Remember the episode of Sex and the City in which the women reveal their Secret Single Behavior? Personally, I’m more of a Charlotte, in this sense—at night, I like to study my pores up close and personal in a magnifying mirror. It’s kind of brutal, I’ll admit—but as a skin-care devotee, I can’t help myself.
One thing that I can’t help but wonder (sorry) is why some pores appear larger while others are barely visible. A quick Google of pores will pull up millions of queries about just why they’re so big and remedies to help rectify the situation. Of course, dermatologists have been studying pores for decades, so there are tons of studies on the stuff. And I just so happened to stumble upon the motherload: a summary of over 70 pore studies from the blog, Science Becomes Her, that look at how to reduce pore size.
Even better, one Redditor summed up that summary, which resulted in a very condensed, easy-to-understand dissertation on dealing with your pores. The major takeaway? Your sebum is a major culprit in bigger-than-usual pores. “There are a number of causes of large pores, but the main causes appear to be increased sebum production and reduced skin elasticity,” the Redditor writes. This is a factor of your genetics. “I find the biggest reason for [larger pores] is simple heredity,” explains Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, a Miami-based dermatologist. “Most patients with big pores seem to have it in their family. The other reason may be that pores are clogged, which stretches out the opening of of the pore at the surface.”
One thing I’ve (and you too, probably) noticed is that pores look larger in the nose area. There’s a reason for that: “Pores are generally bigger on the nose and central cheek area as these are areas of the face that usually produce the most oil,” says the Redditor, who adds that it also gets more sun damage since it protrudes from the face. Dr. Ciraldo confirms this, nothing that “the pores are truly tubular structures that run from our oil glands to our skin surface. Since the sebaceous glands on the nose are the largest on the face, the pores are also the largest.” A-ha.
If you feel like your pores have grown over the years, you’re not imagining it. The report summary says this is because caused by cumulative sun damage and the loss of elasticity in your skin. “In theory, if you protected your skin from UV radiation by wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen everyday, your pores may get smaller with age as sebum production decreases the older you get,” says the Reddit user. Still, though, the natural aging process will take place, and collagen and elastin levels will get lower and as a result, pores can increase in size. It’s the cycle of life, I suppose.
The good news? You can help your pores appear smaller. First of all, wear sunscreen every single day (something every single skin pro will tell you). “The most important step is to prevent pores from getting larger by protecting your skin from UV radiation,” says the Redditor. Also topically, attack your pores by slathering on retinoids, vitamin C, hydroxy acids, niacinamide, jasmonic acid, green tea, and clay. “Use a chemical exfoliating agent, especially glycolic or salicylic acid,” says Dr. Ciraldo. “Both of these work by ‘ungluing’ the dead cells from each other in our pores so that the dead cells get shed and the pores, being less full, appear to be smaller in size.” She also confirms that retinoids are great at helping the situation get smaller. And there you have it.
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