One of the most frequently occuring skin concerns my clients share with me is “pores.”
Having the privilege of being in the front lines of beauty consulting for 25 years, I have learned that majority of us have an unrealistic perception of what our pores SHOULD look like. This fixation was cleverly brought to us through strategic marketing campaigns created from surveys done to discover our concerns and fear. These clever (and incredibly exploitative) ads have caused some women to pick up magnifying mirrors and obsess over their pore size, hurt themselves with aggressive at home treatments and over purchasing products and tools that put us into further vulnerability. This fixation has brought many people to dermatologists’ offices creating the need for Doctor’s to assign a term to describe it – porexia
( NIKKI MOMENT : Before I get into the depths of it, I want to remind you that ALL your skin concerns are real and I both honor and respect your truth and perceptions. We have been conditioned to see normal things as problems, this is part of the ugly side of the beauty industry. I am writing this article to challenge you to take a moment of pause to ask where your concern and ideas came from, to consider a new way to see this incredible, minute surface openings for the epic work they do!)
Talking pores has interesting complexities and is a cesspool of incorrect information. So let’s dismantle the BS of how “horrible” your pores are.. because they are actually pretty rad. Here are a few things to help you believe it.
- There are two different glands in our skin that require a pore: Sweat and sebum (aka oil glad… except its not actually oil, its waxy and saying sebum makes me laugh). Hair follicles are roommates with sebum glands because they have a very cool relationship. The oil helps the hair to be lubricated as is grows and in return, a mature hair helps wick oil to the surface of the skin so it can create the beautiful protective coating. Sweat glands need a pore to release the sweat to support our thermoregulation. When the sebum combines with our sweat? TADAAAA the epic and perfect acid mantle is born! What is an acid mantle? I’m so glad you asked! The acid mantle is a very fine, slightly acidic film (for all your science nerds out there, pH 4.5 to 5.5) on the surface of our skin. It steps up big time and acts as a barrier to bacteria, viruses and other potential contaminants that might penetrate the skin.
- Pores aren’t like doors or windows; they don’t open and close. The size differences we occasionally observe are more of a dilation. There are both controllable and uncontrollable scenarios for this to occur. Menstrual cycle, UV exposure, aging and gender are a few examples of things that are simply happening as part of life that cause changes in how your pores appear. Using hot towels or steam loosens or softens the debris (sebum..wax not oil… it gets softer with warmth) in pores to help facialist remove it.
- Blackheads aren’t actually black. As much as I tell all of you to leave the removal of blackheads to professionals, I know you just CAN’T help yourselves from squeezing. From this experience, you probably noticed that the stuff you squeeze out isn’t black at all! So what the heck is that sticky stuff? Sebum and dead skin that has been exposed to the outside world. This oxidation causes the dark, plug-like effect that we have been brought to believe as a beauty crisis, when its actually a natural part of skin function. Did you notice how I only said sebum and dead skin? Not dirt and makeup? This is an interesting reality, I’m not saying there isn’t debris is the mix, but that’s not to blame for their presence or color.
- Daily skin routines affect how our pores do their job. My favorite beauty tip for my clients is to ditch the morning wash**. This has been my favorite bomb drop for years. This advice does come with a caveat; you need to commit to the night time cleanse! Over cleansing, especially when using a product which disrupts the pH (many cleansers are too alkaline) disrupts that beautiful acid mantle as well as breaking down the precious fatty sebum layer we talked about. This can really dry skin out, and sleeping with the days grime and makeup stuck on your face can add to the sticky sebum/ dead skin that’s taking up residence in your pores. Pssst. Never seen my interpretive dance on how to cleanse? Come down to the shop… you’ll never cleanse the same again.
There are things we can do to manage our pores when we have let things slide (Life happens!!) or are experiencing a shift because of age, hormones or season. Helping our pores stay clear of build-up and our skin hydrated does help them function better, decreases the amount of congestion-related breakouts as well as makes them less visible.
- Book a facial, please don’t buy a blackhead removing tool. So many of my clients have done more harm than help simply because they are too enthusiastic and forceful. Let’s remember, blackheads are a temporary, easy fix. Damaged pores and scars can be permanent.
- Consider using salicylic acid for maintenance if you have a more congestive skin. If you have larger, more deeply seated blackheads or more dilated pores, explore the benefits of retinoids*** or a natural mimickers like backichoil with your skin professional
- Have a consultation for a micro-needling PRP facials (platelet-rich plasma) AKA Vampire facial. PRP is a natural growth substance in our own blood that encourages new collagen in the skin and tightens the appearance of enlarged pores as well as improving skin density. Learn more from my experience with Dr. Alana Hendrickson.
- Keep it real! If your pores seem to be more visible, take a moment! What’s different with your environment or health? We can’t expect our pores to be the same during summer and winter… 20 years old vs 60 years old… pregnant, sickness, stress… (there are so many variables!) Your pores are probably doing what pores do.
So, now you know! Your pores are INCREDIBLE and they need your support to achieve their maximum performance. If they have become more noticeable or seem more congested , check in with your body and surroundings. Wash your face less, with kindness and gratitude and refer to the pore maintenance suggestions above. If your skin’s pores concern has progressed past health and maintenance into breakouts or acne, a deeper conversation is needed. Please book a complimentary 20-minute appointment here.
** If you are under a protocol from a doctor or are using topical prescription(s), please follow their instructions on routine
*** Retinoids require consultation for safe use. Please take time with a professional to determine if it’s a good option for you and your lifestyle.