They’re the little openings at the top of the hair follicles found all over our bodies. They may also be the bane of your existence. Yep, you’ve guessed it... we’re talking about pores.
So just why do we have pores? Think of them as your body’s natural moisturizer. Pores help to keep the skin supple and healthy by releasing sebum, the oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands under the skin.
So, what about those pressing questions, we hear you wondering: what if my pores appear larger than most? Do I have blackheads or large pores? What causes big pores and is there a reason they seem to be clogged all the time?
So many questions, so little time! That’s where we come in. Allow us to help clear things up quite literally. Good skin starts now!
What Causes Big Pores?
Let’s start with the science behind clogged pores. Essentially this happens when the pores have become blocked by a blend of sebum and other gunk – think bacteria, sweat and dead skin cells.
Not only do the pores appear bigger but they also seem to be congested. But what causes this blockage in the first place? It could simply be down to genetics.
Your skin may have a natural tendency to overproduce sebum based on your DNA. When this oily substance comes into contact with debris on the surface of the skin, you get what looks like little black dots on your face.
So, what causes big pores on your face? Simply put, if you have oily skin, your skin will naturally have larger pores than if you have a drier complexion.
And it makes sense too – large pores are usually the result of an excess in oil production.
So, with more sebum to get rid of, the pores need to expand in size. This may be one of the reasons the same pores constantly seem to be congested.
Wondering how to know if you have big pores? That depends on who you ask.
What doesn’t help the situation is poring over them with a magnifying glass. All things being relative though, remember that it’s normal to have pores – it's what makes us all human.
Something you do have control over however is getting rid of the congestion within them.
What are the Symptoms of Clogged Pores?
Now let’s talk about the appearance of pores. Here’s a fun fact: what might look like oversized pores, could merely mean that they are clogged.
It’s important to remember that the size of your pores cannot change. Think of each one as a plastic bag. When they’re empty and clear of any substances, they’re tight and cling together.
But fill them up, and they expand. The same goes for your pores. If you’re wondering what to do about large pores, the answer starts with keeping them clean.
The more oil your skin produces, the more chance there is for it to come into contact with dirt and debris.
What causes big pores on your nose comes down to this being a typically oilier area of the face.
So, is there anything that can be done about them? What do big pores mean? Are big pores genetic? And, very importantly, can enlarged pores shrink? We’ll answer your burning questions plus the most effective treatments to solve them too.
How to Treat Large Pores
Can large pores be treated? As with most things in life, it’s complicated. Yes, it’s possible to get rid of most of the build-up within the pores, but chances are you won’t truly get rid of it all.
When it comes to what to do about large pores, it’s better to focus on the journey and not the destination.
We know what you’re thinking – can’t you just squeeze your pores to get rid of the gunk? Sorry to break it to you, that may do more harm than good. Consider the process of squeezing your pores... not exactly the gentlest of actions, right?
The constant wear and tear on the skin will eventually result in your pores appearing even bigger over time.
Plus, the unfortunate truth is that any unclogging of the pores won’t have a long-term effect. Our bodies are constantly producing more oil. Get rid of excess sebum today and it will most likely fill back up in a couple of days anyway.
That said, is there anything that can help? You bet! We present your fool-proof guide to minimizing the appearance of your pores:
Use exfoliating acids in your daily skincare routine
Your best bet when it comes to dealing with congested pores is to add a chemical exfoliant to your skincare regime. Look for products containing the active ingredients AHA and BHA – both game-changers in the fight against large pores.
AHAs, or alpha-hydroxy acids, work by exfoliating the top layer of the skin and are great at treating acne, melasma and sun damage. Your top AHA pore-reducers are lactic acid, mandelic acid and glycolic acid.
Then there are the BHAs, or beta-hydroxy acids. Also in the family of chemical exfoliants, doctors recommend the beta variety for those with acne-prone complexions.
Star ingredient salicylic acid is a particular favourite on oilier skin types due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Check out this article where we recommend the best serums to minimize pores.
We can practically hear you thinking out loud: do big pores mean oily skin? Well, yes and no. When it comes to treating large pores through acids, it comes down to what your skin can tolerate.
AHAs are fantastic at melting away the glue that binds together the dead cells on your skin’s surface. BHAs go one step further by not only dissolving the build-up but also stretching them out too.
And therein lies the catch. As the main purpose of your pores is to get rid of oil and dirt, they will inevitably fill back up again.
That’s why you need to keep at it on a consistent basis to get the maximum benefit. The operative word being consistent.
Oily and combination skin types will benefit most from exfoliation every second day of the week. Those with more sensitive skin should aim for a once-weekly session followed by a nourishing, lightweight moisturizer.
Incorporate a charcoal or matcha mask and pore strips into your weekly routine
If like us, you’ve become a pro at self-care DIY masking sessions, you’re in luck! Clay, matcha, and charcoal masks are great ways to draw out oil, bacteria and impurities from the pores naturally.
But, just like with exfoliation, remember that the results will merely be temporary. You need to repeat the treatments at least once per week to see the best results.
Then we come to a product that is as satisfying as it is divisive – pore strips. We can now officially reveal that yes, even dermatologists approve of them.
What was once thought of as too abrasive for the skin, can actually be a welcome weekly habit for oily skin.
Apply an adhesive pore strip to the nose and get rid of any gunk and dead skin cells just under the skin, albeit temporarily.
Yes, they still need to be reapplied every week as inevitably, your pores will soon fill up again. We’ve long wondered what causes big pores on noses, and while the answer may not be quite so straightforward, the remedy certainly can be.
Wake up to the wonders of retinoids
Yep, we used the word “wonders” to describe this, well... wonderful ingredient. (It is, after all, a favourite of everyone from Nicole Kidman to Meghan Markle.)
Maybe you’re prone to the odd acne flare-up on top of already-overworked large pores? Look no further than retinoids.
These vitamin A- derivatives get to the root cause of congested pores – they decrease the production of sebum, and help to slough away dead skin cells properly instead of bonding them together and creating further blockages.
Essentially retinoids act somewhat like pipe cleaners, preventing cells from clogging up the follicles and calming down any inflammation.
An added bonus? Retinoids further help to build up collagen lost over time. As we age, collagen gets weaker and ultimately affects the lining of your pores.
What happens next? You guessed it – enlarged pores. Retinoids help to strengthen the walls of the pores causing them to look smaller.
They also increase skin cell turnover rate which means less congestion and smaller pores.
A word of caution though: retinoids are very powerful. Whether it’s an over-the-counter drugstore product or a prescription from your doctor, your skin needs to build up a tolerance to cope with its potency.
They may be truly excellent at targeting the causes of big pores on your face, but take care to use them very sparingly to begin with, until your skin can handle it fully.
Start by applying a pea-sized amount to the whole face once per week. Follow this with two nights a week over two weeks, three nights over three weeks and finally use it every other night from then onwards.
We can’t talk about retinol without mentioning sunscreen too. Using any kind of active ingredient but especially a retinoid will make your skin extra sensitive to sunlight.
But besides the harsh, aging effects of the sun on our complexions, let’s add one more to that list: it may even contribute to what causes big pores on your face!
By exposing the skin to UV light, the collagen around the walls of the pores can be broken down, which – you guessed it - may lead to even larger pores. Sun damage remains the fastest contributor to the breakdown of collagen.
Your best defence? A broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30. Look for a formulation that you love enough to wear consistently every single day.
Even on overcast wintry days, the sun still poses a very real threat to skin health and photoaging.
Choose your makeup wisely
Ah, makeup... can’t live with it, can’t live without it. And you know what? Neither should we have to.
Did you know that the right tinted moisturizer or foundation can actually help to minimize the appearance of enlarged pores?
Look specifically for products that contain oil-absorbing powders as well as blurring pigments. The result? Even toned, super-smooth skin in seconds. Did someone say “no filter selfie?!
Another pore minimizer that makeup artists swear by? Primer! Eva Longoria’s long-time makeup artist, Elan Bongiorno, revealed this trick in a video posted on TikTok:
“You’ve got to prep your skin... you’ve got to use a primer. So, after you put on your potions, your lotions, your oils, your sunscreen... after you’ve put that all on, you let it seep into the skin, and then you have to use a primer.”
The benefits, she says, are tailor-made to those with large pores. “If you have problematic skin, if you have large pores, if you have oily skin, you’ll want to use a mattifying primer.”
What’s more... it has the added benefit of giving you that movie star glow! “A primer helps your makeup glide on beautifully. It’s going to fill in any of those pores, any fine lines, and wrinkles. You’re going to have a beautiful canvas for your makeup, and your makeup is going to last longer.”
Consider a chemical peel
We’ve spoken about the benefits of using AHAs in your skincare routine. But what if you could get a concentrated dose under the supervision of a qualified expert?
Enter: the glycolic acid peel, aka one of the best cosmetic procedures for large pores. Ultimately, you’re getting the benefits of glycolic acid (softer, smoother and brighter skin) in a fraction of the time and at a much higher dose.
But does a chemical peel help with large pores? It sure does, but at a cost (and not just financially).
Due to its very aggressive nature, the AHA goes deep into the layers of the skin to remove excess sebum and dead skin cells.
But as a dose of between 30% and 40% of glycolic is used, those with active acne and very sensitive skin are best advised to steer clear.
So there you have it, now you know all the different causes and symptoms of big pores.
Most importantly, you're now equipped with some effective treatment options to minimize your pores.
Now it's over to you, try our tips and let us know how you go!