There are hundreds of products out there marketed toward shrinking large pores, but in order to find the best treatment, it’s important to understand what pores are, how they work, and what can be done to actually minimize them.
You probably know they can get clogged (especially if you’re a popaholic), and it seems like almost everyone is on an endless quest to use those ever-popular strips and masks to degunk them. But other than that, what do we really know about pores?
What is a pore?
Simply put, a pore is a teeny tiny opening in your skin, and your skin is covered in thousands of them. Some are sweat pores, which help your body to regulate its temperature, but most are actually hair follicles, meaning they contain a tiny hair root (which may or may not grow, depending on how lucky you are) and a sebaceous gland, which produces your body’s natural oil, aka sebum.
Pores play an incredibly important role in keeping our bodies healthy. Working as a type of tunnel, so to speak, our pores allow the body to deliver that sebum from the sebaceous glands to the surface of the skin, where it works to both moisturize and protect our largest organ — the skin itself. Did you know that sebum is what “waterproofs” our skin? It makes it so that too much water can’t enter or exit our skin, which keeps us from getting dehydrated or water logged.
In other words, you may hate that some of your pores are visible, but don’t hate on them too much — they’re tiny little miracle workers!
Why do pores become visible?
Everyone has lots of pores, but some peoples’ are more visible than others, especially around the nose, front part of the cheeks, and forehead. For the most part, the size of our pores can be determined by three things: our age, where we’re at in our hormonal cycle, and our genes.
Most people with large pores are simply born that way, likely having inherited their specific skin type from a parent or grandparent. As we age and our skin loses its elasticity, it will often stretch or sag. This can cause pores to expand over time, making them more visible as we age. Sometimes, especially during those hormonal periods like puberty, pregnancy, or menstruation, the overproduction of oil can simply make pores appear larger, when excess sebum collects on the skin’s surface, magnifying these small openings.
What causes pores to become “enlarged”?
While some people are born with smaller pores than others, there are certain bad habits that can impact the size of them. Sun damage and over-washing are at the top of the list. Both have a drying effect on the skin, and this can either zap collagen (which keeps skin plump and healthy looking) or trigger more oil production. Boom clogged pores. Having congested pores can also contribute to their large appearance, and the longer they’re clogged, the greater chance your pores have of becoming stretched out.
How can I unclog my pores?
In pursuit of smaller pores, it’s important to understand what you can and can’t expect from treatment. So many products are marketed to help “shrink” pores, and while we hate to be the bearers of bad news, we’re going to be straight with you: this isn’t possible. No matter how much time or money you spend on them, the size of your pores will never be made smaller with a product, treatment, or home remedy. The good news? While pores can’t be physically shrunken, their appearance can be minimized with various tips, tricks, and good skincare habits.
The best way to reduce the appearance of pores is to keep your skin clean without over drying your complexion. Many people make the mistake of washing away dirt and oil with harsh chemicals or irritating scrubs. When you strip too much oil away, the body will only trigger those sebaceous glands to produce even more sebum to make up for it, which can then result in clogged pores and even acne. We recommend using a gentle cleanser with Salicylic Acid, which will effectively and gently unclog your pores. Use this cleanser no more than twice a day, and expect to get rid your skin’s surface of excess oil and grime without making matters worse. Make sure you seal the deal by moisturizing afterward with a formula fit for your skin type, ideally a lightweight, daily moisturizer. You can really show your complexion some love by opting for a moisturizer with SPF, which will help reduce damage to your skin’s collagen. It’s important to remember — the sun’s UV rays leave you more than a visible sunburn, they also break down collagen and cause signs of premature aging. Collagen keeps the walls of your pores plump and tight, preventing them from sagging and appearing larger!
Exfoliating your skin also plays a major part in keeping pores in tip-top shape. Ridding the surface of your skin of all the dead, dry cells that accumulate each day can prevent clogged pores from forming, and stimulate good skin health. If you don’t think your skin is constantly shedding, think again. Your skin is a natural machine, and it’s constantly shedding layers of itself to make room for the new layers it’s creating. Getting rid of the dead cells not only prevents clogged pores and acne, it also encourages your skin to continue to produce new cells.
If you hear “exfoliation” and think of a gritty, harsh scrub, think again. Don’t let the word chemical scare you – they can be gentle and fabulous! Some great options are salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid. There are tons of amazing chemical exfoliants out there for you to use, and tons of different products that have them — from “peel” pads and toners to cleansers and leave-on face masks.
The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends using a topical retinoid, like a retinol serum, which works to increase cell turnover to exfoliate clogged pores without relying on a wash that may result in irritation.
What about all those strips and masks everyone loves?
If a face mask lists the right, skin de-gunking ingredients, it can be a great way to unclog your pores. Salicylic, lactic, and glycolic are three of our favorite exfoliating acids. Clay and charcoal are also excellent at pulling gunk out of your pores.
Fair warning: Those pore strips everyone raves about may just be pulling superficial dirt off your skin, not actually getting deep down into your pores. They can do more harm than good if they irritate or skin or break capillaries, so just be cautious!
You may not be able to shrink your pores into oblivion, but now you know how you can reduce the appearance of them! Our pores serve a wonderful and necessary purpose by allowing our skin to be moisturized the way nature intended. Since we rely so heavily on them, the greatest way to ensure our best complexions is to take the time to keep our pores clean, hydrated, and protected, which can reduce their appearance one day at a time!