Pore Myths, Busted! These Derms Reveal The Truth


pore myths

Despite how annoying pores can be when it comes to trying to achieve that flawlessly smooth complexion, the little guys actually serve a pretty clutch role for our bodies. We’ve got two types: sweat pores and oil pores. The former helps regulate our body temperature to prevent us from overheating (not a good look), and the latter helps keeps our skin glowy and moisturized (a great look).

To nip some common pore misconceptions, we asked two dermatologists to hit us with the truth. By better understanding what pores do – and what they don’t do – you’ll be on the fast track to gorgeous skin. You can even call out someone else’s perpetuation of a pore myth in the future!

Myth: Your Pores “Open” and “Close”

This isn’t a Starbucks, people. Pores do not have little makeshift doors and they do not randomly open and close for business!

“I have heard people suggest that steaming the face or getting in a good sweat can ‘open up the pores’ and clear them out,” says Dr. Jeannette Graf, a board-certified dermatologist based in Great Neck, New York. “While pores do not have the capability to open and close, they can [technically] expand when triggered by steaming, working out, [or when using] certain masks. Also, when pores get clogged, they expand in order to relieve some of the oil building up under the skin.”

Myth: Blackheads Are Dirt-Filled Pores

It’s easy to assume blackheads are always the result of dirt taking up residence in your pores, but that’s technically incorrect.

“Open comedones, often referred to as blackheads, are pores that have been blocked by debris – not necessarily by dirt,” says Dr. Gretchen Frieling, a Boston-area triple board-certified dermatopathologist. “This debris can be a buildup of dead skin cells and oil underneath the skin. A variety of factors like genetics, hormones, and skin type can cause this. It doesn’t always mean the skin is dirty.”

They reason blackheads have that black/gray color because they’ve been exposed to the air and have oxidized.

Myth: Simply Wearing Makeup Clogs Your Pores

Did we just hear a collective sigh of relief? Whew. Sure, it’s true that some cosmetics can cause breakouts. Those include super heavy, oil- and pigment-laden products and low-quality makeup products that aren’t formulated well. However, there’s plenty of good stuff out there that won’t squash your makeup vibe.

“People often think makeup seeps into individual pores and clogs them, leading to breakouts,” says Dr. Frieling. This isn’t true. You’ve just got to seek out high-quality, non-comedogenic products. You’ve also got to wash them off at the end of the day. Frieling notes, “Going to bed without washing off makeup can lead to breakouts or exacerbate the acne problem.”

Myth: Some Products Will Permanently Shrink Your Pores

Here’s the bottom line: pore size is determined by your genes and permanently altering their shape or size isn’t possible. However, you can temporarily minimize their appearance! For example, an astringent toner, clay mask – or any other oil-zapping skincare product – can soak up excess sebum. When there’s less oil in your pores, they can appear smaller.

Dr. Graf says she also loves recommending chemical exfoliants and topical retinoids to patients concerned about the size of their pores. “Since these products strip excess oil, dead skin and dirt from your pores, new cells are born, and the texture of the skin is overall improved. Retinol is also a collagen stimulant which reduces the appearance of pores,” she notes.

Collagen is what helps keep our pores looking tight when sebum and dead skin cells are washed out, explains Dr. Frieling. In addition to the above topical treatments, both agree that in-office procedures, including microneedling, DermaSweep, and chemical peels, can stimulate collagen and can help minimize the look of pores, too.

Myth: Sun Basking Will Shrink Your Pores

While we’re on the topic of pore-shrinking, let’s go ahead and nip the rumor that getting your tan on helps minimize their size. Sun exposure actually expedites aging by breaking down collagen and elastin, which can eventually make your pores appear larger.

“Many people think the sun will dry out your pores and ‘shrink them.’ However, with less collagen to keep them tight, the pores actually become more pronounced,” explains Dr. Graf. “I cannot stress it enough – use sunscreen!”

Did any of the above pore myths surprise you? And did you learn anything that made you want to change up some things in your own skincare routine? Let’s talk in the comments below!