Let’s talk about pores.
If you’ve ever considered how much you want to minimize your pore size, we hope that after reading this article, we can help you feel better educated on this highly discussed topic. You may even appreciate your pores once you learn about what they do and how they are essential for your skin health.
We posed ourselves the question: what’s with the obsession over “minimizing pores?” From beauty blogs to dermatology forums, coping with enlarged, clogged, or damaged pores is a constant topic of conversation when discussing skin maintenance. There can also be a shameful association when it comes to having clogged or enlarged pores causing most people to seek aggressive treatments in order to minimize their appearance. Throughout this article, we are going to explore this subject in order to debunk common misconceptions about pore functions. We will also leave you with our go-to healthy pore maintenance tips.
What are pores?
To begin, what are pores? All living organisms have a form of pores that you are probably familiar with. Think of the tiny holes on rocks or even on plants - those porous openings are there to help with irrigation, oxygenation, and hydration. Just like other organisms, humans have pores all over their bodies for functions not too different than the rocks and plants.
Pores are a tiny opening on the surface of the skin and an important part of your skin structure. There are two different types of pores; the ones that excrete sweat from your sudoriferous glands and the ones that excrete oil from your sebaceous glands. Pores are also the opening for your hair to grow out from the tube-like follicles within the layers of the skin. So wherever you sweat, have oil, and have hair - you have pores.
Is there a normal pore size?
The activity and structure of your pores is mostly based on genetics but can change overtime due to environmental factors as well as the aging process. When you are born, your pores are naturally very small because your hair growth, sweat and oil activity is less than when you start to go through hormonal growths and changes. Let’s just say that by the time you start to need deodorant, that is usually when you can start to accurately observe your pores genetic sizing. Naturally larger pore openings are due to more oil and sweat activity as well as more hair. This factor can make pores more susceptible to clogging with comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) without a good skincare routine.
We have news for you though - there is no real sizing chart to look to when it comes to ideal pore size. Each person has a unique footprint in their pore structure and the long-term health of your skin is not dramatically affected by your pore size. There are, however, some damaging actions that can more permanently enlarge the pores or scar the pore structure.
Can you actually shrink your pores?
We want you to fully understand that despite misleading pore cleansing ad campaigns, pores are not an erasable part of your skin. They are not actually little muscles that contract open or close either. What they can do is stretch out overtime if your skin is left completely untreated and uncared for. The overstretching happens when the sebaceous activity is compacted in the pore without the ability to naturally release. Most of the time, this will cause what is called a comedo. Comedones (plural of comedo) are clogs to the sebaceous and/or hair follicle with excess bacteria and dead skin. If it’s open, it’ll oxidize and create what is commonly known as a blackhead. If it’s closed, it’ll stay flesh colored which is commonly known as a whitehead.
Open or closed comedones are incredibly common to skin health and can often be expected during times of transition for hormones, stress, and environment as the skin attempts to adapt accordingly. What can eventually become an issue is if the comedones are not addressed appropriately by stretching out the pore size to continue accommodating the clog - and potentially a future infection, AKA a pustule or cyst. PLEASE REMEMBER: that this is NOT an invitation to pick at all your comedones to keep your pores clear because self-extractions can actually break the pore structure and lead to scarring. It’s also a recipe for spreading bacteria which could lead to more and longer-lasting breakouts. Pores will also refill with that sebum or hair eventually so the key is proper skincare maintenance. While you likely cannot shrink your pores' physical size, you can minimize their appearance by keeping them well maintained.
A guide to help support & minimize enlarged pores
Speaking of extractions, they are a common treatment to help with pore congestion; however, they should only be performed by a licensed skin health professional who specializes in proper pore maintenance. Also, if you are a person who struggles with picking the skin, we highly recommend this ebook on how to quit picking!
If extractions are not your cup of tea, there are several other procedures and practices that can support the healing of damaged pores. This is usually done by promoting collagen production through intentional micro-wounding of the skin such as microneedling and certain facial lasers. The theory on this is that by triggering a wound response, more collagen can be produced to help minimize the appearance of enlarged or scarred pores. These procedures are often painful with a required week or more of strict recovery time.
Other treatments that are less invasive and more relaxing include facial manual lymphatic drainage or facial gua sha. Congestion can often be a result of a sluggish lymphatic system due to stress or other environmental factors. Meticulously and gently manipulating the lymph to move freely can support the natural elimination of waste in the skin causing less congestion overtime. Just make sure to drink plenty of water and follow your professional’s post-care instructions for best results.
All of these procedures typically have contraindications and require several sessions so make sure to connect with a professional before diving in. We have a list of estheticians who are licensed and offer a variety of options to support pore health that you can check out here.
Apoterra’s at-home pore care guide
Regardless of the procedures available by skin health professionals, there are a lot of ways you can support your pores at home. At-home maintenance will also serve as insurance to any of the procedures you may want to invest in with a professional. Here are some skincare habits you can easily implement to help support the appearance of damaged and enlarged pores:
- Maintain a consistent skincare routine with gentle cleansing and daily hydration. Any of the Apoterra 3-step starter kits will help you build the basics of your routine to help balance skin’s pore health. Cleansing will help gently remove any build up on the surface of the skin while hydrating will maintain your natural oil production so you can avoid clogging.
- Steaming the skin helps soften the pores to help the clogged oils naturally release. The Herbal Detoxifying Steam is a fantastic pore maintenance tool by using the power of plants to calm and soothe the skin through steam. If you’re tempted to pick your skin, try a soothing steam instead as it is less aggressive to the skin and much more impactful to unclogging your pores.
- Daily movement and internal hydration also help support your pore health. Allowing the body to release sweat while exercising can be a naturally supportive way to keep your pores healthy and happy. Along with a good sweat session, making sure to stay internally and externally hydrated can help your sebaceous glands from overproducing due to dehydration. For the face, we recommend the Rose Nourishing Serum and for the body, we recommend the Apoterra Rose + Violet leaf body butter for dry skin types. For more congestion prone skin types, we recommend the Herbal Balancing Serum for the face and the Tulsi + Lavender body oil for the body. Of course weekly exfoliation with oil drawing ingredients like the Apoterra Purifying mask and the Apoterra Hibiscus Exfoliating Mud can help break down the compacted clogs over time BUT we recommend that you do not rely on this practice as your sole pore cleansing solution.
- Always wash your hands before touching your face to avoid bacteria build up on the skin. Clogged and enlarged pores can happen overtime with acts as simple as mindless touching of the face. Our hands carry a lot of bacteria which can eventually infect the open pores on the skin and cause a mild infection like a pustule or cyst.
- Practicing self-acceptance is one of the most valuable practices to support your skin health in general but also to help normalize the very human-ness of having all different sizes of pores. Your skin is so resilient and your pores are actively working hard for you throughout your life. Having a practice of true self-acceptance can make a difference in how you choose to treat yourself as a whole.
Enlarged, scared, or even tiny - your pores are powerful and don’t need to be altered due to societal fears that they aren’t perfect. Like we mentioned earlier, there is no perfect pore size as we all have a unique imprint of what makes us and our skin our own. Pores are going to get clogged as a natural response to being human, especially with wearing a mask or even mindlessly touching the face. We hope that this article helps answer some of your pore related questions and equips you with newfound knowledge on how to properly and lovingly care for your skin!