July 5, 2016

Demystifying Large Pores in Adult Acne Skin

Demystifying large pores in adult acne skin
As an Adult Acne Specialist, I get asked all the time how to get rid of large pores - slash - make them smaller - slash - make them disappear, etc.

The answer is pretty disappointing (no, they cannot be shrunk), but also kind of fascinating.  

There is, however, a way to prevent them from looking bigger than they already are.

Large pores are a sign 
that your skin is genetically oily.

Right at puberty, as your testosterone rises to start your journey to adulthood, so does your skin’s oil production.  As described in a previous post, testosterone is responsible for oil production in your skin.  Now, since before puberty there is so much less oil being produced, your baby pores have no reason to be anything but invisible.  

However, as soon as the rising testosterone comes and tells your oil glands to start pumping out more oil, more room needs to be made.  So, the funnel-like mouth of each pore, also known as the Ostium (the very opening of the pore) and Infundibulum (the funnel that is the top part of the pore going down inside), expands to accommodate this new, larger oil flow as directed by an enzyme called “5-alpha reductase”.  This continues for a time after puberty, depending on how oily your DNA tells your skin to be.

Graphic of hair follicle showing the oil gland and how blackheads form

Here’s the kicker; the size that your pores end up at by this time is, sadly, permanent.

So, what, that’s it??

Let’s not give up that easily!  We can diminish the appearance of large pores by smoothing out the surface of the skin and unclogging stuffed up pores.

The Exfoliation Solution
Picture the top of a volcano jutting out from the surface of the earth.  Now, let’s pretend that instead of the opening of the volcano going downward into the earth with a large cavern of lava coming out through a smaller and smaller space like a pyramid, the lava comes out of the volcano through a space that’s the same size from top to bottom. 

How the appearance of large pores in adult acne are diminished by exfoliation

Now, the top of the volcano jutting out from the surface with its mouth gaping looks pretty enormous as compared to just the hole the lava comes out of without the top being there at all, right?  It’s the same with dead skin cell buildup around a pore.  Ok, well, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not like the hole itself is small.  We are talking about large pores after all.  But - not enormous.

So, what happens if we slice off the top of the volcano, the part that juts out from the surface?  Looks smaller doesn’t it?

Dead skin cell buildup on skin that surrounds each pore opening makes pores appear larger just like the top of that volcano.  We smooth out the surface of the skin by removing this dead skin cell buildup.  Now, you might think scrubs will do the trick nicely, and sometimes they do - for most of us, though, they don't really cut it at all.  We need to go deeper.

I find that the best method of dead skin cell removal is with acids and/or enzymes.  Even when the skin is not being horribly scratched by a scrub, manual exfoliation only removes a single layer of dead skin cells, and nothing is removed from inside the pore where exfoliation is needed the most for acne clearing.  Enzymes break apart the proteins that are what dead skin cells are made of, while Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) make them all fall off.   Enzymes have to be in the right pH environment (acidic) and in right amounts, while acids have to also be the right pH in the right percentages. 

Exfoliation and hydration minimize large pores

Irritation must be avoided in all of this, so it’s crucial that exfoliating products be formulated right and made well.  I have never seen a national brand AHA product whose ingredient list either didn’t make it obvious that prevention of irritation over time wasn’t a priority, or that real efficacy was.  Nor have I seen a national brand enzyme product or scrub that didn’t contain harsh detergents or pore cloggers.  Professional recommendation is really a better idea here, particularly since Adult Acne cases vary so much from person to person, unlike teen acne, which only has levels of severity and no mysteries.

So is that it? Do we make large pores look smaller just by smoothing out the skin?  Exfoliation is great, but dead skin cell buildup around pores is not the only thing that will make them look larger.  Pores can get engorged with blackhead material, too.

The De-Clogging Solution
If not for the fact that pores are flexible, the dead skin cell and oil mix that make up blackheads would just keep building up and blackheads would jut out like little Stonehenges all over your face.  Remember, there is no mechanism that allows pores to open or shut, whether with steam or with cold water, but they can get pulled tight by dehydration, and stretched out by being stuffed.

Exfoliation - Hydration - Oil Control; The Anti Large Pore Trifecta!

Enzymes and acids help exfoliate in a way scrubs never can, by dislodging dead cells from inside pores as well as outside, because your pores are lined with the same cells as the surface of your skin.  However, without oil for these dead skin cells to mix with, blackheads actually don’t form in the first place!  In addition, keeping the skin nice and hydrated (not just by drinking water!) is what keeps pores pliable enough to allow both oil and dead skin cells to flow more freely from inside pores out to be washed away morning and night. 

So what does a skincare routine for this look like?

Daily :

A cleanser that rinses well without stripping (which can be different for every person, so testing a cleanser out is actually really important);
Several sprays of a hydrating, soothing toner, leaving the skin wet while applying a treatment serum (professional recommendation);
An AHA gel or serum applied once or twice a day (professional recommendation) after serum and before AM or PM lotion;
Both AM and PM lotions must contain hydrating ingredients that attract and bind water to the skin.

Oily skin needs hydration to let pores flow

If a daily AHA is too much, a Salicylic Acid and Enzyme Mask is perfect for exfoliation, hydration and acne clearing all at the same time.  I do have clients who use their AHA gel daily who also benefit from this kind of mask once or twice a week.  The one I have happens to be an amazing overnight spot treatment for new blemishes, too. 

Another option is an innovative (if I may say so myself :)) and versatile scrub and clay powder mix that can be used as a scrub, or enzyme & clay mask, or both, depending on what you add to it at home.  It’s called Papaya-Pumice Clay-Scrub Kitand includes a little cup, scoop, spatula, fan mask brush and full instructions. The photo below shows my brand new packaging.

Daniela's Papaya-Pumice Clay-Scrub Kit

After exfoliation to clear away excess dead cells, depending on your oil level and/or severity of inflammation in your particular acne case, either a hydrating gel mask containing Salycilic Acid and other anti-inflammatories or a clay mask is an absolute must-have.  Every client who starts my Eval by Email® program to get their Adult Acne under control with just a basic daily routine does start to make great headway in getting clear, but don’t really start getting dramatic results without these masks!  Even a spot treatment product or OTC meds aren't as important as doing a weekly facial at home with these masks, in my opinion.

Exfoliating before mask makes it work better!
I hope I have de-mystified the large pore mystery and have armed you with enough info to tackle this problem.  

Just please remember, large pores are that way because of genetics and will always be that size. 

But, at the very least, you can prevent them from looking worse by following the above guidelines.  

Clearing Adult Acne takes diligence, patience, and above all, the right products!

If you have any questions at all, you may ask in the comment section below, or please feel free to contact me through my website!

Your acne problem has a source, and clearing your skin requires finding that source and either eliminating it or healing it.  You can start that right now by filling out my Eval by Email® Online Skincare Consultation Form created specially for ages Gen-X to Baby Boom!

Eval by Email, Virtual Skincare Coaching specially designed for acne sufferers ages 24 and up.

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