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Close up of large pores on face of woman in cheek area with blotchy skin and a mole

How to shrink large pores and why they happen in the first place

Editorial note: this article was updated on July 8, 2020.

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Large pores can feel like the bane of our skin problems after we’ve worked hard to clear up acne and fight off oil. Just why, oh why, do we have these circular openings in our face, when others don’t? And, what can we do to ‘close’ them up, or hide them?

In this article, we’ll give some tips on how to shrink large pores, and explain why they happen in the first place.

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Reasons for large pores forming on the face

Large pores can happen for a variety of reasons. Generally, they appear on oily skin types. Those with large pores may also suffer from acne, including both closed comedones (white heads) and open comedones (black heads). This is because large pores are more susceptible to oil build up, and can get clogged more easily.

Pore pathways are needed in our skin. We have sweat pores and oil pores. Sweat and oil provide our skin with the moisture it needs to operate. Most pores are barely visible. However, on some people, they can look like little dots on the face. This is because they have larger openings than others.

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Large pores from aging and genetics

People can be born with large pores, or predisposed to them. It may also be of note that men tend to have larger pores than women.

As we age, our exposure to the sun gradually degrades our skin, leaving the rim of our pores even more open than before.

Or, excess, dead skin cells can start to gather around our pores, pronouncing their appearance.

Losing collagen and elastin also doesn’t help, since these components keep our skin firm and thick. If our skin can’t keep it’s ‘hold,’ our pores will sag, causing them to open further.

These factors, together, can create the look of large pores.

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Large pores from improper skin care routines

Aside from natural factors, large pores can seem abundant when we’re not taking care of our skin in the right way. We need to help our body tighten up our skin, without stripping it of the moisture it needs.

For example, when we are regularly exposed to heat, wear clogging products and don’t wash our face, it makes it easy for our pores to dilate, collect debris, and turn into acne.

But, if we over-exfoliate to try to keep our skin extra clean, we can damage our skin’s moisture barrier. This can make it hard for our body to restore the skin cells that frame our pores’ openings. In fact, with physical exfoliants, we can get micro tears. These may look similar to large pores (or create a lot of redness and patchy areas).

Plus – as is the case with nearly all skin problems – not being diligent to apply sunscreen every 2 hours will inevitably cause pores to enlarge.

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How to ‘shrink’ large pores with skin care routines and professional treatments

While you can’t cure large pores, you can take measures to make them appear slightly smaller. Below are our top tips to ‘shrink’ visible pores:

Wash your face with a gentle cleanser containing AHA and BHA acids

How can a cleanser be ‘gentle’ if it contains ‘acids’? This is a good question. Skin care acids are not always drying or irritating. In fact, some can be hydrating. The same is true of certain skin care product ingredients that have the word “alcohol” in them. Of course, concentrations matter in this regard!

A very good facial cleanser will help your skin retain its moisture balance and pH, while cleaning out your pores. It will also remove all dirt, makeup and daytime products. Sometimes, two steps are needed to achieve this – one step to get rid of makeup, and another step to clean your pores.

Salicylic acid (the only skincare BHA) can reach deep into your pores to draw out all the guck that is causing, or about to cause pimples. AHAs also do a good job of ‘housekeeping’ on your pores. They do this at different levels in the skin, and in slightly different ways.

AHA and BHA acids are collectively referred to as ‘chemical exfoliants’ in the world of aesthetics. We list some common ones, here. Being chemically-based means that they can clear your pores without physical intervention. This can make them far gentler on your skin.

What you want to avoid in facial cleansers are:

  • Detergents and soaps (these are indiscriminate oil-strippers).
  • Uneven scrubbing agents (such as ground up fruit pits or sandy materials).
  • Drying alcohols.
  • Drying fragrances.

Now, if you have severe acne, some of the above types of ingredients may be needed in your skincare routine. It’s best to consult with a skin care specialist to know more about what your face can benefit from.

When it comes to physical exfoliation, you can use soft-edge beads in a cleansing product, such as jojoba spheres. However, generally, you want to limit your use of scrubs to twice a week. It’s also best to seek professional exfoliation in a spa or skin clinic about once a month. This way, exfoliation can be done under controlled, careful settings.

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Use pore-fighting, skin regenerating ingredients on your face

Fighting pores with a good skin care routine requires consistency, and the right mix of ingredients after you cleanse. The goal here is hydration and moisturization, to get your skin in ‘healing mode.’ For that healing to go faster, adding vitamins and regenerative serums can be beneficial.

Of course, as with a face wash, you don’t want to create oil buildup, nor strip the face of oil completely. To fight pores, you want to be balanced in your approach.

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Start with beneficial vitamins, humectants and serums

A great vitamin for large pores and acne (even for wrinkles and brown spots), is vitamin A. In the skincare industry, vitamin A variations are referred to as ‘retinoids’ or ‘retinols’ (we won’t get into the difference here – just watch for those labels). This ingredient is especially good at cell regeneration. It can be very drying at first. But, as your skin gets used to it, it can bring back your ‘glow.’

Most people have skin that is dehydrated (not just dry). For that problem, a hyaluronic acid serum is useful. This ingredient binds to water, and holds it in the skin. Ingredients that function this way are called humectants.

Finally, to really ‘rev up’ your skin’s collagen production, it needs ‘messenger’ cells called fibroblasts. These are little proteins that tell your body to ‘switch on’ its skin cell ‘factories.’

You need skin cell production to keep your skin – and thus your pores – firm and ‘bouncy.’ In skin care products, ingredients that do this are called growth factors. Though, they can have other names, if they are from other sources. Growth factors, however, are among the ‘latest and greatest’ in skin care research.

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Pick a non-comedogenic moisturizer

While each person’s own needs can vary, generally someone with large pores will want to follow their facial cleansing with a good, hydrating moisturizer. Moisturizers should go on top of serums and hydrators, to ‘lock’ them in.

What about creating acne, you ask? It can be a common misconception that oily skin doesn’t need a moisturizer.

In truth, your skin needs oil and water to function properly, and to heal itself. What it doesn’t need is excess oil from over-active sebaceous glands. These are what cause your pores to clog up, along with dead skin cells. In turn, they cause acne.

It might sound like a catch 22, but it’s not. The trick to keeping your face properly moisturized is with a non-comedogenic moisturizer, after cleansing it well. The term “non-comedogenic” means that the product won’t clog your pores.

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During the day, use a non-comedogenic, high-SPF mineral sunscreen

As we mentioned above, daytime sunscreen is a must in nearly every case involving skin problems, or just general skin health. If you have large pores, and want to minimize them, consider sunscreen part of your new life as a pore-fighting ‘soldier.’

Worried about sunscreens causing breakouts? Don’t be. Just like moisturizers, sunscreens can come in “non-comedogenic” form. Mineral sunscreens, in particular, sit on top of your skin, and don’t penetrate deeply, the way chemical sunscreens do.

Be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours. If you don’t, you can be completely exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays. A brush-on powder sunscreen can help with this, if you wear makeup daily.

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Consider professional med-spa treatments to reduce the appearance of pores

After you get your skincare routine down and memorized like the back of your own hand, it’s time to consider professional pore treatments.

Modern aesthetic technologies in med-spas can help the look of pores with accelerated exfoliation and skin rejuvenation. Options can include:

And possibly others.

Now, not all of these treatments will be suitable for every case of large pores. For example, if you have open acne wounds, those would need to heal before seeking microdermabrasion or chemical peels. Otherwise, the skin can get very aggravated.

In another example, those who are prone to scar and keloid formation should stay away from microneedling technologies.

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Pores getting you down? There’s a solution for that!

To conclude: if pores are getting you down, they can be addressed! Large pores are something we can be born with. But they can also get worse with time, especially by neglecting good skin care habits.

While we can’t get rid of large pores in the ‘absolute’ sense, we can take measures to reduce their appearance. These measures include a skin care routine designed to ‘attack’ dilated pores, with the goal of narrowing their openings. Failing that, professional treatments at a doctor-run skin clinic may be your best bet to solving visible pores.

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