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Large Pores, Can You Shrink Them?

This is a common question I get from clients, along with, "How do I close my pores or how do I unclog them?". To understand the answers to these question you must first understand what a pore is.

The term pore is used to describe the small openings in the skin in which oil and sweat travel through to reach the skin's surface. There are sweat "glands" and there are oil "glands", both are often referred to as pores. Sweat glands are the true pore but they are really tiny and not what you are typically noticing when you see pores on your skin. Sweat glands are also known as sudoriferous glands, there are two types:

  • Eccrine sweat glands are distributed over most of your body. You’ll find them in varying concentrations, with the highest density on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. This type of sweat is a water-based secretion that is mainly for cooling down the body.

  • Apocrine glands are attached to hair follicles, which carry sweat to the surface of the skin. Apocrine glands develop in areas abundant with hair follicles, such as on your scalp, armpits and groin. This is the more odiferous version of sweat.

What you think of as pores are the little openings in the skin where sebaceous glands create oil that then travels up the hair to the opening in the skin. This structure consists of a hair, the hair follicle, a little muscle called the arrector pili muscle (think goose bumps) and the sebaceous (oil) glands. The opening of this pilosebaceous apparatus is what we think of as the pore.

Your pore size is usually determined by heredity and the amount of oil you produce. If you have oily skin you'll have larger pores. If you have dry skin your pores may be very small, even invisible to the naked eye. Also, there are individual areas where your skin produces more oil (like on your nose) so you'll find larger pores in that area. This is a good thing because if your pore openings are not large enough to handle the output of oil you produce you'll get clogged pores like milia and blackheads and increase the likelihood of breakouts. Still, clients ask every day how they can close their pores. This is not a good idea because a closed pore is a clogged pore. Yet many clients wish they had smaller pores. There are ways to make your pores appear smaller if they have been stretched open so listen up.

You can't make your pores smaller than what you've inherited, but if your pores are stretched out beyond this point you may be able to minimize your pore size, therefore enjoying that nice beautiful smooth texture that comes along with having smaller pores. That being said there are certain habits that stretch out the size of your pores. Paying attention to to these habits can keep those stretched, larger pores at bay. Here are ten tips to minimize your pore size.

  1. Don't use too rich a moisturizer. Heavy moisturizers are for drier skins. They moisturize by not only increasing water content of your skin but by creating a film that acts as a barrier to seal in moisture. If you have oily skin you probably produce this barrier on its own. Adding too heavy a moisturizer traps oil and dead cells in the pores eventually stretching them out.

  2. Don't over dry your skin with harsh cleansers or astringents. Sebaceous glands have sensors that detect the amount of oil it should be producing. If you over dry you skin your oil glands will become activated to produce more oil to compensate. More oil gets trapped in by the hardened layer of surface cells. Therefore stretching out pore size.

  3. Not exfoliating. The opening of the oil gland is shaped like a "V". Exfoliating not only smoothes your skin's surface it removes the widest part of the "V" which leaves the noticeable part of the pore smaller and well... less noticeable.

  4. Dairy products. Some of what regulates oil production is hormones. Cows that have been fed hormones to increase milk production can also stimulate sebum production when you drink milk. Increased oil means increased sebaceous glands and the pore openings becomes larger.

  5. Inappropriate extractions. Everybody has done it. Removed an aggravating blemish because you cannot stand it any more. If you're not careful, and remove the blemish when it's not ready, or too deep in the pore, then you end up with an acne scar. This exaggerated opening may even involve other surrounding pores creating pitting on the skin.

  6. Not cleansing your skin properly. Skip your cleansing routine at night and dirt and oil will collect in your pores, trapping in oil that will stretch out your pores. Choose the right cleanser for your skin and follow with an appropriate toner. Astringents (containing alcohol) may be too drying but a hydrating toner (containing humectants) keeps surface cells moist and pliable allowing oil to escape to the surface.

  7. Not removing your makeup at night. Even if you are cleansing and toning at night you may not be removing all traces of makeup. Today's makeup formulations aren't as easy to remove as makeup formulations of the past. You may have noticed that even after cleansing and toning you still have makeup residue on your towel when you pat your face dry. This is where a double cleanse comes in. Start by using a makeup remover. This will help to break down heavy makeup. When you move on to the next step which is your cleansing milk (cleansing milks dissolve makeup better than gels) remove that cleanser with a warm face cloth. Then tone. Remember, makeup is an occlusive covering that traps in oil, sweat and bacteria. Makeup residue can creating milia (little white clogs) that can even happen on areas where the pores are smaller.

  8. Sunscreen. Sunscreen is a necessary evil. You must wear sunscreen everyday to prevent sun damage and premature aging. But, sunscreen left on the skin overnight will certainly clog your pores. Make sure there are no traces of sunscreen left on your skin when you're finished cleansing. Your moisturizer that contains sunscreen is only meant for daytime wear. If you are not a makeup wearer and have oily skin you can breakdown sunscreen better by first using your milky cleanser then following it up with a detergent free cleansing gel. Avoid gel cleansers that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. This is a detergent that will over dry your skin and clog your pores. The more a gel cleanser sudses up, the more detergent it contains, so avoid high sudsing cleansing gels.

  9. Avoid sun exposure. While we are on the subject of sun, you should know that sun damage destroys precious collagen fibers that support your skin. When collagen fibers break down you lose the support that keeps your pores tight. Relaxed pores from sun damage will enlarge the pore size, even for dry skin clients.

  10. Aging skin. Aside from the sun your skin will age as time marches on. This happens from oxidative stress that derives from poor food choices, lack of sleep, poor circulation and emotional stress. These factors add up to a breakdown of the collagen network that keeps pores smaller and tighter.

What can you do?

Here are some ingredients to incorporate into your skincare regime. They are your best choices for keeping pore size down to their inherited, intended size.

AHAs & BHAs are exfoliating acids that dissolve the surface layers of the skin at the pores widest point, so pores will appear smaller. Glycolic Acid has the smallest molecular structure, so it will go the deepest into your pores to clear skin cells and oil trapped in your pores. Salicylic Acid is antibacterial so, if you also suffer from breakouts it's excellent. Salicylic Acid is also oil soluble, so if you have oily skin it may be the most helpful for mixing with oil to soften it for easier pore clearing. Lactic Acid is a wonderful AHA for dry skin. It also has brightening and hydrating capabilities. Some exfoliating serums contain a cocktail of these exfoliating acids with multiple benefits and increased anti-aging effects for fine lines and wrinkles.

Retinol is not as exfoliating as AHAs but retinol is great at reorganizing skin cell layers. This creates skin structures that function better, are more intact and exfoliation happens more efficiently. You don't have to choose between AHAs and retinol. Try them on alternate nights for best results.

Niacinamide is a B vitamin with multiple skin benefits. It energizes the skin, meaning it steps up metabolism to increase repair factors. Niacinamide dramatically reduces the look of stretched pores. It helps reduce hard, clogged bumps as well as that orange-peel texture. It also helps regulate oil production. An added benefit is it visibly improves blotchy tone & fades post-blemish marks.

Activated charcoal will suck all impurities out of your pores, leaving you with super-clean, super smooth skin. Charcoal balances oily skin and decongests pores. Charcoal attracts oil and skin impurities like a magnet so they can be rinsed away, leaving pores less congested and pores visibly minimized. I prefer a charcoal mask over other charcoal products because as the mask dries it contracts slightly creating a vacuum, drawing impurities out of the skin.

Regular use of a Vitamin C serum softens sebum trapped in pores so that oil can evacuate more easily. This works particularly well for minimizing blackheads. Blackheads are pores filled with oil that have been exposed to air. It is the air that turns this oil black, not dirt as many presume. The antioxidants in Vitamin C help reduce oxidation that causes the oil to change to a black color.

Azelaic Acid is another type of exfoliating acid that helps control sebum production as it loosens oil to minimize pores. A great deal of research has shown that azelaic acid can significantly diminish the appearance of skin blemishes, help fade post-acne marks and other discolorations, refine skin’s surface, and reveal a more even skin tone. It can even reduce skin sensitivity and is compatible with almost any skin type.

Hyaluronic Acid. This is not an exfoliating acid but an oil free hydrator, perfect for softening and hydrating oily skin. With deep hydration oil becomes more easily removed from the pores, reducing stretched out, clogged pores.

It goes without saying that when choosing skincare products, It is vitally important to "read the ingredients".

Elizabeth believes in "Longevity Skincare", the idea that beautiful skin can endure throughout one's lifetime when utilizing the best that science and nature has to offer. LONGEVITY is a science-based skincare line that appreciates skin of all ages. LONGEVITY by Elizabeth Renee provides hydration, nutrition and protection from environmental aging. Your skin will receive high performance ingredients to help energize and repair its cells, resulting in a healthy skin with an enduring, vital glow.


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