By Amber Woods
I have had countless clients come to me saying their biggest skin problem is their clogged pores, especially on their nose, and ask me to focus their treatment on extractions. And as I take a look at their skin, I may see congestion or blackheads, but oftentimes I just see regular pores with some natural oil production. Because of this, I want to share more about what pores really are and how they function, so that you can feel empowered and educated when you look at your own skin.
What is a pore?
Pores are small openings in the skin that allow sweat and oil (two substances the body naturally processes in glands below the skin for healthy body functioning) to reach the surface and be expelled. The pores we commonly refer to as “clogged” are actually hair follicles. Each little opening that produces oil can also produce a hair. These are the pores that are more visible and can become enlarged when clogged.
What comes out of pores?
Our bodies produce an oily substance known as sebum that helps to lubricate and protect our skin. This sebum flows out of our oil glands and through our hair follicles onto our skin. It is a completely natural and necessary process, and the strings of oily substance that comes out of your pores when you squeeze them are known as sebaceous filaments. For the most part, many clients who complain of too many blackheads on their nose are actually just talking about these sebaceous filaments, which have more of a yellow or tan appearance, and are barely noticeable from another’s perspective. These can be extracted, but they will always come back within about 30 days, as your body needs them to function. Blackheads form when a sebaceous filament is exposed to oxygen and turns black. They are often enlarged and come out as more of a plug. If your filaments are forming into blackheads, you may need extra hydration and some gentle exfoliation with enzymes or Beta Hydroxy Acids and lymphatic drainage massage (and possibly extractions) from your facialist. Ditch drying products that will keep things stuck in your pores, and consider trying oil cleansing.
Can I shrink my pores?
People also often confuse large pores with congested pores. Pore size is mostly genetic. You are born with the size of pores that you have, and you cannot change that. If you do have larger pores, they may look clogged to you, but often not much will extract from them. You are likely the only person to really notice them, so I urge you to take good care of your skin, and not put too much focus onto your pore size. Please avoid magnifying mirrors, because absolutely no one who cares will be looking that closely at your skin.
Though our pore size is genetic, our pores can begin to stretch out or sag with age as we lose the natural collagen and elastin that keep them taut. This is a natural part of aging, but can happen prematurely with smoking and excessive alcohol, sugar, and processed foods. Avoiding these things and nourishing your skin and body with healthy foods and products is your best defense against premature collagen loss.
If pores are continually clogged by too much oil production or clogging products or makeup, they can also distend or stretch out prematurely. An overproduction of oil usually relates to hormonal changes during puberty, but can also be from other imbalances or deficiencies in your body, and I’d recommend consulting your holistic esthetician for advice on that. Clogging products and makeup are known as comedogenic, and a list of comedogenic ingredients can be found here. Check your skin, hair, makeup, and oral care products for comedogenic ingredients if you are experiencing ongoing congestion.
1. Pore size is genetic and cannot be altered.
2. Sebaceous filaments are natural and necessary.
3. Pores can distend with age, lifestyle choices, and from clogging topical ingredients.
4. Enzymes, BHAs, hydration, lymphatic drainage, and possibly some targeted extractions can help pores that are becoming clogged.
5. Most people just have pores (whatever size they were born with and appropriate to their age and lifestyle) and sebaceous filaments, and should continue with nourishing products and foods, lots of hydration, and gentle exfoliation a couple times a week to keep things fresh.
I hope this helps to demystify pores for you, and by understanding their function, that you will be able to look at your own skin in a new and loving way.
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Our favorite exfoliating products at Pink Light: Crystal Rose Elixir, Midnight Dew, Rose Petal Enzyme Mask, Coconut Pearl Powder