Enlarged pores are a common skin concern. While they don’t necessarily impact skin health, enlarged pores can be unsightly and cause people to feel less confident. According to Dr. Christina L. Harview of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Phoenix, Arizona, “While enlarged pores can’t always be shrunken, there are plenty of ways to prevent pores from becoming enlarged and make the size of pores less noticeable.” In this blog, Dr. Harview will walk through the common causes of enlarged pores and recommended treatment options.
What Causes Enlarged Pores?
When it comes to underlying causes of enlarged pores, Dr. Harview says, “In most cases, the size of pores, the openings that allow for sweat and sebum oil to be excreted, is determined by genetics. If your close family members have larger pores, you are likely to have larger pores too. While this is the most common factor in the size of pores, there are other underlying causes of pore enlargement that people should be aware of.” Some of the other causes of enlarged pores include:
- Gender – Men tend to have larger and more visible pores than women.
- Age – As we grow older, collagen and elastin production slows, which impacts skin’s elasticity. As skin loses fullness and elasticity through the years, the changes in skin tightness enlarge pores, causing them to appear wider and more noticeable.
- Skin damage caused by sun exposure – Like pore enlargement caused by aging, sun damage can also break down collagen and elastin, causing pores to grow larger.
- Changes in hormone levels – Hormonal levels shift throughout our lives. During puberty when hormone production increases drastically, most people will have more noticeable pores. Women may also notice changes in pore size during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
- Medications and supplements – Some systemic or topical medications can affect hormone levels, which in effect can increase or decrease the size of pores. Common medications such as hormonal birth control can either increase or decrease pores depending on their composition. Testosterone-based medications or supplements can increase pore size. Talk to your doctor if you suspect that one of your medications may be causing problems.
- Skin type – Those who have oily skin may have larger, more noticeable pores due to the excretion of greater amounts of sebum (the oil naturally produced by skin).
How Can You Shrink Pores?
According to Dr. Harview, “Some people simply have larger pores. While it may not always be easy to shrink naturally larger pores, there are plenty of options to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores and prevent pores from growing larger. The first step is to partner with a dermatologist who can review your medication list and skincare routine to help ensure you’re using the right skincare products and making the most of your daily routine.” Some of the top recommendations for shrinking pores include:
Improve Your Skincare Routine
Make sure to take care of your skin to reduce damage from sun and aging, prevent inflammation and irritation, and generally keep your skin looking and feeling its best. Because oily skin often contributes to enlarged pores, make sure to look for products designed for oily skin or those that are marketed as oil-free or non-comedogenic. A dermatologist can help you to create an effective, personalized daily skincare regimen to address enlarged pores, but a good skincare routine should include the following:
- A gentle facial cleanser should be used morning and evening as well as any time your skin gets very sweaty.
- Exfoliation can help to remove dead skin cells and unclog pores, making them appear smaller. Using a chemical exfoliant several times a week can be helpful for some skin types.
- Serums & treatments – Retinols in particular (both over-the-counter and prescription strength) can reduce sebum production, improve the texture and elasticity of the skin, and increase collagen and elastin production.
- Moisturizer – Apply to cleansed skin to ensure skin stays hydrated. This can actually minimize the production of sebum and therefore reduce oiliness and the visibility of pores.
- Sunscreen – A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher should be applied each morning and every 2 hours if you are in the sun. Protecting the skin from UV rays and sun damage may help prevent the enlargement of pores over many years.
Consider Dermatologic Treatments
There are numerous dermatologic treatments available to minimize the visibility of pores and improve skin tone and texture in general, including:
- HydraFacial – This unique skin health procedure uses a special tool to effectively unclog pores of sebum and dirt followed by topical application of a moisturizing serum. By cleaning out the pores in this way, followed by application of the serum, the size of pores can be reduced and moisture locked in, making this a great option for short-term relief from unsightly pores and blackheads. There is minimal healing time for this procedure, but results last a few days. It can be a great option prior to a major event such as a wedding.
- Chemical Peels – These cosmetic dermatology treatments use chemicals to remove the outer layers of skin and promote healthy skin cell turnover. You can use some chemical peels at home, but the strongest ones require in-office treatment. Repeated in-office treatments can lead to long-lasting results with some downtime. In-office treatments have the longest downtime, but the best likelihood of having noticeable long-lasting results.
- Microneedling – These procedures involve using many tiny needles to create microscopic injuries to the skin. These injuries jump-start the skin’s healing process, making skin appear full, plump, and shrinking pores. Repeated treatments in office also help to permanently increase collagen in the skin, leading to long-lasting results. Healing time is short for this procedure, and results can be subtle.
- Laser therapy – Certain types of lasers can be used for skin resurfacing and pore size/skin texture improvement. Some lasers, such as the CO2 laser, poke many microscopic holes in the skin and dermis. As the skin naturally heals itself, newer skin is born and collagen production increases. A single in-office treatment can permanently improve the appearance of enlarged pores and generally makes skin look and feel healthier. The healing time is longer for this procedure, but it generally produces the best and most noticeable results.
Topical and oral prescription medications can help reduce skin inflammation, promote skin cell turnover, and improve skin health. This may be a beneficial step for those who have oily and acne-prone skin, which contributes to enlarged pores, especially if these skin concerns have not responded to over-the-counter treatments.
Treat Skin Gently
Because skin with enlarged pores can be prone to inflammation, it’s important to be gentle with the skin. It can be tempting to pop or squeeze enlarged pores or scrub the skin to remove any dirt, grime, or oil that is clogging pores. While the temptation may seem logical, squeezing, picking, or scrubbing your skin can actually make enlarged pores more noticeable and larger.
In addition to avoiding picking or scrubbing the skin, it’s also important to review your skincare routine, cosmetics, cleaners, and other products you use regularly to ensure you’re not unnecessarily exposing your skin to harsh, drying, and abrasive products. You should look for products with ingredients like alcohol, dyes, fragrances, and preservatives which are the most likely to cause skin health concerns. If you notice your pores look larger, consider changing some of these products or discontinuing their use.
Work with a Dermatologist
If you’re interested in learning more about diminishing the appearance of enlarged pores, we hope you’ll consider working with one of the knowledgeable dermatologists at U.S. Dermatology Partners. Our skilled practitioners can help you make the most of your skincare routine to diminish the appearance of enlarged pores and improve skin health. If you’re ready to learn more about skincare solutions or dermatologic treatment options, please complete our online scheduling request. Once we receive your scheduling request form, we’ll be in touch to finalize the details of your visit.
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