The approximately 22 square feet of skin that covers your entire body serves many vital roles, forming a protective barrier to keep all of your tissues and organs safe. The perfect insulator against the elements, your skin helps you to maintain the internal temperature necessary for all of your bodily systems to function properly, and when you become overheated, the skin helps maintain that crucial temperature, too.
The secret to your skin's ability to regulate your internal temperature is your pores, those tiny openings that are found all over the surface of your skin. The pores are responsible for allowing perspiration to exit your body, producing a cooling effect to lower your body temperature. Shaped like tiny tubes, your pores also connect your sebaceous glands to the rest of your skin. These vital glands release natural oil called sebum, which helps keep your skin soft and supple.
Although they are necessary for your entire body to function properly, your pores can also lead to a number of problems if they become enlarged. A number of factors can cause large pores, but often, they occur due to dead skin combining with sebum to form clogs inside their tiny openings. The clogs cause pressure in the narrow pore tubes, which in turn puts stress on the attached glands. In response, the glands swell and cause the pores to dilate or swell as well. If your skin is naturally prone to being oily, you are at a greater risk for enlarged pores due to the already, naturally increased activity of your sebaceous glands.
The natural aging process also contributes to pore enlargement. As you age, your skin naturally produces less of the structural protein collagen. The decrease in this important building block of your skin tissue makes your skin less firm, resulting in lost elasticity and sagging. If the surface of your skin begins to sag, the pores will gape as well, forming a wider, more noticeable opening.
Aesthetically, the appearance of round, enlarged pores can be embarrassing, but excessively dilated or stretched pores can lead to other problems as well. The larger openings in the surface of your skin have the potential to harbor hardened deposits of dirt, which are commonly referred to as blackheads. If bacteria enter the pores, an infection can form, causing inflammation and what are commonly known as whiteheads or acne.
While there is no way to completely prevent your pores from becoming enlarged, you can help reduce their size with over-the-counter skin treatments known as pore minimizers. A large number of products fall under this broad category of cosmetics. Because no two people have the same skin textures and tones, pore minimizers make use of a variety of ingredients, so that an effective product is available on the market for everyone.
Found in grains like rye, wheat and barley, azelaic acid eliminates bacteria to treat whiteheads and removes debris trapped in the pores, allowing them to shrink.
Dermatologists recommend regular exfoliation as a key treatment for clogged pores, as it helps dislodge debris. Regular exfoliation also reduces the amount of dead skin on the surface of your face that can lead to clogs in the future. Alpha hydroxy acids are powerful exfoliating agents that dissolve the bonds between old and new skin cells, allowing dead skin to be whisked away.
Long used as a treatment for acne, salicylic acid's actions are similar to those of alpha hydroxy acids, stimulating skin cell turn over to reduce the amount of debris on your face that can clog your pores.
A form of natural vitamin A, retinol plays numerous roles in skin health. One of the major benefits of retinol is its boost to the skin cell turn over process, assisting in the natural exfoliation that helps treat enlarged pores. Retinol is also effective at removing blackheads and slows down the aging process by interacting with free radicals in the environment.
For mature skin, products that stimulate collagen production have the added benefit of shrinking the pores. By tightening and toning the skin, anti-aging products reduce the sagging that makes your pores gape and become vulnerable to invasion by bacteria and dirt.