Facts About Pores: Why Are We So Obsessed? (Updated Sept. 25, 2022)

I often avoid discussing pores on social media, as I don’t wish to perpetuate further obsession. After having a conversation with a friend, it dawned on me that facts about pores are not widely known, and the topic needs to be addressed in a public setting. Without further ado, here are some things I’ve learned about pores since becoming an Esthetician:

Pore Size and Functionality

Pore size is determined by genetics. You cannot change the size of your pores. Attempting to alter the size of your pores through aggressive at-home treatments and remedies can and will damage your skin.

Pores do not open and close. I repeat: PORES DO NOT OPEN AND CLOSE. Pores are always open. I cannot stress this enough. They have muscles around the base of the follicle – called arrector pili – but they perform in a way that causes a pulling effect. They do not have a shutting and opening mechanism.

On a similar note, steam and hot/warm water do not cause pores to open, but they can aid in softening the impaction inside the pore, providing a deeper cleanse. This also makes it easier to extract blackheads. Heat causes capillaries to expand. Cold water does not close pores. The arrector pili muscle reacts to cold temperatures, then contracts, resulting in a visibly raised appearance. Pores and follicles are one in the same. If the follicles contains hair, they will stand up straight. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “goosebumps.” (Please never use hot water. It can cause damage to your skin over time. Use lukewarm water instead.)

Enlarged Pores

There is a variety of reasons that pores may become enlarged. The most common culprit is longterm congestion. Pores can become permanently distended or dilated after being clogged over extended periods.

Pores can appear larger when your skin is oily. The cause of oil production has many factors. Some people truly have oily skin, while others experience excess oil caused by dehydration. Dehydrated skin that isn’t properly maintained is the most common type to experience blackheads.

Loss of elasticity can also contribute to pores appearing stretched or more prominent. As collagen levels deplete with age, skin loses its elasticity. UV damage, caused by the sun or tanning beds, contributes to collagen depletion. (This is just one reason that sunscreen usage is so important.) Peptides and retinoids are great for treating and preventing loss of elasticity.

Another thing to consider is hormones. As our hormones fluctuate, oil production can increase, thus making pores more noticeable. If you’ve ever noticed your pores looking huge during PMS, this could be why!

Shady Marketing Tactics

Brands that claim their products can shrink or minimize pores are using this as a marketing tactic. Please don’t buy into the hype. Some ingredients, such as niacinamide, can regulate oil production to a normal level, and therefore make your pores appear less noticeable (if you’re experiencing overproduction of oil), but they will never shrink.

The Moral of the Story

Pores are normal whether they’re visible or not. Pores are needed for your skin to function. Everyone has them, in all sizes. Pores are not an imperfection; they are a part of life and a part of you.

I hope this was helpful. I will do a separate post on pore maintenance in the future.

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