Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Even Skin Tones - Pore Perfection - Part 2

Enlarged pores are a fact of life and a problem for many women. We spend millions a year on products to transform our skin to rival images we see in Glamour, Elle, and Cosmo. Unfortunately, what we see on magazine covers is not reality, its airbrushing. Yet we strive to attain the ‘poreless’ look usually with not a lot of luck. It is what it is: real life. Generally there is not a lot that can be done to permanently reduce the size of our pores. And that’s ok, there is an upside. Our pores are from where our hair grows and makes it shiny. They secret oil to protect the skin surface, they serve as an outlet for sweat to help to regulate our skin temperature. The pores in skin also serve as a waste filtering system that gets rid of toxins in our systems.

Genetics play a large part in determining your skin texture. Thick, oily skin is typically characterized by larger pores more so than skin that is dry. There are scads of products on the market to improve the appearance of large pores, refining them and making them look smaller. Some of these products actually do provide a temporary fix, some just make other people richer.

The Problem

Over-active sebaceous glands. Oil is a good thing and a not so good thing. The good thing is that it does protect and lubricate our skin. When produced in reasonable, manageable amounts it helps to give a healthy glow to skin. The not so good thing is our sebaceous glands can be over stimulated and create excess oil that we have to ‘mop’ up. Pores can become clogged with dead skin cells that are not properly exfoliated , the dead cells stick and collect on the skin and becomes an all-you-can-eat buffet for bacteria. The bacteria sit and eat and causes irritation that leads to pus and redness, which usually then lead to pimples. It just becomes a real mess.
Sun exposure (again) can cause enlarged pores. UV rays break down collagen which weakens the tissues that surrounds the pores and ultimately and permanently enlarges them. This makes the case for using sunscreen on a regular basis if the previous post on hyperpigmentation doesn’t.

Digging and picking creates way more problems than it solves. Blackheads and white heads are collections of dead skin cells. To try to squeeze or pick them out of the skin/pore only increases the likelihood that you will only increase (permanently) the size of the clogged pore.

Lackadaisical skin care. It’s a lot of work; looking good. When oily, blackhead-prone skin is paired with inconsistent skin care, the battle waged will be never-ending and brutal. Dead skin cells can gather around the edges of the pores making them look larger than they really are. Overzealous, random cleanings does more harm than good. Skin care should be consistent and approached with a gentle hand. Taking a hand sander to your skin is not going to help. Gentle, consistent exfoliation will.

The Fix

AHAs and BHAs. Glycolic acid (hydroxyacetic acid) will help to reduce oil on the skin. Glycolic acid is a fruit acid or alpha hydroxy acid. Other alpha hydroxy acids include citric, lactic, malic acids. Over-the-counter preparations contain about 10% glycolic or other fruit acid. Dermatological procedures and preparations will contain from 20% in topical preparations up to 80%. These higher concentrations are generally used in chemical peel procedures. Over time, over-the-counter preparations can result in minimal improvement in the overall texture of the skin, but peels performed by an aesthetician or dermatologist will net greater overall results. A professionally performed procedure will not only rid the skin of the lipids that bind the dead cells together giving the appearance of larger pores, it will also correct hyperpigmentation, acne scarring and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
BHA is the all-too-common salicylic acid. It is derived from the winter bark and sweet birch bark tree and has been used by dermatologists in treating acne for years.

The cause for sunscreen can never be preached too loudly or too often. UV ray damage causes a host of problems some minor some major. Of your reason for UV protection is only superficial, the bonus is you’re also guarding yourself against more serious conditions such as basal and squamous cell carcinoma. The lowest SPF rating you should use is 15. Many dermatologists and aestheticians recommend 30 SPF. At the very least, UV protection will help to guard against the breakdown of collagen that plumps up the skin, thus minimizing the appearance of large pores.

Blackhead extractors can and should be used if you cannot overcome the urge to pick them out. Blackheads are plugs of dead skin cells and oil clogging the pores. Picking at them will make it worse, I promise! But if you must, you should first steam your skin to loosen the oil and/or use a warm wash cloth to compress the area. Encircle the blackhead in the loop of the extractor and press until the clog dislodges. Do not apply too much pressure. If the clog cannot be dislodged, see your dermatologist. Too much force can cause irritation and scarring.

Consistent, common sense skin care is probably the easiest, and hardest habit to develop. Cleansing the skin twice a day goes a long way to ensure skin that is clearer and fresher looking. Exfoliating the skin regularly helps to slough away dead skin cells revealing fresh skin, keeps your pores unclogged which lessens the occurrence of blackheads and enlarged pores. Exfoliating cleansers include products that are granulated to aid in the exfoliation of the skin. Some work better than others. Natural products such as apricot may have jagged edges that can cause irritation. A washcloth is an ideal aid in exfoliating the skin. An oil-free cleanser is a must, a good toner is another product that should be used regularly as it can assist in the lifting of dead skin cells and to help close freshly cleaned pores.

Don’t sleep in your makeup. Cleanse your skin completely of makeup before you go to bed. Cells regenerate while you sleep. Your pillow also helps to exfoliate your skin (how about that!). Going to bed with a clean face gives your skin a fighting chance at keeping your pore size to its minimum diameter.

Hydration. A recent study suggests that drinking water does not aid in the overall health of your skin. I doubt the validity of the study and will only say that when in doubt, the worst H2O can do is quench your thirst. My own common sense suggests that since a majority of the fluids in our bodies is composed of water it has to have some positive properties that include helping to flush or cleanse and regulate the integumentary system (the skin).

For more detailed reading on this and other common skin conditions, go to http://www.dermadoctor.com/pages/newsletter90.asp

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