Filters off, everyone has texture. Our skin is made up of millions of small openings called pores. In fact, the average adult has approximately 20,000 pores on their face alone. Proper care of those little openings can have a big impact on skin health – and yes, how large and visible they appear.
However, let’s be clear. No one – not K-Pop superstars, not Hollywood A-listers nor the most highly trained estheticians – is “shrinking” pores on their face. As self.com pointed out, “the Instagram-ready airbrushed look that we’ve come to assume means ‘good, healthy skin’ is usually a fiction of makeup and photo editing.” The desire to “shrink” pores has been co-opted into product benefit lists (even ours), but it is not the most comprehensive description of what blockage clearing ingredients are actually accomplishing when used properly and consistently.
In our quest for clear, smooth skin we can lose track of some very important facts.
- Pores are essential for draining sweat and oil from the skin.
- There are different types of pores, but most of the ones on your face are actually hair follicles.
- Sebum (the waxy, oily stuff produced by your sebaceous glands) is not the enemy. It is designed to hydrate and protect the outer layers of your skin.
Issues arise when DHT triggers inflammation and overproduction of sebum in the sebaceous glands. Any blockage; sebum, dead skin cells, dirt, makeup; that interferes with pore drainage then leads to whiteheads, blackheads and cysts. Buildup in pores will cause them to dilate and appear larger. Oxidation can darken oils and other gunk chilling in your pores, attracting even more attention.
Hormonal acne can take many forms: comedones, cysts, papules, pustules – and of course our common vernacular favorites: zits, pimples and blemishes. No matter what you call them, they are unwelcome additions to our skin. Regardless of age, if comedones form, your skincare routine likely needs a little more attention or a change in ingredients.
Switch to noncomedogenic products.
Cleanse and tone daily to breakup blockages and allow pores to drain properly.
Pores that have been forced open due to blockages need TLC.
- A gentle exfoliant approach will allow pores to purge more gradually, giving the pore openings time to tighten back to their original size and thus appear less visible.
- Extractions, pore strips or charcoal-infused peel off masks take a more aggressive approach; removing the blockage all at once. So, so satisfying but be aware that this leaves the pore dilated and more prone to clogging up again.
Resist the urge to touch and pull your skin to inspect how much gunk was removed. Consider going makeup-free while cleared pore openings tighten and be diligent about washing your face twice a day. Guys, this goes for you too. Wash with a gentle cleanser like Clearogen or Cetaphil twice a day and use toner once daily.
S 👏 P 👏 F 👏: Use sunscreen or a moisturizer with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher protection daily. UV and age-related collagen and elastin loss can lead to wrinkles and sagging skin. This loss of fullness and elasticity can make pores more noticeable.
Oh, and those small white or darker things on your nose that are driving you crazy? They may not be blackheads. Sebaceous filaments are a natural part of the body’s system for moving sebum to the surface of the skin for moisturizing purposes. Sebaceous filaments are particularly prominent on the nose and oxidation of the sebum closest to the surface can give them a slightly darker appearance. Sebaceous filaments can be professionally extracted but they will come back. Resist the urge to pick or poke, and instead focus on cleansing, toning and exfoliating which will encourage proper pore drainage.
Sebaceous filaments can make pores more prone to clogging by trapping excess dirt and oils. If sebaceous filaments become blackheads, popular treatment options typically include ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
TDLR: Clearing out clogged or congested pores will allow openings to retract to their original size. How visible is that? Well, it depends. Some pores are larger than others. The combination of pores on your face is unique, just like the rest of you. Embrace what makes you unique and find a skincare routine that keeps you and your skin moving in a happy, healthy direction.