Each hair follicle has a pore, but pores can exist in non-hairy areas of the body as well. They help protect skin from wind and cold, flush toxins out of skin, help with temperature regulation and aid in moisturizing our skin. The pores that are found cosmetically unacceptable are usually found on the face, and are not associated with hair.
Enlarged facial pores are one of the most common cosmetic problem and consumers frequently seek treatment to reduce the size of their pores. A pore is the pathway for oil to reach the surface of skin. At the bottom of pore is a sebaceous gland that makes sebum to help the skin remain moisturized and protected. In some cases excess oil blocks the pores, trapping dead skin cells and dirt within the pores, expanding them and making them appear larger.
Pores may be more prominent on the nose, cheeks and chin where one has most oil glands. Pores rarely become infected or cause medical problems. Generally men have larger pores than women. People with overactive oil glands tend to have larger pores. Exposure to extreme weather such as harsh sunlight, cold and wind can damage collagen and elastic tissue which form the structural support for the skin, and without this elastic support, the pores dilate and expand in size.
Inflamed and irritated skin also contributes to large pores. Outside factors such as age, sex, genetic predisposition, acne, seborrhea, ultra violet light exposure, makeup, pollution and hormonal changes due to menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, cause extra oil production which causes further pore expansion due to clogged pores on the face. However, no clinical study results are available that directly correlate these factors with the enlarged pores. This affects the surface and texture of the skin resulting in bumpy, uneven skin appearance. The topography, in turn, does not reflect light evenly, making the skin appear aged and dull. This effect makes the enlarged pores become even more visible.
To properly treat enlarged pores, always choose an over-the-counter gel, mask or lotion that contains alpha hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinol and/or fruit enzymes. The daily use of an SPF product is recommended, since removing dead skin cells can make skin more sensitive. You need special products and treatments that can penetrate deep down into the pores and prevent the build-up of oil and dead skin cells. Always use facial products that are non-comedogenic. It is better to start with a cleanser that removes makeup, toxins and dead surface cells.
But too much exfoliation can lead to rather large pores. Consider cleansing skin with a mechanical exfoliator such as the Clarisonic Skin Cleansing System. The company’s research shows that its system is more than twice as effective as using your hands to wash your skin. To temporarily tighten up and, consequently, minimize the pores, use an oil-curbing product daily such as a lactic acid-based toner or alpha hydroxy acid-based pads. Toners usually provide a mild skin tingling, astringency and are traditionally associated with shrinking pores, but they are not proven to reduce the size of pores in any clinical studies.
To temporarily fill in tiny holes, use a silicone-based primer under your makeup. A good primer product rebuilds pore walls and stops excess sebum production while moisturizing the skin, giving it a pore-less, satiny finish, that will make skin glow.
Acne develops when pores clog with dead skin cells, increased sebum production and when bacteria invade the pores. Acne sufferers usually benefit from professional facials that are very helpful in deep pore cleansing and extracting unsightly blackheads. It is important to remember to always wash your face with warm water, as steam will open up pores and unclog them.
Accutane, a prescription drug that is often prescribed for acne patients, attacks the dead skin cells in the pores and helps normalize the shedding of these cells, thus preventing the development of skin lesions. It physically shrinks the oil glands, making the pores smaller. In-office, laser treatments shrink pores permanently. Dermatologists sometimes prescribe a powerful exfoliant, Retin-A Micro. In-office glycolic acid and salicylic acid peels are also used to keep pores clear. A non-ablative laser procedure, which usually lasts for 15 minutes, is used to increase collagen that tightens pores.
Recently, charcoal began appearing in formulas for soaps, shampoos and toothpaste, as well as pore-minimizing toners and cleansers. It cannot clean pores any deeper than most other available cleansers. According to Jeanette Jacknin, M.D., activated charcoal temporarily drains swollen clogged pore making them appear smaller temporarily, and making complexion looking clearer. There are oxygen deep pore cleanser available that claim to nourish the skin while triggering a deep cleanse to purify and decongest the pores, removing blackheads and revealing a cleaner, smoother-looking complexion.
Mary Lupo, M.D., suggests that we cannot shrink our pores with any permanency. The right skin-care products and treatments can help keep the skin clear and tight, making pores less noticeable. Pores are vital part of the skin and getting rid of them completely is impossible.
According to Dr. Kunin, BB creams do a great job of “spackling over” pores in the short term, but can lead to clogging over time. Vibrations are a good way to loosen blackheads and deep clean the pores and as for pore strips—don’t bother. They are as effective as Scotch tape, she maintains.
Ellen Marmur, M.D., says that vitamin C protects the skin temporarily from oxidative stress such as UV sun damage, pollution and even acne. It is also a natural exfoliator that cleanses the pores. She further says that you are never going to change the root shape at the very bottom, but you can affect the way it looks at the top. She recommends to her pore-obsessed patients, to try products containing vitamin C, as well as retinol creams. Retinol exfoliates, but it also helps the skin function at its optimum level.
There are four million pores on the entire body, according to dermatologist Howard Sobel. And there are store shelves stocked to the rafters with pore cleaning brands that play on consumers hopes and insecurities. Consumers should not panic.
A healthy skin does not store toxins that need to be extricated and the pollution particles automatically do not get absorbed into the skin. They are easily washed off and do not clog the pores as long as common sense skin hygiene principles are practiced every day.
Navin M. Geria
Senior Technical Advisor and Principal Doctors Skin Prescription
Navin Geria, ex-Pfizer Research Fellow, is senior technical advisor and principal of the dermatological research company, Doctors Skin Prescription (DSP), Boston, founded by dermatologist David J. Goldberg, MD JD and plastic surgeons William P. Adams, MD FACS and Jason Pozner, MD. Geria has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Clairol, Warner-Lambert, Schick, Bristol-Myers and most recently, Spa Dermaceuticals. He has earned nearly 20 US patents, has been published extensively and has been both a speaker and a moderator at cosmetic industry events.