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Visible Pores Are Totally Normal, And Here’s Why

One of the most common skin complaints in beauty forums, dermatologists’ offices, and my friends’ text messages is large pores. But the truth is that everyone has pores on their face—and they are almost always visible! The Instagram-ready airbrushed look that we’ve come to assume means “good, healthy skin” is usually a fiction of makeup and photo editing.

Here’s what your pores actually do for you, how to tell if your pores are normal, and how to take action, if needed.

Pores do some incredibly important things for your skin.

“Pores are small openings in the skin that let sweat and oil drain out,” Melissa Piliang, M.D., dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, told SELF. “You really want pores and you want them to be draining well.”

There are different types of pores, but most of the pores on your face are the opening of your hair follicles, which is why there are little hairs sticking out of them, says Mary L. Stevenson, M.D., assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Health.

Sebaceous glands, which sit underneath the skin, secrete sebum (oil) through the pore, Stevenson says. Sebum is an important component of the outer layer of skin, which helps keep the skin hydrated and protects it from the environment, Piliang explains.

So having pores is not a problem in itself — it’s actually super helpful in keeping your skin functioning properly.

What are “normal” pores, anyway?

It’s kind of hard to explain what normal pores look like, because they may be different for everyone. But in general, it’s not a bad thing to be able to see your pores. “You should be able to see where hairs insert,” Stevenson says.

The pores may have a little darkness to them, Piliang says. And they’re generally more noticeable on people with oilier skin, Stevenson explains, because some of that sebum may build up in the pore and dilate it slightly. Some people—especially those with naturally oily skin—may also notice that their pores look larger right before or during their period, Piliang explains; researchers believe this has to do with changing hormone levels that could affect sebum production, but the link isn’t totally understood.

Being able to see your pores, even if they look a little larger than you’d like, is “not necessarily an issue and probably not an issue at all,” Piliang says. “We all have pores on our skin that are going to be visible to some degree.”

At what point should you actually be concerned about your pores? Really, only when your pores have developed comedones—blackheads or whiteheads. That’s a sign that you may need to give your pores some attention, Piliang says.

How to remove blackheads without damaging your skin

Comedones form when a pore gets clogged with dead skin cells, dirt, and sebum, so you may need to use some simple cleansing or exfoliation tactics to address that. If the pore is open to the air, the gunk inside oxidises, creating a blackhead. If the pore is covered with a layer of keratin, the sebum looks white or fleshy and creates a whitehead (closed comedone).

But what if you still don’t love your pores?

If you are bothered by the size of your pores, there are some easy things you can do to make them less noticeable.

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