Are Your Pores Getting Bigger? A Primer on Large Pores and How to Treat Them

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The pores are somethings that many of us are concerned with. Some common questions that often come up are: Are my pores normal size? Why do I feel like I have large pores and what can I do about it?

Not to worry, today we are covering everything you need to know about your pores and how to treat them.

The science behind pore size

To better understand our pores and how they function, it’s important to know first, what a pore actually is. According to the Milady Standard Fundamentals of Esthetics text used by estheticians worldwide, pores are actually sweat gland openings that cover the skin of our entire body. Our skin releases sweat, oil, excess water, salt, and other impurities through the pores.

The pores also are also partially responsible for the absorption of products, creams, bacteria, chemicals, and other matter that comes into contact with the skin. They can expand temporarily when warmed by steam (for example when you take a hot morning shower) and they can shrink a bit when the skin is exposed to cold. Knowing all this, it only makes sense that pores may fluctuate in size over the course of a lifetime.

Understanding your skin type

Something that’s very important to know about your pores is that their size is predetermined by your genetics. According to Medical News Today, a person’s pores may be more or less noticeable depending upon their skin type. Dermatologists say that people who have inherited oilier skin produce more oil and have larger pores to accommodate that. Everyone’s pores are a little bit different, and that’s totally normal.

So how do you know what your natural skin type is? An easy test is to look at the pores on your face and notice patterns in their size. People with naturally oily skin will have larger pores covering the entire face, whereas people with combination skin will have larger pores on the nose, cheeks, and chin. Dry skin types tend to have smaller, less visible pores covering most of the face but may still have larger pores on or around their nose.

If you have larger or oilier pores due to genetics, do consider embracing them. Skin that produces more oil actually protects the skin better and causes it to age slower over time. Oily skin tends to be more supple than dry skin and shows fewer wrinkles.

While you cannot technically change the size of your pores, there are some factors that contribute to the pores becoming enlarged over time. With a proper understanding of these factors and how to treat them, you can prevent pores from stretching, as well as minimize the appearance of large pores.

What causes pores to get bigger?

Now that you know about the factors you can’t control, let’s talk about what you can control.

Much of pore stretching is caused by a buildup that sits in the pores for too long. This could be excess oil, dirt, makeup, or other debris that hasn’t been properly cleansed and is clogging the pore opening. Additionally, using skincare that isn’t formulated correctly for your skin type can result in products not being properly absorbed and creating a buildup in the pores.

The fix for this is regular cleansing and exfoliating the skin with the right products. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends cleansing twice daily with a non-comedogenic cleanser and warm water. They also suggest regular at-home exfoliation and occasional professional treatments like microdermabrasion or chemical peels to keep the skin polished and minimize the appearance of large pores.

Something else that can lead to changes in pore size is aging. The ADA notes that sun exposure over time breaks down collagen and elastin. This increases laxity in the tissue and as the skin loses firmness, pores become more noticeable.

If you have dry skin and feel you are seeing enlarged pores, aging is likely the culprit. Age causes a decline in oil production, so even skin that was once oily can begin to dry out but the pores will not change size. The same goes for living in a dry climate, which can cause the skin to feel more dry, despite the fact that your pore size and skin type haven’t changed.

Your best defense against these signs of aging is to avoid excess sun exposure, which ages the skin faster, and to always wear sun protection as part of your daily skincare. The ADA recommends using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF of 30 or more and applying it daily, even when it’s cold or raining.

What else can you do to reduce the appearance of pores?

In addition to proper cleansing and preventing signs of aging, there are some other actionable steps you can take, such as shopping for the right products for your skin type, exfoliating properly, and using a makeup primer to camouflage the appearance of pores.

When choosing products for your skin, look for keywords on the packaging that describe your true skin type (based on the size of your pores) and not your skin’s current condition. Dry or sensitive skin types should look for words like “hydrating” and “soothing.” Oily or combination skin types will want to opt for products that claim to be “balancing” or “clarifying” and always check to make sure they are labeled “non-comedogenic”, meaning they won’t clog your pores.

Exfoliation should be a part of your skin care routine a few times per week to minimize the appearance of large pores. Exfoliating not only keeps debris from accumulating and stretching the pores, but it also keeps dead skin from accumulating on the surface, which can also make pore openings more noticeable. Just be sure to avoid harsh scrubbing and instead look for chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid and other alpha-hydroxy acids.

Some other products you can incorporate that help with pore size include clay masks, retinol or vitamin A serums and a good oil-free moisturizer. Clay masks help pull dirt and debris from the pores, while vitamin A or retinol will keep the skin turning over and shedding dead surface cells. Moisturizer is important even for oily skin because the skin has a tendency to overproduce oil when it becomes dehydrated.

If you wear makeup, a lightweight primer can do wonders to disguise large pores. Apply a thin layer before your foundation or powder and opt for makeup products with a matte finish. Then be sure to remove all makeup with a thorough cleanse before bedtime, to ensure that no product is left sitting in your pores.

An example product routine for treatment of large pores

For the morning: 

Step One: Wash with a gel-based gentle cleanser

Step Two: Tone with a hydrating alcohol-free toner

Step Three: Apply oil-free moisturizer

Step Four: Apply hydrating SPF to the entire face and neck

For the evening:

Step One: Wash with a gel-based gentle cleanser

Step Two:  Apply retinol or vitamin A serum

Step Three: Apply oil-free moisturizer

1-2x Weekly:

Step One: Wash with a gentle gel-based cleanser

Step Two: Exfoliate with an alpha-hydroxy acid or enzyme mask

Step Three: Tone with a hydrating, alcohol-free toner

Step Four: Apply a clay mask

Step Four: Apply oil-free moisturizer

If you use tools in your skincare, consider investing in a pore vacuum or skin scrubber tool. These at-home devices can be purchased online and used at home to mimic professional facial extractions. Just be sure to do your research when investing in a facial tool, and always follow instructions carefully to avoid injury to your skin.

Lastly, consider that the skin will reflect the body’s overall wellness. By making good lifestyle choices like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, not smoking, and stressing less, you promote internal balance of the body’s systems and hormones. Hormonal imbalances can lead to an increase in testosterone, which can cause the skin to produce more oil and put more stress on the pores. The healthier your body is, the healthier your skin will be as well!

Related articles:

Milady Standard Fundamentals of Esthetics Text 2013 Edition by Joel Gerson

What are the best ways to get rid of large pores? by Lana Burgess, Medical News Today


What can treat large facial pores, American Academy of Dermatology Association


All About Pores: Does Size Really Matter by Dr. Bobby Buka, The Dermatology Specialists


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