Pores are nothing more than openings on the skin that house hair follicles. Pores may be small and unnoticeable, but a significant number of people have pores that are large and visible enough to make them self-conscious about the way their skin looks. These more visible pores are what people refer to as “enlarged pores.” Deep within pores are sebaceous glands that empty into the hair follicles. These glands produce an oily substance called sebum that lubricates and protects the surface of the skin from environmental damage. Skin cells are constantly being shed inside hair follicles, and sometimes the excess skin cells and sebum clog pores and create blackheads. People who have enlarged pores are also more likely to have blackheads.
What Causes Them?
Pores naturally increase in size around the time of puberty as higher hormone levels trigger the production of more sebum, and the pore has to expand to accommodate this outpouring of oil. Dead skin cells and sebum can also stick inside the openings of pores and cause them to expand and look larger. People who are acne-prone produce more pore-clogging sebum, so they’re more likely to have blackheads and enlarged pores.
Genetics are another factor that contributes to pore size. Generally, people with naturally oily skin have larger pores since they produce more oily sebum. People with drier skin usually have pores that are discrete and smaller in size since they don’t produce as much sebum.
Enlarged pores aren’t just a problem for sebum-producing adolescents. Pore size may also increase with age as the collagen and elastin structure around pores breaks down causing them to widen. Too much time in the sun without a sunscreen contributes to this. Hormonal changes that happen around menopause may also make pores more visible.
A good cleansing regimen is important to reduce sebum that plugs pores and causes them to enlarge. Choose a cleanser with glycolic acid, a natural exfoliator. This will purify the skin while removing dead skin cells that can clog pores. Choose a gentle formula that works without stripping skin of its natural protection against dryness. The next step is to exfoliate. Exfoliation “deep cleans” to remove dead skin cells and debris that can stick inside the opening of pores. Effective exfoliating products gently remove dead skin cells that cleansers alone can’t handle. Exfoliation has the added benefit of improving skin texture, giving skin a youthful glow you won’t get from simple cleansing.
Products containing alpha hydroxy or beta hydroxy acids also help to remove dead surface skin cells that contribute to large pores and blackheads. These products not only treat pore problems, they also brighten and improve skin texture while reducing the appearance of fine lines. Look for products that contain salicylic acid, a type of beta hydroxy acid that helps gently slough off old skin cells.
Until they become smaller, use a tinted pore-minimizing lotion to hide them. You can use the product alone or apply a water-based foundation or oil-free powder on top for additional coverage. Most pore minimizers leave a matte finish that causes large pores to fade into the background. Always apply a sunscreen first to prevent further sun damage that can make enlarged pores more obvious.
The Bottom Line?
Enlarged pores are a frustrating problem to have at any age, but the right skin care products can make all the difference in how they look – and that’s good news for anyone who has them.