Do pores on the skin need to breathe?

pores on the skin shown in drawing of skin|Credit: Jessica Kraft

Drawing showing pores on the skin where hairs and ducts of sweat glands come to the surface.
Credit: Jessica Kraft


Pores on the skin represent openings of hair follicles and sweat ducts.  These pores do not ‘breathe’ in the usual sense – our lungs take care of that need.  Yet, it can help to keep your pores open.  Sweat gland openings can become obstructed – for example, by wearing skin tight clothing when we exercise.  This can result in an itchy heat rash, or miliaria,  Hence, it is advisable to avoid overdressing when it is hot, and to remove sweaty clothing and shower as soon as possible after exercising.  The widespread plugging of sweat (or ‘eccrine’) glands can result in heat intolerance – with the risk of heat stroke.  Individuals who have one of the skin disorders called ichthyosis,  where the outermost layer of skin, the stratum corneum, is too thick over most or all of their body, often experience overheating because their sweat ducts are obstructed by scales.

Similarly, when the pores of sebaceous glands on the face, chest and back become plugged with sebum and keratinous debri, we develop blackheads.  These are often an early sign of acne and an indication that it’s time for a visit to our dermatologist.  While blackheads are not caused by too infrequent face washing, they can be produced by some of the products we put on our skin, such as oily cosmetics.  Look for the label “non-comedogenic” on cosmetic products, which will indicate a safer product to use.  And avoid oily scalp pomades.pores


  1. Jesica Roberts says:

    I was born with Ichthyosis, I am almost 16 my scalp has patches where no hair grows, what can I do about this?

    • Elias and Williams says:

      Hairloss (or alopecia) can often develop in people who have ichthyosis, although in many cases, the underlying cause for the hair loss is not well understood. One treatable cause of hairloss is an infection of the hair follicle. Such infections can be caused either by bacteria or fungi. Treatment of these infections requires identification of the causative organism – usually by bacterial and/or fungal cultures – and prescription of the appropriate antibiotic. Because the infections occur well below the surface of the skin, topical agents are not effective, and systemic therapy is indicated. A dermatologist is best able to evaluate and treat alopecia. The patient organization, FIRST, may be able to assist in finding a dermatologist in your region who is experienced in the treatment of ichthyosis and its complications.

  2. How can we prevent babies from getting diaper rashes?

    • Frequent diaper changes are the best prevention strategy. Because feces contain substances that are particularly irritating to the skin, a prompt change after the baby passes a stool and gentle cleansing of the diaper area to remove all fecal material is very important. You may find the information in our free brochure, Taking Good Care of Your Skin, helpful in caring for your infant’s skin.

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