What Are Pores and Why Are Mine So Noticeable?

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know

Looking at pores
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Pores — some people consider them a 5-letter word. They can cause you nothing but grief if they are large and noticeable. So why exactly do we have pores? Do they do any good? Why do they get clogged and cause breakouts all of the time? And is there anything I can do to make them look smaller? Think of this article as the cliff notes for Pores 101.

What are Pores

Pores are tiny little openings (resembling little holes) on the outermost layer of our skin where the body's natural oil (called sebum), produced in the sebaceous glands, is released to the surface of the skin.

Pores are also the opening at the top of our hair follicles. Each oil gland has a hair follicle in it, and the opening of that follicle and gland on the surface of our skin is the pore we see.

Does Everyone Have Pores

Yes! Every single person has pores all over their entire body, except on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Why? Because we all have hair all over our body, head to toe, except for these areas (and a few others like the eye lids). 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, causing your skin to be naturally moisturized, which is essential for healthy skin. It's a perfect system that works well... most of the time. Sometimes the sebaceous glands work over-time due to hormones, daily stress and other triggers, and too much oil is released on the surface of the skin.

We'll go into that further below. But 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.

Why Are My Pores So Big?

Your pore size is determined by genetics. If your parents had large pores in their teens and 20s, you're more likely to have large pores, too.

But just because you are genetically predisposed to large pores doesn't mean that you can't take steps to keep them clear and to avoid them getting clogged and stretched out.

If I Have Pores All Over My Body, Why Do I Only Notice the Ones On My Face?

The sebaceous glands (or oil glands) on your face, chest, back, and scalp are the ones that typically get a bad reputation. Oily hair, acne, blackheads, and oily skin is obviously something that you'd notice and be annoyed with. The reality is that some oil glands are more active than others, and the ones from the chest up fall into that category. The oil glands on your nose and forehead are also larger than on other parts of your body so obviously the larger they are the more noticeable they will be. This area of the face is also an area where pores get clogged with both dead skin cells and trapped oil which stretches them out and makes them even larger. As we age the collagen in our skin breaks down which makes our pores appear larger. Lastly, if you pick at your skin and squeeze your pimples you can, unfortunately, damage your pores and permanently widen them.

What Can I Do When My Pores Get Clogged?

When a pore gets clogged with sebum and dead skin cells whiteheads, blackheads, and acne can form.

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 will help unclog your pores. The salicylic acid will clear out the dead skin cell blockage, dissolve the build up of oil in the pores, and help keep your pores clean which means they may look smaller.

Check out a couple of our favorite salicylic acid cleansers on Amazon.com:

Clarifying toners are also a great option for those who have oily, clogged pores. We recommend using one that is made to treat acne as these will include salicylic acid.

Check out two of our favorite clarifying toners on Amazon.com:

Can I Shrink My Pores?

Unfortunately, you can't shrink your pores.

But the good news is that with the right skin care habits and products, you can stop your pores from getting clogged and stretched out making them less of an issue and hopefully less noticable. Using the right cleanser, exfoliating dead skin cells, and using a primer before your makeup can all help reduce the appearance of your large pores.

Updated by Hanah Tetro