Virtually all areas of the skin are covered in small pores, which allow oil to be deposited on to the outer layer of skin. Also known as hair follicles, each pore enables a hair to grow from under the skin and on to its surface.
Due to the sheer number of pores on our skin, it’s not surprising that they can become clogged or blocked from time to time. When this happens, it may be referred to as an infected pore or pimple. Typically, excess oil, bacteria and skin debris clog the pore, which cause it to become infected. As a result, people may experience skin irritation and discomfort when an infected pore occurs.
In many cases, an infected pore becomes a pimple. This is particularly common on the face, back and chest. When individuals have an infection in one or more of the skin’s pores, they may develop any of the following:
Whiteheads and blackheads are often fairly small pimples, which can cause some pain, irritation and redness. Pustules and nodules, however, are generally larger and may represent a larger infection. Similarly, cysts often form under the skin and create a raised or red bump which may be visible on the outer surface of the skin. When an infected pore causes a cyst to develop, the patient can experience a significant amount of pain at the site of the pore and it may take longer to heal than other types of infected pores, such as whiteheads.
Alternatively, an infected pore may occur due to an ingrown hair. Typically, individual hairs grow out of the skin, with the roots remaining underneath the outer layer of skin. If a hair is ‘ingrown’, however, it does not protrude out of the skin, but remains in the pore or hair follicle. Often, the body responds to this as though a foreign body is present in the pore and releases various substances in order to remove it. As a result, the pore may swell, become red and show signs of infection.
Although an infected pore can be painful, many of the symptoms associated with this condition are relatively mild. Whilst nodules and cystic acne may require additional treatment, most infected pores cause minimal pain, skin irritation, itching and discomfort.
An infected pore or hair follicle can occur for many reasons, such as:
Each hair follicle contains a sebaceous gland, which produces oil. If too much oil is produced, it can clog the pore, causing it to become infected. As more oil is generally produced on the face, chest and back areas, infected pores may be more likely to occur on these parts of the body.
Similarly, dry skin can also be a cause of infected pores. When the skin is excessively dry, it often becomes flaky. These flakes of skin can block the pores and allow infected pores to form.
Of course, the presence of bacteria is a key component of infected pores. Although bacteria is present on the skin at all times, if it gets into a pore or hair follicle, an infection may occur. In addition to this, excess bacteria may be introduced to the skin if people touch their faces frequently or if they fail to cleanse their face regularly. This can increase the risk of an infected pore developing and may lead to various types of skin problems.
Ingrown hairs can also cause infected pores to occur, and these generally occur because the hair is not strong enough to break through the outer layer of skin. When this happens, the body releases white blood cells to the area in a bid to fight the infection on behalf of the body. Although this is a natural function of the immune system, it does mean that pus is formed. When present, pus can help to limit and reduce the infection, but it may increase the size of the infected pore and make it more visible in the short-term.
Infected pores can be treated in a number of ways, although professional medical care may not be required. If the infected pore has caused relatively mild pimples to form, individuals may choose to manage these at home. Using over-the-counter topical solutions to treat the infection can often be effective, for example.
In the case of an ingrown hair causing an infected pore, individuals are often advised to wait until the hair becomes visible on the surface of the skin and to allow the body to heal itself. Although it may be tempting to pick at the site or to try and remove the hair, this could add further bacteria to the area and may cause permanent damage to the skin.
If an infected pore causes a cyst to occur, it may be treated conservatively at first. However, if this is ineffective, medications and surgical removal may be a viable option for the patient to consider.
When infected pores are a recurrent problem, individuals may want to obtain some form of medical treatment. If pores are regularly becoming infected due to an excess of oil, for example, treatment to reduce oil production could also reduce the rate at which the pores become infected. Depending on the cause of the patient’s infected pores, the following treatments may be appropriate:
In many cases, individuals can prevent pores from becoming infected by following an appropriate skincare regime. Gently exfoliating dry skin can help to prevent it from clogging the pores and causing infection, for example. Similarly, people with excessively oily skin may want to use skincare products which aim to minimize oil production. If less oil is produced by the sebaceous glands, there is less chance that it will clog the pores and cause them to become infected.
Whilst a good skincare regime may not be enough to prevent an individual from ever experiencing an infected pore, it can certainly help to reduce the likelihood of pores becoming infected and should improve the appearance of the skin.