Pores, oh pores! This is my biggest problem since I was in highschool. Way back when my hormones were waging its worst ( puberty, ) I would really envy my friends who would have poreless, flawless skin! I would really wonder why I didn’t have that such nice skin. Of course, as time passed by, I decided not to wallow, and do something about it. I researched about pores, and found really good pore-filling products for makeup, and for skin care solutions, I would go to my dermatologist for chemical peels to refine my pores and unclog them drom the oil/dirt buildup every month, to keep pores clean and smaller.
Now, I am currently roadtesting Clinique’s Pore Refining Solutions. The cynic in me is asking – do pore refining solutions really work? Is there really such skin care that can shrink pores? Thus, I have been roadtesting it for nearly two weeks, and would like to give it more time before I can give to you my findings about this skin care line of Clinique’s.
But first, let me share with you a Q & A with Clinique’s guiding dermatologist, Dr. David Orentreich about pores. This has really enlightened me and given me so much information about the nature of pores, as I hope that it would give you some clarifications with the questions in your mind, as well.
What are pores and why do we have them?
Our skin, which is our largest organ, contains three types of mini organs: hair follicles, oil glands, and sweat glands. The product of each – hair shaft, oil or sebum, and sweat – empties onto the skin surface. Sweat glands have microscopic pores, while the pores associated with the pilosebaceous unit are often more visible. These units are made up of a hair follicle (“pilo-“) and several oil glands (“-sebaceous”). Together, hair follicles, oil glands, and sweat glands comprise what are known as the adnexal structures of skin. Without the adnexal structure, skin would be a smooth, poreless, hairless, sweatless sheet of tissue that could not perform many of its life-sustaining functions.
Why do people have different pore sizes and what determines pore size?
Pore size is partly determined by inherited factors, such as the levels of androgen (male hormones) present in the body and oil gland sensitivity to androgens. In general, the more sensitive the oil glands are to androgens, or, the higher the androgen level, the more oil will be produced. Therefore, pores may be barely visible on people prone to drier skin, whereas people with oily skin tend to have larger, more noticeable pores.
Pore size varies between different individuals because of age, hormonal status, and genetic factors. In addition, lifestyle factors such as sun exposure, skin care, and one’s tendency to pick at the skin, play a greater role as we age.
Although two individuals may have the same blood level of androgens, the level of their oil gland sensitivity to androgens may be different. If this is the case, each individual will produce different amounts of oil and, therefore, have different pore sizes.
On average, an adult male produces about ten times more testosterone than an adult female but females are more sensitive to the hormone.
Can you shrink pores?
Generally, reducing the androgen levels, with medications such as contraceptives, will reduce pore size to a certain extent. Isotretinoin, more commonly known as Accutane, bypasses the male hormone effect and works directly on the oil gland decreasing its output of oil and therefore its size.
New technologies, such as laser and IPL, can also have a temporary, quieting effect on the oil gland by shocking it into a less active mode, which generally lasts about a month or two.
If a pore is stretched by the accumulation of oil, cleaning out the oil will allow the pore to shrink down to its baseline size. Pores may appear smaller if they are regularly “emptied” of trapped sebum through chemical exfoliation – not squeezing. The application of oil-absorbing skin care products will also help maintain clear pores.
Is it true that only people with oily skin can have large pores?
In general, the more oil produced by an oil gland, the larger the pore. Large pores can start appearing after puberty, which is when androgen production begins. Certain medications may also increase androgen activity. Some individuals who are less sensitive to androgens will have small pores regardless of androgen levels.
Pore size also varies according to location on the face. The largest pores are generally found on the nose and the cheek areas immediately adjacent to the nose.
Generally, people with large, active oil glands have oily skin and large pores, while people with oil glands that are less active frequently have drier skin and smaller pores. Nevertheless, there are exceptions to these rules and, on occasion, people with oily skin have small pores and people with dry skin have large pores.
Sophie’s Note : True! When I had a hormonal balance problem, I was asked by my doctor to take pills. My pores really shrunk and I wanted to let it stay that way forever! Unfortunately ( but fortunately! ) my pattern was corrected so I didn’t see the need to use it anymore. After around half a year, my pores went back to its normal, enlarged size – still oily like that. Chemical peels helped the pores look a bit smaller though, but nothing compared to that when I was taking pills for medication!
Why do pores seem to become larger as we age?
Children have tiny pores because their bodies produce very small amounts of androgens. In the teen years, male hormone production [from the testes in men and ovaries in women] turns on previously inactive oil glands; they enlarge and start producing oil. The pores enlarge as well. It is especially important to keep skin properly cleansed and exfoliated during this time, in order to avoid blackheads that can stretch pores and inflammatory acne that can lead to permanent scarring. In our twenties and thirties, our pores can start to stretch due to sun damage, constant picking and squeezing of the skin and untreated acne.
Chronic sun exposure damages and weakens the supporting structures surrounding pores and contributes to their enlarged look we age. Just as the skin on the face will loosen and sag with age, so can the pores. Unprotected sun exposure and chronic squeezing of blackheads hastens both.
As we age, skin elasticity also decreases, eventually leading to loose, sagging skin and fine wrinkling. Pores are affected by this loss of elasticity and may stretch and become wider.
Likewise, aging can be slowed by applying sun protection daily and practicing a daily regimen of cleansing, exfoliating, and properly moisturizing in order to keep pores clean; also, refraining from smoking and maintaining a healthy diet low in refined sugar.
Any tips for keeping pores looking smaller?
To help create the look of “poreless” skin, I recommend a twice-daily regimen of cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing, customized to your skin type, to keep pores clear. Using oil-free makeup can also help. Various topical preparations can also help pores look smaller. Acne, whether adolescent or adult, should be managed to avoid scarring and stretching of the pores. Consistent use of sunscreen will benefit the skin in many ways, including protecting pores from enlarging with age.
Why do pores get “dirty?”
Sebum (oil) produced in our sebaceous glands is almost colorless or very pale yellow. As the oil travels through the pilosebaceous canal to the surface, it picks up dead skin cells along the way. These dead skin cells contain the skin pigment melanin, which dissolves in the oil, thereby darkening it. In addition, when the oil reaches the surface it is exposed to oxygen in the air and the chemical process of oxidation takes place, further darkening oil in the pore. Of course, it is possible that the oil, being sticky, may pick up some atmospheric pollution.
Do large pores have anything to do with blackheads?
As a large pore is the opening of a large, very active oil gland, it follows that blackheads often form in large pores. Repetitive squeezing of these pores to expel blackheads can cause the pore to stretch, leading to a vicious cycle of larger blackheads and more squeezing.
Sophie’s Note : Ack, so it’s not healthy to extract blackheads!
Is there anything you can do long-term to prevent large pores?
Twice daily cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing is the best treatment for any skin type. Don’t self treat by constantly squeezing pores! Sun protection is a very important step in protecting all aspects of the skin’s appearance and health, including pores.
Over one’s lifetime reducing sun exposure, treating acne, a daily skin care regime, refraining from squeezing, and eating a diet that is low in refined sugar may also help to preserve general skin health.
Is there a difference between men and women’s pores?
Men’s pores are generally larger than women’s because men have more androgen in their bodies (testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, aka DHT). DHT is responsible for turning on oil glands. Of course, there are exceptions, and some men have smaller pores than women.
Sophie’s Note : But there are some men who have such flawless skin. Grrr. Unfair! haha!