By Natalie Katsman
Smooth and soft skin, even tone, rosy glow, pores invisible to the naked eye... Perfect complexion. Isn't that what we hope to see when coming to the mirror?
But the reality is harsh and mirrors don't lie. The pores are there, perfectly visible, and seem to get bigger and bigger.
Why would Mother Nature put the most visible ones where you can't hide them? Life would be so much easier if we could keep them out of sight (and out of mind). I bet Nature had no idea people would consider pores a problem and, of course, had the best reasons in mind.
Pores are tiny (oh well, comparatively tiny) passages for oil that is produced in sebum glands to reach the surface of the skin. There are approximately 300 000 oil glands in human skin, the highest concentration is on the face, chest and back. The glands produce up to one ounce of oil daily!
The oil forms a protective layer over the skin that prevents moisture loss and helps to keep the skin soft and resilient and prevent injury and environmental damage. Given the fact that skin on the face is thinner than in other body areas and is constantly exposed to sun, wind, cold and heat, we desperately need this protection.
The challenge is to maintain the right balance between the activity of sebaceous glands and the actual needs of your skin. Problems start when pores have to deal with more oil than they can handle. Pores expand under the pressure of excessive oil flow and become visible. Once they enlarge, they don't shrink back. There are no muscles around pores that could contract and close the opening.
More and more pores can become visible with age. This is due to the loss of skin elasticity and sagging. As skin is drawn down by gravity, pores become more obvious.
Keeping pores clean is the first thing you need to do if you want to make them less noticeable and prevent their size increase.
When oil binds with dirt and dead skin cells, pores become clogged and - again - stretch. To prevent this, keep oil under control, use gentle and effective cleansers and exfoliate regularly.
After cleansing, use astringent toner. Astringents cause slight swelling of the top skin layer, which temporarily closes pores. There are two things to be cautious about. First, don't overdry your skin or it will react by producing even more oil. Second, if your skin is sensitive, be extra careful as it might not tolerate some of the ingredients used in astringents.
Mature skin will benefit from thorough cleansing and gentle exfoliating followed by a face-lift mask. When done 1-3 times a week, this regiment will produce visible improvement in just a few weeks.
The pores don't shrink permanently. We have to accept it, just as we accept that fair eyelashes can't get dark and straight hair don't curl. Yet, we learned to live with it and still get the look we want. The same thing is with pores: you can improve the way they look when and if you want to.
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