No matter how careful or thorough your daily skin care routine is, you’ve probably encountered the annoyance of unsightly large pores. Pores serve an important purpose in overall skin health, but big pores on the face can also be unattractive (and unwelcome).
Now, there’s no need to feel self-conscious about the size of the pores on cheeks and the rest of your face. Luckily, there are plenty of safe, healthy ways to minimize the appearance of enlarged pores. Let’s discuss steps to minimize the appearance of big pores.
So, What Causes Large Pores?
Now, technically, pores can’t actually get bigger, or smaller for that matter. It’s just that pores stand out more on some people than others. Why? Well, there are three main reasons.1
1. Oily Skin
Your skin secretes sebum (natural oils) to keep skin healthy and hydrated. But some people — typically with oily skin — have higher sebum production than others. Oily skin tends to bring about more obvious pores. This is because oil (and dirt, debris, and skin cells) clog pores and make them swell – so they appear much larger.
We all know that aging, unfortunately, means that our skin loses its elasticity. This can make your pores appear larger. Sun damage also plays a part and such damage also starts to show up with age, even if it was caused years earlier. Sun damage can make skin cells collect around the edges of your pores, which thickens the pores.
Males will always tend to have “larger” pores than females. But, because this is hormonal, women might also find that their pores seem larger during hormonal fluctuations – like when they have their period.
Pores and Blackheads
Enlarged pores and blackheads can go hand-in-hand. Typically, when a pore is filled with excess oil, trapped skin cells, and debris, a blackhead develops. Not only does the pore swell, it’s also black! Each blackhead makes its pore look painfully obvious.
But, there’s no need to feel self-conscious about pore size, on your cheeks or the rest of your face. There are plenty of safe, healthy, pore minimizing techniques available (that will also help those blackheads!)
Let’s discuss the steps to minimizing the appearance of big pores.
How to Get Rid of Enlarged Pores
Pores are holes in your skin around the hair follicles. They produce the sebum which helps keep your skin moisturized and healthy. You can’t change your pore size, but with the proper skin care routine, you may be able to help enlarged pores look smaller.
- Wash your skin daily. Your routine should incorporate a gentle cleanser. Cleansers keep the skin clean so that dirt, debris, and oil don’t clog pores and make them appear larger.2
- Moisturize. If you have oily skin, that may seem counterintuitive, but a non-comedogenic moisturizer won’t clog pores and will help keep skin moisturized, so less sebum is produced.
Vitamin A, often listed on skincare products as retinoids, may be helpful as a pore minimizer.3
- Clay masks can soothe, clean dirt and debris, and generally help skin cells to appear healthy. Enlarged pores may be less noticeable on healthier skin.4
- Explore face-peel products with AHAs and BHAs for a more intensive regimen that can unclog pores and act as a pore minimizer for a more intensive regimen that could help pores appear smaller.5,6
Of all the tips above, AHAs and BHAs can seem the most intimidating, but they’re also very effective at reducing the appearance of large pores.
AHAs vs. BHAs
Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs, are water-based acids that have a lot of positive benefits for porous skin, including the ability to help make large pores appear smaller. Beta Hydroxy Acids, or BHAs, have many of the same benefits, but they’re oil-soluble.
Neither is automatically better or worse than the other, but their applications are different.
- AHAs and BHAs are both effective at exfoliating the skin, which makes them excellent tools to help reduce the appearance of large pores.7,8
- BHAs are often seen as a little gentler than glycolic AHAs as they have a larger molecule size, so you may find them a better choice for sensitive skin9 – however, keep in mind that everyone’s skin is unique and some people will still find them irritating. Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties which may help to reduce redness.10
- AHAs help your skin restore some of the health that it loses as it ages, so AHAs can be helpful if you notice large pores growing worse as you age.11
Depending on your own personal skin-care needs, you may find yourself preferring AHAs or BHAs more. You may need to experiment by applying a few different products to your porous skin before you find the one that works best for you.
Note: When testing a new product, apply it to a small patch of skin first. Once you confirm that you won’t have an adverse reaction, you can then apply it to your entire face.
Using AHAs for Large Pores
Now, if you like the idea of using AHAs for pore minimizing, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- The FDA suggests using products with an AHA concentration of 10 percent or less.12
- AHAs can make your skin especially sensitive to sunlight, so always use sunscreen when you’re using AHAs.13
AHAs are powerful at exfoliating, but they can also be harmful if used improperly. Be sure to read the product instructions when you try a new AHA product.
Using BHAs for Large Pores
The most commonly used BHA is salicylic acid, an effective acid to use against large pores. If you choose to apply salicylic acid or any other BHA to porous skin, there are steps to follow to ensure that it’s safe and effective.
- Your product’s concentration matters. Usually, BHAs are sold at a 10% concentration, but some products will be more concentrated to treat more serious skin issues.14
- If your skin needs help recovering from sun damage, apply a retinoid right after using a face peel that contains salicylic acid.15
- Salicylic acid face peels are generally safe, with few or no side effects. To help avoid a bad reaction, don’t get peeling agents in your eyes, don’t attempt to rush the process, and avoid consuming alcohol right before or after a facial peel.16
Salicylic acid and other medicated formulas are incredibly useful when used correctly to reduce pore size. If you’re not sure about using a product, speak to your dermatologist.
Finding the Right Routine for Your Skin
Between AHAs and BHAs, you may feel like there’s an entire alphabet’s worth of exfoliating products to familiarize yourself with!
It’s important to understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all secret of how to get rid of large-looking pores. Different methods will be more or less effective, depending on your skin type and personal body chemistry.
But, with a little experimentation, you’ll find the perfect routine to help your skin look healthier. By sticking to it, over time, you can successfully minimize the appearance of large pores.
*Article updated 4/15/2019.