The Myths About Pores

The Myths About Pores

According to a study conducted among over 2,000 adults in February 2014 by Harris Poll on behalf of L'Oreal Paris, nearly half of women (45 percent) wish they could change the size of their pores, and almost one in three women (28 percent) are more concerned about their pore size than wrinkles. This obsession has even led dermatologists to coin the term "porexia" for those who have a neurosis about their pores.

There's a multi-billion dollar industry built around the manufacturing of acne treatment products, both over the counter (OTC) and prescription. There are countless myths circulating out there about skincare and our pores, specifically. How do you sift through all the information to get to the truth?

What are Pores Supposed to Be Doing?

Pores really do serve an important purpose for our skin. Each pore houses a hair follicle and a sebaceous gland. Pores really do serve an important purpose for our skin. Each pore houses a hair follicle and a sebaceous gland. This gland secretes sebum, a natural oil, which travels through the pore to the surface, lubricating and waterproofing the skin. "A pore is just a route or a channel for these things to reach the skin's surface," says Dr. Kucy Pon, a Toronto-based dermatologist and special consultant to Olay.

Myth 1: Pores Open and Close

Technically, no. But they can change in size. "They dilate like a camera lens and can go from narrow to wide, or wide to narrow," explains Tennessee dermatologist, Christopher W. Robb, MD.

According to a study published in Dermatologic Survey, there are only three major clinical causes of enlarged facial pores, namely high sebum excretion, decreased elasticity around pores (as will happen with aging and sun damage), and increased hair follicle volume. In addition, chronic recurrent acne, sex hormones, and a person's skin care regimen can affect pore size.

Myth: Your Hormones Affect Your Pore Size

This is not a myth. Pore size can be affected by things like your hormone levels and menstrual cycle. "Pores are dynamic," says Dr. Robb. "They constantly shift, so when hormones spike during ovulation, your pores can get very large and then they will shrink again as hormone levels decrease." Sebum production was found to increase the week before the menstrual cycle, leading to the appearance of larger pores.

Myth: The Foods You Eat Affect Your Pores

This is true in some cases. Evidence suggests that components of Western diets, particularly dairy products, may be associated with acne. The hormonal effects of dietary components, such as glycemic index levels or fat and fiber intake, may mediate the effect of diet on acne risk.

The good news is that you can probably binge on chocolate guilt-free since there haven't been sufficient studies linking chocolate to skin breakouts.

Myth: Blackheads = Dirty Pores

Blackheads are actually just pores clogged with oil and dead skin cells. The black color you are seeing is usually just oxidized sebum (chemically broken down when exposed to air). You can prevent new blackheads from forming with a regular exfoliating regimen. An exfoliating cleanser will remove excess sebum, and ingredients like salicylic acid will help to remove dead skin cells.

Myth: The Sun Will Shrink Your Pores

Sadly, sun worshipers, this is not true. In reality, sunlight will cause your pores to look larger. Ultraviolet (UV) rays weaken collagen (which supports pores to keep them tight). Sadly, sun worshipers, this is not true. In reality, sunlight will cause your pores to look larger. Ultraviolet (UV) rays weaken collagen (which supports pores to keep them tight). According to New York dermatologist Doris Day, MD, "Sun exposure dries the water out of your skin, and that can make your oil glands work overtime to produce sebum to help hold water in your skin."

Myth: Your Skincare Regimen Should Rotate

Not necessarily. If what you've been doing is working for you, stick with it. You may need to switch products depending on whether they're still working for you.  "As you age, you usually need richer products as your skin produces less oil and becomes drier. You might also need to switch depending on seasons (winter, summer) and activity (skiing, beach)," suggests Dr. Lamees Hamdan, founder of Shiffa skincare.

Myth: The Older You Get, The Bigger Your Pores

Sadly, this is not a myth. With age, your body's production of elastin and collagen (which work together to support the skin) decreases, so your skin gets looser and saggier, making the pores appear larger. In-office treatments like Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) can help, but so will proper daily care. Try Calysta Lab's Illuminating Anti-Aging Serum for a boost of retinol.

Myth : You Can Change the Size of Your Pores Permanently

Cold water won’t really shrink your pores, but hot water will help to soften your skin and improve blood flow, allowing for easier exfoliation and permeability of ingredients. Nope! Sadly, this just isn't true. While there's absolutely nothing you can do to shrink your pores permanently, you can take steps to make them appear smaller.

"Sebum, oxidation, and blackheads make pores more noticeable, but skincare with gentle exfoliation to get rid of debris, and skin tightening with lasers or other energy-based devices, can tighten the pores," says Terrence Keaney, MD, Assistant clinical faculty at George Washington Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Cold water won't really shrink your pores, but hot water will help to soften your skin and improve blood flow, allowing for easier exfoliation and permeability of ingredients.

Retinoids encourage skin cell turnover to prevent the buildup of dead skin cells in pores. Products with salicylic acid or glycolic acid exfoliate the skin to minimize visible gunk in pores. Laser skin resurfacing, microneedling, and other treatments can help boost collagen levels. "When we increase collagen production, skin becomes denser and pores get squished in, so they appear smaller," Dr. Keaney says. Plastic surgeon Gerald Imber, MD, believes that one of the most effective pore minimizers is microneedling with PRP (platelet rich plasma). "PRP is a natural growth substance in our own blood that encourages new collagen in the skin and tightens the appearance of enlarged pores and acne marks," he says.