Enlarged pores are probably the most common skin concern right after acne.
The difference between these concerns is that acne usually comes and goes depending on several factors. A full-blown acne breakout usually occurs during our teenage years and normally disappears when we reach a certain age.
Pores, however, are here to stay unless we tackle them with a few changes in our skincare routine, diet, and lifestyle habits.
Therefore, in this article, I will explain everything you need to know about enlarged pores, how to shrink them and refine their appearance, and how to prevent them from becoming even larger down the line.
What Causes Enlarged Pores?
Enlarged pores are caused by a combination of genetics, hormones, diet and lifestyle habits, and cosmetic products.
Here are some of the most common factors that can affect pore size:
Oily skin is one of the main reasons for enlarged pores.
This is because each pore contains an oil-producing gland that looks like a sack attached to it and is responsible for secreting oil, also known as sebum, to lubricate the hair growing out of the pore and make this process completely painless.
However, when the oil gland produces too much oil due to genetics, hormonal imbalances, diet and lifestyle factors, temperature, humidity, or certain medications, the pore lining enlarges to accommodate the excess oil, making the pores look more prominent.
Therefore, those with oily skin are more likely to have larger pores.
While oily skin is almost always linked to enlarged pores, dehydrated skin isn’t immune to this concern.
Dehydrated skin can be another reason for enlarged pores because it isn’t sufficiently hydrated.
When the skin isn’t sufficiently hydrated, it means that its barrier has been compromised, and the moisture from the deeper layers of the skin is evaporating through the surface.
This is when the oil glands get triggered and produce excess oil to compensate for the lack of moisture.
However, the increased oil volume will stretch the pores, making them look bigger.
Some people are genetically predisposed to have larger pores.
This can be purely structural, such as having a thicker skin, or related to oil production, which can also be determined by genetics, as oily skin can be inherited and is one of the main reasons for enlarged pores.
Therefore, if large pores run in your family, you may also be more likely to have them.
Fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly during puberty, can trigger the oil glands to produce more oil, leading to enlarged pores.
This happens because testosterone, which belongs to the male group of hormones, becomes active during this time, causing an increase in oil production along with other changes in the skin, such as the skin becoming coarser, hairier, and acne-prone.
Gender can also affect pore size, with men typically having larger pores than women due to higher oil production caused by higher testosterone levels.
Additionally, men are typically less likely to use targeted skincare products that help refine enlarged pores and are less conscious about skin health, meaning that oil buildup within the pores may worsen with time, leading to bigger pores.
As the skin ages, the cells producing the structural proteins collagen and elastin that help keep it firm and supple slow down, causing the skin to become thinner and lose its firmness and elasticity.
This loss of elasticity can cause the skin to sag, tugging on the pores, forcing them to expand, and making their enlarged appearance even more obvious.
Unprotected sun exposure can damage the skin and cause the pores to appear larger.
This happens because the UV rays destroy vital parts of the cells that produce the proteins that keep the skin firm and plump, causing the skin to sag, and tugging on the pores, forcing them to expand and making them look larger.
Additionally, sun exposure can cause more sweating, which means the skin loses moisture and will overproduce oil to compensate.
This, in turn, causes an accumulation of oil inside the pores and pushes the pore lining to expand to accommodate the excess oil, making them look bigger.
Cosmetic products containing heavy, oily, and comedogenic ingredients can accumulate inside the pores, causing them to enlarge to accommodate the buildup.
These waxy and greasy ingredients can also clog the pores, trapping sebum inside them and further enlarging their appearance, along with causing inflammatory skin conditions such as acne.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking and unhealthy diet are other common causes of excessively oily skin.
Some studies show that nicotine stimulates a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine, which can induce hyperkeratinization, a disorder that occurs when the cells of the follicle become cohesive and do not shed off the skin’s surface, remaining glued together and stuck inside the pores, causing them to enlarge to accommodate the buildup.
Additionally, the acetylcholine stimulated by nicotine has also been linked to other skin conditions, such as acne, due to its ability to change the composition of our oil, causing it to become oxidized and more inflammatory.
Moreover, poor nutrition and unhealthy eating habits can also cause large pores due to the imbalance in hormones caused by the lack of essential nutrients like minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Finally, some greasy and unhealthy foods can also cause excessive oil production, leading to enlarged or clogged pores and inflammatory skin conditions such as acne.
10 Ways to Shrink Enlarged Pores
Excessive heat, such as hot showers, can compromise the skin’s barrier, causing moisture to evaporate, leaving the skin dry and dehydrated, and triggering the sebaceous glands to overproduce oil to compensate for the imbalance, leading to enlarged pores.
Therefore, try to keep your showers short and use lukewarm water to maintain a strong and healthy barrier that can protect your skin from dehydration and subsequent oil production.
Have a Balanced Diet
As mentioned before, poor nutrition and unhealthy eating habits can lead to enlarged pores due to the imbalance in hormones caused by the lack of essential nutrients like minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants and the elevation of inflammatory markers.
Therefore, to help reduce pore size and prevent inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, try incorporating foods rich in essential nutrients like fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats into your diet.
Additionally, foods rich in antioxidants and fatty acids can help reverse cellular damage and strengthen the skin barrier by promoting ceramide production, which will keep your skin healthy, balanced, and strong from within.
Chemical peels are in-office treatments that can help reduce the appearance of enlarged pores by exfoliating the skin, removing oil plugs, and dissolving the buildup of dead skin cells inside the pores.
Chemical peels contain exfoliating acids that are considerably stronger than what you can usually find in over-the-counter products, which is why they need to be performed by a professional to ensure a successful result and minimum discomfort.
Most professionals recommend getting a light chemical peel at least once a month during winter to keep the skin clear and healthy and prevent pore enlargement.
Microneedling is a popular skin rejuvenating procedure that involves the use of tiny needles to create microchannels in the skin and stimulate collagen production.
This helps refine pore size, reduce acne scars and discoloration, as well as improve overall skin texture and tone.
Microneedling is an in-office procedure that requires a numbing cream and comes with 24-48 hours of downtime, where the skin will be red and irritated and is recommended to be done once a month or every two months to maintain results.
Laser treatments are highly effective for dealing with enlarged pores.
These procedures involve using focused light energy to stimulate collagen production and encourage skin regeneration, making them fantastic for those dealing with enlarged pores due to aging or atrophic acne scarring that looks like enlarged pores but actually lies deeper than topical treatments can reach.
Lasers can also help refine overall skin tone and texture, making them an excellent option for those looking for a comprehensive approach to skin rejuvenation.
However, since laser treatments are generally more invasive than other pore-refining methods and require a longer recovery period, they are usually recommended to be done once or twice a year for a particular concern and followed by once-a-year maintenance sessions to maintain results.
Cleanse Twice a Day
Maintaining a clean skin surface by removing buildup can eliminate the barrier that traps new oil produced by the sebaceous glands, preventing it from getting stuck inside the pores and contributing to their enlarged appearance.
To do this, use a gentle gel cleanser that’s free of harsh surfactants and abrasive components to make sure you’re removing the accumulated buildup without stripping the skin to the point where it’s dehydrated enough to overproduce oil and compensate for the dryness.
If your skin is on the oily side, cleansing twice a day can help keep it clear and control excess oil production.
On the other hand, if your skin is dry, cleansing only once a day should be enough on most days unless you’ve participated in activities that caused you to sweat a lot or used heavy, oily makeup.
The best cleansers for enlarged pores:
Use a Hydrating Toner
A hydrating toner helps restore the balance of your skin’s pH levels while providing extra hydration and nourishment that can help prevent excessive oil production, keeping the pores clear of blockages.
Look for toners with humectants such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, various glycols, and amino acids to help keep the skin hydrated and provide the building blocks for proteins that will strengthen the skin barrier and slow down transepidermal moisture loss.
These will not only make your skin look hydrated, plump, and glowy but will also help refine enlarged pores and smooth out skin texture caused by oil plugs.
The best hydrating toners for enlarged pores:
Regular exfoliation with gentle acids, such as salicylic acid, can help dissolve the cellular debris inside the pores and minimize their appearance.
Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble component that cuts through the superficial oil and impurities on the surface of your skin to get into the pores, where it can break up and dissolve oil plugs.
Exfoliating with salicylic acid 2-3 times a week can help keep the pores clear from buildup, refine their appearance, reduce active pimples, and prevent new ones from forming.
The best exfoliators for enlarged pores:
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that encourage cellular turnover, preventing sluggish dead skin cells from becoming stuck inside the pores and causing the pore lining to enlarge.
They work by binding to retinoid receptors in the skin and changing the behavior of skin cells, increasing their production of collagen and making them turn over faster.
This helps keep the pores clear from debris and reduces the appearance of enlarged pores, acne, and post-acne scars.
However, retinoids can’t be combined with exfoliating acids, as they can cause excessive dryness and irritation.
Therefore, if you want to use both, apply them on alternate days.
The best retinoids for enlarged pores:
Avoid Comedogenic Cosmetics
Comedogenic ingredients are not only found in skincare products but also in makeup and hair care products, so if you want to prevent your pores from getting clogged, it’s essential to pay attention to the product ingredient list when shopping for cosmetics.
Heavy, greasy, and clogging ingredients are hard to wash off and can form a barrier on the skin, preventing our natural oil from coming through to the skin’s surface and causing it to remain stuck inside the pores where it accumulates and causes them to enlarge.
Therefore, avoid products containing clogging silicones, heavy emollients, oils, waxes, butters, and stearates, as these can contribute to pore enlargement and even trigger inflammatory conditions such as acne.
Always Remove Your Makeup At The End of The Day
Makeup can be a great way to enhance your look, but it can also lead to enlarged pores and other skin conditions if left on the skin for too long.
This happens because most complexion products contain heavy and emollient components, making them easier to spread and settle on the skin, but these can get stuck inside the pores and cause them to enlarge.
Additionally, sleeping in your makeup will also dry out your skin due to the occlusion caused by heavy makeup layers, which can lead to the overproduction of sebum and an enlarged pore appearance.
Therefore, always remove your makeup at the end of the day by using non-comedogenic micellar water followed by a gentle gel cleanser to ensure you’re removing all the product buildup and keeping your pores clear from debris.
The best makeup removers for enlarged pores:
Can You Shrink Enlarged Pores Permanently?
There are no muscles within your pores, which is why you can’t permanently shrink enlarged pores.
However, you can visibly reduce the appearance of enlarged pores by keeping them clear of oil and cellular debris and boosting your skin’s collagen production.
You can do this by regularly cleansing to prevent oil from building up inside them and expanding the pore lining, along with having a targeted skincare routine consisting of the use of exfoliating acids and retinoids, investing in collagen-promoting treatments, carefully choosing your cosmetics, and tweaking some lifestyle habits.
All this combined will help reduce the appearance of blown-out pores and keep them clear from debris, resulting in refined skin texture and a reduced risk of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne.
My name is Simone and I am a certified skin specialist. I created this website to teach my readers how to take great care of their skin and I also like to occasionally share my honest opinions on skincare products I’ve tried. You can learn more about me here.
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