Each week, Health and Beauty Expert Sue Chung will discuss skin health topics suggested by members of the HealthCentral community. To ask Sue a question, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In my line of work as a health and beauty writer, I get asked for advice all the time from friends and even perfect strangers. This makes sense, since, for the past few years, I have tested nearly every variation of beauty product known to man. In recent years, women's questions have overwhelmingly focused on how to "fix" their pores. A question I received recently to my HealthCentral email account gives you a good sense of how strongly we equate ageless skin with poreless skin:
As I age, my pores just keep getting bigger. How do I get rid of them?
The simple answer? You can't. Pores exist for good reason. They provide your skin with access to sweat glands, sebaceous (oil) glands and hair follicles. Without them, your skin would suffocate in debris. Your pores are here to help even if you think otherwise.
A Simple Skin Anatomy Lesson: Collagen and Elastin in the Dermis
Your skin consists of three layers. The outermost epidermis contains no blood vessels and mainly acts as a waterproof barrier between the atmosphere and your body. The innermost layer, the hypodermis, mainly stores your fat tissue. The key layer is the middle one. The dermis contains pores, blood vessels, and a network of collagen and elastin fibers proteins that give your skin structure and flexibility.
These proteins help skin snap back to its original shape after it gets stretched or pulled. When skin tans or burns, damage occurs to the epidermis. Even when you don't burn or tan, however, UVA rays can reach deep into your skin to break down the collagen and elastin and prevent skin from producing more. The result? Skin loses structure and begins to show typical signs of aging brown spots, leathery skin texture, wrinkles, and even the appearance of larger pores.
Sun Damage Can Enlarge Pore Size
Pore size is largely determined by genetics, says Diane Madfes, a dermatologist in Greenwich, CT. If your parents had large pores, you will likely have them as well. However, your lifestyle (i.e., sun exposure) plays a key role in how they shape up in adulthood.
Imagine a pore as a small, flexible rubber bowl. Now imagine that the sun acts as a direct heat source that softens the edges of the bowl, widening the rim. When sun exposure damages the collagen in your skin, the walls of your pores lose elasticity and sag, appearing larger as a result.
Even if you worshipped the sun at some point, you can reverse some of the damage by changing your approach to sun protection and skin care. Avoiding the sun and applying sunscreen daily will help prevent further damage and give your dermis a chance to heal.
Affordable, But Silky Sun Protection Options
The important thing to note: Buy a sunscreen product in lotion form with an SPF of at least 15 and apply it 15 minutes before you leave the house. Some affordable but silky options include Olay Complete Multi-Radiance Daily Illumination UV Lotion and Neutrogena Advanced Solutions Daily SPF 15 Moisturizer, both available in drugstores.