We are a society obsessed with invisible pores. Between the whole “glass skin” trend (which honestly feels more like a societal mandate) and the obsession with airbrushed to oblivion ads and IG filters, it’s pretty damn ridiculous. Of all the things to get hung up over, enlarged pores seems pretty trivial when you think about it. If you have a healthy, functioning, mobile body that allows you to do all manner of wonderful things but are upset about the size of the tiny openings that sebum is excreted from, that seems insane. But I get it, we are a vanity driven society. As a beauty writer I’d be a huge hypocrite if I pretended for a second I was above worry about my own pores. I am worried, but I’m also realistic.
So what causes these inexplicably socially unacceptable large pores? Genetics are one component. If Grandpa had an orange peel nose, that might be in your cards as well. Males tend to have larger pores than females on the whole, so there’s that. Excessive sebum production is another cause. The overactive production can permanently dilate the pore, and once that’s happened, there’s really no going back.
In that vein, age is another huge factor. As our skin ages and loses its elasticity, the pores can become slack and, as a result, more visible. Aging is also the time when years of sun damage catch up to us, which leads to a thickening of the skin’s texture, which in turn pulls the pores open. Yep, aging freaking sucks.
Another cause is scarring, which can sometimes be prevented by being hands-off. A particularly clogged pore can easily be the victim of traumatic scarring if it’s extracted too roughly. This can be especially noticeable on the nose area, so be careful when removing blackheads. (This is why I will always prefer pore strips to manual extractions for the nose.) As tempting as it is to just squeeze the ever loving crap out of your nose and get that satisfying curly ooze out, don’t do it! Go watch some pimple popping videos or something to curb your urge, if you must.
So what can you do about enlarged pores? There are loads of products that claim to “shrink pores,” but honestly that’s a bunch of BS. No topical product can shrink pores. Even with Fraxel or IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) laser treatments there’s not as dramatic of a result as you might expect. Chemical peels used to be the gold standard for enlarged pores and acne scarring, and that’s still a viable option for some people; it really depends on your skin type and sensitivity.
Prescription retinoids are an avenue of treatment for some to address pore size, especially when used to treat age-related texture issues. Others use a milder form of pore maintenance with over-the-counter BHAs and AHAs. With a good BHA and AHA combo, the debris in the pore is cleaned away, which collapses the pore a bit, leading to a diminished look in size.
Think about it: If you have large pores, then you know that blackheads (sebaceous filaments) are especially prominent. It’s not that your pores are any dirtier than your smaller-pored peers; it’s just that the buildup of sebum and dirt has a larger stage to present itself on. That’s why your best option to fight the look of enlarged pores is keeping your skin clean and well moisturized. The clean part is self-explanatory: If your pores are cleaned of excess sebum and debris, they’re not going to scream out “HEYLOOKATME” quite so loudly.
That being said, do not go overboard with a stripping, high pH cleanser or washing your face several times a day. Those things are going to exacerbate your oil production by sending a “holy crap, boys, send in the reserves, we’re low on oil!” message. For that reason, a gentle cleanser as well as keeping even oily skin well moisturized is needed. Basically, fight every urge you have to pick, dry-up, and generally abuse your pores in the name of shrinking them. Using a blotting paper on your shiny areas is going to make you feel better cosmetically, so give those a try if you don’t already. 3CE has some really cool purple ones that are good and look cute AF in your purse.
A mild clay mask is a great way to absorb excess sebum, as well as mineral powders throughout the day. Innisfree No Sebum Mineral Powder is a cult product with a loyal following for its awesome sebum-sucking powers. It’s also extremely affordable and comes in both a loose and pressed version. Innisfree also makes some of my favorite clay masks. A good clay mask can clear out the pores and do a bit of prevention as well. If you’ve noticed me bringing them up time and time again in my articles, it’s for a reason. They’re really great products. I get a lot of practice dealing with giant pores from my husband who has been my willing guinea pig throughout the years searching for the best pore care. Innisfree has become my go-to brand for that after lots of trial and product error.
Lastly, the most important thing you can do is slather on that sunscreen and keep it comin’. Even if you feel like it couldn’t get any worse, trust me, it can get soooo much worse, thanks to that nasty sun damage I talked about previously. Prevention and maintenance is key here. Press pause on the size of your pores currently by keeping those nasty rays away. There are so many wonderful options in K-beauty for sunscreens, there’s no excuse not to have several on deck ready for use. The Saem Eco Earth Power Aqua Sun Gel SPF50+ PA++++ is a particularly excellent choice for oily skin. It’s a mostly clear gel that dries down instantly and works really well under makeup too. Also, it doesn’t give a white cast, so that’s great news for dark skin.
So what have we learned here? If you don’t have the money for medical intervention or are just biding your time until you do: Keep it clean, keep it moisturized, keep it gentle, and keep that damned sun away! Take all of those steps, and your pores will be the best little pores they can be.
What have you found helps you treat your enlarged pores? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.