Almost all pores are microscopic openings in the skin that allow cooling perspiration and protective oils to reach the skin's surface. Some experts estimate that you have as many as one million pores per square inch of skin.
But sometimes pores become so enlarged that they create unattractive craters. Although it’s usually not a medical concern, enlarged pores can damage your self-confidence and self-esteem, and tempt you to empty your wallet on often-expensive and often-ineffective products that promise "guaranteed" results.
Fortunately, there are proven strategies for minimizing or concealing enlarged pores — and restoring even-looking skin.
The Causes of Enlarged Pores
During puberty, pores often enlarge to handle the increased oil output from sebaceous glands. In women, they often stay enlarged through menopause, when hormonal changes usually cause them to shrink to their original childhood size.
Unfortunately, enlarged pores are most likely to appear right where you don't want them: the T-zone, the area that runs between your forehead, nose, and chin. The nose is especially prone to developing enlarged pores because it contains more sebaceous glands than any other area of skin.
Enlarged pores tend to run in families. But factors other than heredity can foster their development, including:
- Improper skin care, including inadequate cleansing and wearing too much makeup.
- Oily skin and seborrhea, a common skin problem associated with a red, itchy rash and white scales.
- Sun damage.
Although most experts recommend seeing a doctor or dermatologist before trying to treat enlarged pores on your own, some home treatments may help you minimize their appearance. These include:
- Topical treatments. Look for over-the-counter creams that contain alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, or benzoyl peroxide, which help remove the excess oil and dead skin that accumulates around pores; or salicylic acid, which prevents pores from clogging and forming pimples and blackheads.
- Acne medications, especially those containing sulfur or resorcinol, or oil-clearing astringents.
- Vitamin A treatments. Products such as Retin-A, Renova, and Avage may help minimize the appearance of enlarged pores, and also unclog pores by speeding cell turnover and loosening blackheads.
- Tightening face masks. Used once or twice a week, such products can cleanse pores and promote smoother skin.
- Steaming. A weekly steaming can cleanse enlarged pores by loosening accumulated debris. For optimal results, apply a tightening face mask immediately after steaming.
Medical Treatments for Enlarged Pores
Your doctor or dermatologist may be able to save you a lot of time and expense by recommending over-the-counter or prescription medications that are the best fit for your skin. He or she may also recommend cosmetic procedures such as:
- Microdermabrasion, a technique that rejuvenates skin with tiny microcrystal particles that remove excess oil and dead skin that accumulates in enlarged pores. This technique also stimulates the growth of collagen, which promotes healthy-looking skin.
- Laser resurfacing , which uses short, concentrated bursts of laser light to remove dead skin, layer by layer. This promotes the formation of tighter skin and the growth of collagen.
- Chemical peels, which are solutions that remove dead skin and promote "new" skin. They reduce the appearance of enlarged pores, as well as other imperfections such as fine lines, wrinkles, and brown spots.
- Deep pore cleansing treatments, which exfoliate, tone, cleanse, moisturize, and balance the skin's oil production.