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What Are Pores and Why Are Mine So Noticeable?


Face of young woman, cropped
PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images

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

What are Pores:

Pores are tiny little openings (resembling little holes) in the 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 home to all of the follicles of hair that grow on your body.

Does Everyone Have Pores:

Yes! Every single person has pores all over their entire body, sans 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) and pores are home to those hair follicles. (Hair Removal - Threading FAQ's) (Oily Lids? Use a Primer)

Does Anything Good Come Out of Pores? (Cause I'd Rather They be Invisible!)

As noted above, the oil from the sebaceous glands travel up the pore to the skin's surface, causing your skin to be naturally moisturized. 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. 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 20's, 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 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 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 glands are more active than others and it seems the ones from the chest up fall into that category.

But also, those glands can be activated by everyday things. An example is brushing your hair: the more you brush, the more oil you see. Think about how often you are stimulating the oil glands on your face. Do you touch your face often during the day? How often are you bringing your cell phone up to your face? Picking at the clogged pores on your nose? Sleeping with your hands up to your face or chest? All of these things stimulate those sebaceous glands. (Top 10 Ways to Prevent Acne)

What Can I Do When My Pores Get Clogged?

When a pore gets clogged with sebum and dead skin cells, acne, cystic acne white heads and black heads 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. The salicylic acid will clear out the blockage, reduce the dead skin cells on your skin's surface and keep your pores clean and able to do their job without getting clogged. Toners are also good for those who have oily, clogged pores. (Back Acne Help)

Can I Shrink My Pores?

You can't shrink them. But the good news is that with a change of skin care habits and the right products, you can stop them from getting clogged and stretched out and you can make them less of an issue. Using the right cleanser, exfoliating the dead skin cells and using a primer can all help reduce the appearance of your large pores. (6 Tips to Shrink Pores - Or At Least Make it Look Like You Did)

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