed with the state of your pores? Do you think they’re too large?
Almost all new clients who come to see me lament over large pores.
There are many factors that can influence the size and look of your pores. Notice I said “the look of your pores”. Please note that a clean, properly functioning, healthy pore cannot have its size changed. Genetics determines your pore size. Later in this article, I’ll describe what factors can influence the size and look of your pores and what you can do about it, even if genetics gave you a size you don’t love.
Anatomy of a Pore
We need a human science lesson here to understand the structure and function of pores, so we can craft solutions that work based on the true problem.
Pores are small openings in the skin that help with the body’s need to excrete wastes, cool the body or keep it warm.
Pores in skin are surrounded and supported by collagen and elastin. In a nutshell, collagen keeps skin smooth and strong, and elastin keeps skin pliable. When collagen and elastin degrade, pores can look bigger because their support structure is compromised.
Pores can contain sweat glands or oil glands, as well as hair follicles.
Sweat glands secrete wastes and also help us keep cool by depositing moisture onto the skin which is then evaporated, making us feel cooler.
Oil glands secrete sebum, a protective coating that also helps maintain the skin’s pH levels, keep nourishment and moisture in the skin, and control “bad” bacteria strains. In recent years we’re also seeing research that it helps the levels of “good” bacteria which serve as part of skin’s immunity.
The hair is also a protective mechanism to maintain body heat, provide sun protection, etc. Hair is nourished and protected by sebum, along with the skin.
Each pore is lined with skin cells, so think of it as an extension of the skin you see on the surface.
Pores are more densely located in the T zone, or forehead, nose and chin. However, some people have a second line across their cheeks all the way to their ears.
Each person’s T-zone area is slightly different. This is important because the T-zone is where the majority of oil glands are. Smaller areas of T-zone generally mean the skin is a drier type, whereas an oily skin has a larger T-zone. “Types” do not refer to whether your skin feels oily or dry to you - it simply refers to the pore size, density and the corresponding size of the oil gland within.
Estheticians refer to clogged pores as “congestion”. It’s a great descriptive term because you can understand the problem from just this term. Congestion would imply a blockage, where little or nothing comes out or in. Now you begin to see congestion’s role in enlarged pores and pimple formation from the blocking of the pore causing a build up of “bad” bacteria; and you can see how difficult it would be to get helpful ingredients into the skin given the congestion.
Causes of congestion
Congestion can be caused by many things, including health conditions and improper skin care regimens, but let’s look at skin cells that line the pore.
Skin cells in and around the pore shed naturally. When the skin sheds, it mixes with sebum, and has the potential to block a pore. If skin is in a healthy state, this is generally not a problem. The body can work well in most cases when allowed to “do its thing”. However, so many people are living lifestyles that don’t support good health and using skin care products that are not suitable for them. Some people do have health conditions and/or use medications that can also cause congestion. These factors then cause a lessening of the natural pore/dead skin sloughing mechanism, and there you have it - congestion.
When the pores are trying to slough off the dead skin when the skin is already congested, there is a back up. This back up can be bacterial growth from lack of oxygen in the pore, resulting in a pimple (whitehead, blackhead, etc). Or the congestion becomes larger from the back up of dead skin cells not sloughing and becomes a larger block to the pore. In either case, this causes pores to become stretched or larger in diameter.
What to do and what not to do
- adopt basic wellness practices to help skin function more efficiently. Healthful diet filled with organic vegetables (especially greens), avoiding foods that can worsen this condition (like dairy, fried foods, processed foods), exercise, fresh air, restful sleep and stress management are factors that are more powerful than any skin care product or treatment.
- use moderate exfoliation. I emphasize moderation in exfoliation because over-exfoliation can cause more congestion and other problems. Your esthetician can tell you which type of exfoliator to use and how often to use it.
- maintain moisture levels to balance oil production. Yes! Most people think that drying out the oil completely will solve their problem. However, the body understands that there is a lack of oil on the surface of the skin and will usually produce more. Your esthetician can help you find the proper moisturizer for this purpose. Remember that drinking adequate water is also necessary for keeping moisture in the skin.
- try to dry out your skin. If the battle between you and the oil continues, then your body simply creates more congestion to hold in the moisture that the skin needs. You see, oil on the surface, in proper amounts, is healthful for the skin. Not only does it help keep proper pH of the skin, protect against pathogens, etc., but it maintains the moisture levels in the skin. Moisture levels also protects and nurtures collagen and elastin to prevent stretched out unsupported pores.
- avoid medications designed to dry out or destroy oil glands. The worst of those medications have a record of damaging not just the oil glands, but digestive system, liver and reproduction as well.
- over-exfoliate. Many new clients are surprised to learn that they’ve been exfoliating too often, not just with exfoliators. Too many products today have numerous acid and enzyme exfoliators included in them. Typical culprits are cleansers, serum, masks and toners. However, I see more and more ingredient decks for moisturizers that contain exfoliating acids. Its just too much exfoliation.
- self-extract. When you squeeze or pick, you can easily damage the collagen and elastin which will leave you with bigger pores (and also dark marks, scarring and spread of bacteria). Does steaming your skin help? No, steaming softens what’s in the pore but also softens the elastin and collagen, making the pore more prone to stretching and scarring.
- use primers. Most primers have silicones (see ingredients for anything that ends in -cone, there are many types). Think of most primers as spackle - it fills the cracks. Unfortunately, it clogs the pores to give you that “pore-less” finish.
Now you understand how a pore functions and what you can do to make your pores look better.
Have more questions? Share them below in the Comments Section.
Shop this story - Pore Collection