Why Your Pores Are So Noticeable

Looking at pores
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Pores: Some people consider them a five-letter word. If yours are large and noticeable, they're no doubt causing you grief. Let's take a look at their function, their propensity to clog, their role in breakouts—and what you can do, if anything, to minimize their appearance.

Your Poor Pores

Those much-maligned pores do serve an important purpose. It all starts with your skin's sebaceous glands. They produce sebum, the body's natural oil; it's essential to keep your skin—your body's largest organ—elastic, moisturized, and functioning well as the protector and insulator of your body.

The oil is dispersed over the surface of your skin through tiny openings (resembling little holes) in its outermost layer; these are your pores. Each sebaceous gland also contains a hair follicle, and the pore is the opening at the top of it.

Everybody Has Pores

Every human, without exception, has pores all over the entire body, except on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. That's because we have hair all over our bodies, head to toe, except for these areas (and a few others, such as the eyelids). Pores are home to those hair follicles. 

Does Anything Good Come Out of Pores? 

As noted above, the oil from the sebaceous glands travels up the pore to the skin's surface, naturally moisturizing it. That moisture is essential to healthy skin. It's a perfect system that works well most of the time. Without pores and the ability for the sebum to travel up the hair follicle to the skin's surface, your skin would be horribly dry, cracked, and unhealthy.

Sometimes, though, the sebaceous glands work overtime because of hormones, stress, and other triggers, and too much oil is released on the surface of the skin.

Why Are My Pores So Big?

Genetics determine your pore size, for the most part. If your parents had large pores in their teens and 20s, you're more likely to have large pores, too.

Even if you are genetically predisposed to large pores, however, you can still take steps to keep them clear and to prevent them from clogging and getting stretched out. Put another way, you can't eliminate your pores (and wouldn't want to, really), but you can minimize their appearance.

Why Your Facial Pores Are Most Noticeable

The sebaceous (oil) glands on your face, chest, back, and scalp are the ones that typically get a bad reputation. (After all, oily hair, acne, blackheads, and greasy skin are annoying.) That the area most visible to the world tends to have the most noticeable pores seems unfair, but the reasons are all too logical:

  • Some oil glands are more active than others, and those from the chest up fall into that category.
  • The oil glands on your nose and forehead are larger than on other parts of your body, making them more visible.
  • Pores tend to get clogged on your face more often than on other parts of your body, too. Dead skin cells, trapped oil, dirt, leftover makeup, and inappropriate skin care products stretch them out and make them even larger. 
  • As we age, the collagen in skin breaks down, further spotlighting the appearance of large pores. 
  • If you have pimples, you probably have somewhat or very oily skin. If you pick at and squeeze them, you stimulate your oil glands further and cause inflammation. Moreover, doing so can damage your pores and permanently widen them. It's an unfortunate cycle.

    How to Keep Pores Unclogged

    One secret to keeping pores as small as possible is making sure they're not harboring anything they shouldn't. When a pore gets clogged with sebum and dead skin cells, the result is often whiteheads, blackheads, and acne.

    If you find yourself dealing with acne on a regular basis or you have oily skin most days, using a facial cleanser with salicylic acid can help unclog those pores and go a long way toward minimizing the breakouts. The salicylic acid helps clear out the dead skin cell blockages, dissolve the buildup of oil in the pores, and help keep them free and clear—in turn, helping them appear smaller. Try CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser and  Murad Acne Clarifying Cleanser, both of which consistently garner good reviews and physician recommendations.

    Clarifying toners are also a great option for those who have oily, clogged pores.

    Here, too, salicylic acid is your friend. Look for toners that address acne; they usually contain this ingredient.  Try La-Roche Posay Effaclar Clarifying Toner and Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solution Clarifying Toner.

    Can You Actually Shrink Your Pores?

    Unfortunately, no: You can't make your pores physically smaller, especially if they've been stretched out. The good news, however, is that proper skincare habits and products can make them seem smaller. The key is to stop them from clogging and stretching out further. Using the right cleanser, exfoliating dead skin cells, and applying a primer under your makeup all can help reduce the appearance of your large pores.