Pamper Your Pores

In search of perfect skin? Don't underestimate the power of the pore.

You've examined them in horror in magnified mirrors, slathered them with all manner of products and clogged them up during sweaty workouts. Your pores — all three trillion of them — regularly take a beating. On the face alone, most of us have around 20,000 of these minuscule openings and their physiological benefits are largely misunderstood, according to dermatologist Fredric Brandt, M.D., whose clients include Marc Jacobs and Madonna. "Every pore is actually the opening of a hair follicle that’s connected to either an oil gland or a sweat gland," says Dr. Brandt. "Its role is to help pump oil (aka sebum), a natural lubricant responsible for pH balance, up to the skin's surface 24/7; or act as an outlet for sweat, which cools your body temperature down as it evaporates off of skin."

So how do you take care of this oil-pumping army? While their appearance and function is in large part determined by your DNA, Brandt explains the four key triggers that affect pore behavior and gives his recommendations for combating negative effects in the slideshow above.