What are pores? Here's everything you need to know

For many of us, the only time we think about pores is when we're wondering how to make them disappear.

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Software Team
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For many of us, the only time we think about pores is when we’re wondering how to make them disappear.

The truth is that pores can contribute to many of our skincare dilemmas.

They can look too large and create a bumpy ‘orange peel’ effect on the skin, they can secrete heaps of oil, and they can become visibly clogged, causing open comedones (otherwise known as blackheads and whiteheads).

There’s a lot of fascinating skincare science behind pores, and once you understand their role, everything else you know about your skin will fall into place. Let's dive into it.

What are pores?

“Pores are small depressions on the surface of the skin which are associated with the glands just below the skin surface,” says Dr. Matthew Vickers, a GP with an interest in skin health. “Each pore is generally associated with a neighbouring hair follicle."

There are 2 types of pores:

  • Oil pores, which are connected to oil glands and exist all over the skin except on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet
  • Sweat pores, which are tiny openings — so tiny you can't actually see them with the naked eye — that exist all over your skin and are connected to sweat glands.

Can I get rid of my pores?‍

We've all asked this question at one time or another when we’re feeling frustrated, annoyed, or down about our skin.

And the answer is that no, you can’t.

Any skincare product that promises to vanish pores is lying, because pores are here to stay. They play a vital role in the health and function of your skin — put simply, we need them!

But while we can’t get rid of them completely, we can prevent them from getting clogged and help them to function better, which will in turn improve their appearance (goodbye, ‘orange peel’ skin!).

What are clogged pores and what causes them?

When our pores are working as intended, they allow our face to cleanse itself by releasing the oil and sweat that our body produces onto the top of our skin.

But when they’re not working properly, they can secrete too much oil — or not enough — or become clogged, turning into comedones and acne lesions.

Certain skincare products, dirty makeup brushes and medications can also cause clogged pores, as can hormonal imbalances and stress. Also, if you have acne-prone or oily skin, you are more prone to blocked pores, since your skin naturally produces more oil.

How can I clear my pores?

Step away from the pore strips. Seriously: No. More. Pore strips. While they are extremely satisfying to use, they’re more of a quick-fix solution.

They might unclog pores now, but they don’t do anything to stop pores from getting clogged again in the future. They can also cause tiny traumas to our skin when we yoink them off, and the glue and other adhesives used to stick the strip to the skin can be irritating as well.

To clear pores in a safe and effective way, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are your best bets.

Both of these ingredients are anti-acne stalwarts. They can help reduce oil and dirt on the skin, as well as scrub away dead skin cells — all things that can contribute to blocked pores.

Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash does just that.

It gently exfoliates and sloughs away dead skin cells, unclogs pores and injects hydration to reveal balanced and brighter skin.

The dual action of beta-hydroxy acid and poly-hydroxy acid unclogs debris and trapped oils in the pores, clears away acne-causing bacteria and reduces the formation of blackheads and whiteheads.

And, you can use the wash across your face, chest and back (or any other areas that might be of concern) to help unclog pores and help keep them from getting clogged again.

AHA/BHA Pimple Patches are also great for treating blocked pores.

They're formulated with salicylic acid and glycolic acid, both of which work to eliminate pore-clogging dead skin cells and bacteria, while also stimulating collagen production. Plus, they also have gluconolactone, a poly-hydroxy acid that lifts the skin's surface layers to reveal clear, renewed skin.

Why do my pores look so big?

Everyone gets clogged pores and comedones, and once they’re healed many of us are left with large pores that don’t seem to want to go away.

“Enlarged pores occur due to a number of reasons, including blockage due to acne or comedogenic products such as makeup and some cosmetic treatments,” Dr Vickers told us.

“Age-related skin changes such as reduced elasticity or sun damage can also increase the appearance of the pores as the opening becomes larger.”

Essentially, as we get older our skin gets looser and saggier, and this laxity can reflect in our pores.

Dr Vickers suggests stopping these changes before they even occur by using sunscreen regularly, seeking out non-comedogenic skincare and cosmetics (meaning, products that don't contain ingredients that might clog pores), and treating acne as soon as it appears [1].

Can I shrink my pores?

Dr Vickers suggests 3 things to shrink pores: exfoliants, niacinamide, and retinoids [1].

Using a harsh exfoliant scrub on your skin can pull and scratch at your pores even more, but a good chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid or salicylic acid will help keep away dead, dry skin — giving our pores less to clog up with.‍

Niacinamide and vitamin A or retinoids, on the other hand, work well together in shrinking pores.

Both niacinamide and retinol have been shown to visibly minimise and tighten pores and when combined, they help prevent comedones as well.

Software's personalised skincare formulas combine retinoids and niacinamide to target pores by helping to reduce the production of sebum — the oil on your skin — as well as reduce keratinization — the production of excess skin cells — which can both lead to the formation of blackheads.

The use of retinoids also helps improve skin texture, so the look of your pores will be reduced with sustained use of your customised Software formula.

Simply complete our online consult and our local Software health practitioners will create a formula just for you.

This is compounded and delivered straight to your door and you can access ongoing follow-up support from your practitioner as you use your treatment. It's that simple!

Lastly, it’s really important to remember that when you see a celebrity or an Instagram model who has really enviable skin, the pore treatment they’re using hasn’t come out of a bottle — it’s photo retouching software.

Everyone has pores.

They are a natural part of our bodies and they play an important role in our skin’s health, so don’t let yourself be tricked into thinking that everyone else in the world has found the secret to vanishing pores and you’re missing out.

If you’re caught in a cycle of hating your skin or wishing it looked completely different, take a breath and try to step back.

Nobody looks at your own skin as closely as you do, and nobody judges your skin as harshly as you do either.

Give your skin a break and try to appreciate it for the amazing organ that it is — even when it doesn’t look completely perfect, it’s working super hard to keep you protected from the outside world.

For that, we reckon your skin deserves some applause.

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