Pores are openings in a surface or material, and most often the word refers to these openings on the surface of the skin. Their main function is to release oil and sweat to the surface of the skin from the glands below the surface, helping to keep it hydrated and cool. Some people have naturally larger pores than others, and they may also be larger on some areas of the body, such as the face and back. Enlarged and clogged pores can lead to some of the most common skin problems, including rashes and acne. A number of treatments exist to minimize and cleanse the openings in an effort to eliminate these problems.
When functioning properly, these openings on the surface of the skin help to keep it moisturized by releasing oil that is produced by the sebaceous glands, called sebum. Skin problems can result when the openings are enlarged because they are more likely to trap dirt and dead skin cells, which can lead to acne. Some people may naturally produce more oil than others, exacerbating this problem. Pores also release sweat, which is the body’s primary means of keeping cool in hot weather. Like sebaceous glands, sweat glands can also become blocked, causing red, raised bumps on the skin called heat rash.
There are a variety of treatments that promise to reduce the size of the skin openings, although some dermatologists say that once they become enlarged, they cannot be made smaller. Many different means of exfoliation, including microdermabrasion, sugar scrubs and chemical peels, can be used to remove dead skin cells from the surface and help minimize the appearance of enlarged pores. These treatments also may help to clear blackheads, which look like small and flat dark spots and are caused by sebum that becomes trapped in the hair follicle and hardens.
Enlarged pores are a contributing factor to acne, which is a condition caused by infection and inflammation in the hair follicle. The infected follicles form reddened bumps, sometimes with white heads on the surface, and other times as larger cysts under the skin’s surface. There are numerous treatments available for acne that address the numerous factors that cause it. Topical medications or astringents may help to remove excess oil and dry out the skin, although overdrying can lead to increased irritation and worsen the acne. As with blackheads, exfoliation to remove dead skin cells may be helpful. Some dermatologists recommend avoiding certain foods, but others believe diet has no effect on acne.