Unlike chill-bumps or goose-bumps (depending where you are from) there are tiny muscles (Musculus arrector pili) which raise small hairs on your skin when chilled, but there are NO muscles in a follicle (pore).
Pores, unfortunately, aren’t like doors. They don’t open and close.
Pore size is largely determined by genetics. Just like some people have blue eyes and others have brown, some people have small pores while others' pores are large. However, keep reading and you'll discover other reasons why they can become dilated, flaccid, and permanently stretched out.
Pores play an important role in the health of your skin. They allow sebum, which is the oil that keeps your skin lubricated, to travel from the sebaceous glands to to the surface of your skin. One of the main purposes of the fine facial hair on your face (usually very fine, and generally invisible - even on the nose!), is to direct sebum up and out of the follicle onto the skin. Sometimes, these fine hairs especially on and around the nose look like blackheads, when they're really not. Your professional skincare provider can show you the difference under microscopy.
If you have oily skin, you're much more likely to notice your pores may become dilated from years of sebum production, and your skin may clog & congest easier since the oil abundantly flows. You may be subject to growing sebaceous hyperplasias (over-grown oil glands) which look like peach/pink donut shaped enlarged pores. These are easy to treat professionally, although you may continue to produce new ones as you age. They are very common in clients with- or who have had oily skin.
Doesn't Cold Water Shrink Pores and Hot Water Open Them?
But what about the “hot water to open the pores, cold water to close them” advice? Sorry, that’s actually a myth. All the water in the world isn’t going to make small pores large, or large pores small.
Water temperature effects are just temporary though. After a few minutes, the skin returns to normal temperature and so does your pore size.
Yeah, But Toner Makes My Pores Shrink and My Skin Tightens...
Temporarily. Bare with me as I get technical for a minute; astringents work on the protein keratin found in the skin. The salt bonds in keratin are affected by temperature and pH these bonds form when the skin is slightly more acidic or cool.
If the bonds break, the keratin molecules separate, causing the outer layer of skin to swell. When the skin cools these salt bonds reform, and it is this process that produces the temporary toning effect associated with astringents.
Can you permanently reduce pore size?
No! Apologies for being blunt here, but contrary to popular belief, this action is short lived.
You can’t permanently reduce enlarged pores, which are over stretched, no matter what clever marketing campaigns try to tell you. We're talking science here...
Which brings me to this:
Sometimes I Steam Your Skin During a Facial...
While hot towels, warm water, steaming won’t "open" your pores, it can soften the plugs of oil trapped within. Most always I will pre-cleanse your face with OIL!!! Why oil? Because: "Like Dissolves Like". A good pre-cleanse with the PROPER oil(s) helps to soften the waxy plugs in your follicles by breaking down the solidified sebum. It warms up the skin, increases oxygenation & waste-removal, relaxes your muscles... prepping your face for the the other facial treatments to follow.
Skin cells are keratin protein just like your hair and nails.This is why I apply a layer of very active, protein-digesting enzymes to your skin, with steam or a warm wet towel over it. Both warmth & wet activate the enzyme-digesting action. Once the plugs and dead cells are dissolving & loosened, I use ultrasonic devices to deeply exfoliate your skin without trauma, scratching, or inflammation.
Some spas like to call this an enzyme peel (it is NOT a peel, and many up-charge you royally for it. I don't). Professional exfoliation is always included in a Skinplicity Customized facial with $0 up-charge to you. This is a very important step in professional exfoliation, and extracting blackheads. Steaming softens the plug, called a comedonal core. Enzymes, coupled with the heat softening the pore opening, makes the pore-stretching blockage easier to evacuate from the pore, with minimal trauma to the tissue.
Why You Probably Shouldn't Steam Your Face at Home...
Hot water isn't needed to keep the pores cleaned out, just like cold water isn't needed to "close" your pores. Your pores remain the size they were destined to be, regardless of the water temperature you use to cleanse your face. If you're more oily immediately, you may need to change your cleanser. Excessive oiliness may be due to over-stripping the acid mantle. While steam may loosen some gunk, you can very easily damage your skin and break capillaries (which don't go away on their own). If you already have broken capillaries, rosacea, inflammatory acne, or sensitive skin, please don't steam at home. This includes putting your face in hot shower water. Also, consider the fact that hot yoga, strenuous exercise, heavy lifting, and vigorous scrubbing can make capillary issues worse (as well as sun).
In fact, washing your face in overly hot water can do more harm than good. Water that is too hot can irritate your skin, making dilated capillaries and inflamed blemishes look more red and obvious. The best temperature to wash with is comfortably lukewarm, not hot.
The same issues can ensue with vigorous scrubbing. No, you cannot scrub blackheads out. They are not dirt particles. They are oxidized pieces of rancid sebum/oil. Chances are if you haven't had a professional cleaning done in the last two months, you have a nice gunky circle of dead, glued-together skin cells around the opening of the pore, and waxy plugs in the neck of the follicle. Those plugs can be like a wine cork pushed deeply in the neck of a wine bottle. No way can you surface scrub that cork out. Worse,
you could push it deep into the pore causing all kinds of unwanted issues.
So Why the Picture of a Gauge Earring?
Because gunk in your pores can dilate them, stretching them out. Continual congestion will stretch pores out permanently. That is why regular professional exfoliation is so important. You will be educated on the use of active/professional products to help keep your skin from congesting as fast, and how to identify when you are in need of professional services.
What Can You Do About Large Pores?
Despite all of their claims and wonderful promises, toners, cleansers, or other skin care products can’t close your pores. Many beauty websites, online & print articles, TV commercials, beauty counter department stores, and the like - perpetuate this myth. There aren't any skin care products in the universe that can change the actual structure of your skin's pores.
Pore-minimizing products may be astringents, something to increase blood flow creating temporary fullness to the surface tissue, or finely ground silica (sand)/talc/cornstarch/aluminum substances which will fill-in (and maybe clog) the pores. This pore filling is also accomplished by heavy silicones and thick powdery pigments found in BB-creams, primers, and bases. The likelihood is pretty high they will ADD to skin problems, acne and congestion.
Professionally speaking, these products are especially hard to get out of the fine lines and pores. If this is the case, and you like using BB creams and silicone products, talk with me about a home-use ultrasonic device which uses ultrasound oscillations to literally loosen congestive build-up & makeup from the skin's surface.
(Ultrasonic, not sonic... BIG difference: Ultrasonic devices vibrate at much higher frequencies than sonic over the counter devices like your Sonicare toothbrush and Clarisonic facial brush. The primary difference between sonic and ultrasonic is power. (Ultrasonic is 25,000 cycles per second or higher). Sonic is mostly vibration... therefore, sonic brushes don't do much except inoculate your pores with bacteria, viruses & mites feeding on the dead cellular material in the bristles.
When dull, dead skin cells are removed, it leaves the surface of the skin looking brighter, smoother, and more even. Your products will penetrate & work much better, and your skin will feel softer, too.
Remember: When your pores are filled with oil and cellular debris, it can "stretch" the pore opening. This makes the pore look much larger. The longer the gunk stays, the higher the risk of permanent dilation.
Pores that are cleared of blackheads and blockages, and dead cells from the skin's surface will make the pores look less obvious. Also, a face covered in dead skin cells looks darker, is rougher, and has a thickened feel. Dead skin cells absorb light making you look dull and sallow. Exfoliated skin reveals the luminescent healthy cells underneath, reflecting light, making you look brighter and healthier.
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