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Pore minimizing made simple

Is a Solution for:
Large Pores
November 19, 2009 Reviewed by Copley 10 Comments

Regardless of age or climate, all skin types can be afflicted with particularly visible pores. Some causes of pore enlargement include hereditary factors, pollution, exposure to sun, bad eating habits (consumption of sugar and fat), smoking (which increases sebum secretion), and poor skin hygiene. The accumulation of sebum and impurities around the edges of pores makes them more conspicuous. And improper exfoliation of skin cells lets pores get plugged up. As sebum is produced by the skin's oil glands, it cannot reach the surface and starts accumulating inside the pore, expanding its diameter. Dead skin cells, oils, and bacteria pool in this follicular opening, often leading to the formation of blackheads (medically termed "open comedones") owing to oxygenation.

So now you know the science behind an outsized pore, but why are some skin types more porously prone than others? Oily skin tends to attract larger-looking pores and magnify their presence on the face. Aging thickens skin and causes the rims of cells to collect around single pores, making them appear bigger than they actually are. Aging also leads to collagen loss, which in turn, affects pore tightness and can create a depression in the skin known as a collapsed pore. Unfortunately, once a pore has widened, there is no permanent way to restore its original size. The best you can do for your skin is to borrow some of the below tips for minimizing the conspicuousness of a portly pore.

If expense is not an issue, there are plenty of procedures that address enlarged pores. Perhaps the least enjoyable- yet most valuable- step in a spa facial is extraction, during which the esthetician excavates obstinate blackheads. One of the most popular professional treatments for achieving a youthful complexion with petite pores is microdermabrasion. This procedure works by peeling off the outermost layer of skin, abrading the blackheads off, and using suction to effectively pull out the remaining dirt and hardened oil from the pores. When the trapped oil reaches the surface, the pores return to their natural shape since there's nothing inside to enlarge them. As an added bonus, it stimulates collagen production and increases elasticity, which is essential for keeping pores tight. Besides microdermabrasion, salon treatments like laser resurfacing and light chemical peels can strip pores of debris and tighten them.

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A thorough cleansing regimen is critical for doing right by your pores. Stick to natural soaps and cleansing gels, especially those with bacteria-busting agents like azelaic acid. Steaming your skin (by draping a towel over your head while positioning your face over a bowl of steaming water for fifteen minutes) opens up the pores and clears out clogging residue. Exfoliating cleansers that incorporate an active amount of salicylic acid typically reduce pore size, scrub away dead skin cells, and extract dulling toxins. Salicylic is classified as a beta hydroxy acid, a natural acid derived from willow bark, sweet birch bark, and wintergreen leaves. It is a clogged pore's worst nightmare.

Alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic, lactic, and citric,  help disintegrate the "glue" that holds dead cells inside the pore. Even though their water-soluble nature prevents them from penetrating deep through the epidermis to remove debris (like oil-soluble salicylic acid), alpha hydroxy acids are proven to unblock pores. The face version of Juice Beauty Green Apply Body Peel can both refine pores and improve skin texture through its combination of raw cane sugar (glycolic acid), white willow bark extract (beta hydroxy acid), organic milk peptides (lactic acid), and organic apple, lemon, and grape juices (antioxidants). Chella's Exfoliating mask is another excellent choice since it adds in botanical extracts and enzymes.

Clogged pores can be relieved by an oil-absorbing mask made from bentonite clay (in Astara Flame Purification Mask), red Moroccan clay, or rhassoul clay (in Kaeline Rhassoul Clay Mask). These clays deeply penetrate to extract the excess dermal waste from your pores, though some clay-based masks may be too potent for sensitive skin. Topical products touting the antioxidants vitamin A or C are known to tighten the skin for a smoother appearance and less visible pores. In particular, retinol (an OTC form of vitamin A) helps loosen the plug of blackheads and chemically "peel" the rim of the pore. Again, sensitive skin might encounter flaking or irritation.

Aside from the many procedures and products to prevent your pores from taking on their own zip code, you really don't need to spend a dime. Your own kitchen is probably stocked with everything you need for pure porefection. Try concocting a face scrub out of sugar, which can smooth fine lines, exfoliate dead cells, and shrink pores with its natural alpha hydroxy acids. It is said that plain milk of magnesia is an effective treatment for absorbing excess skin oil. Our DIY natural face lift, based on egg whites, has an instant shrinking effect on pores. Egg whites also make an appearance in our papaya fruit face mask, which confers the added benefits of softening skin and brightening pigmentation.

What not to do in your crusade against super-pores: pick at your face. Squeezing your pores to draw out impurities can do long-term damage, impairing their ability to return to their normal size. Of course, makeup can be a culprit as well. Wearing heavy foundation may cover up noticeable pores momentarily, but it can also lead to clogging and further enlargement. These should be no-brainers.

Though it may sound counter-intuitive, you should keep a distance from products with harsh alcohols, acids, or peroxides. Drying astringents and toners deceive your skin with their temporary tightening effect, which causes the capillaries to dilate and the tiny muscles of the pores to constrict. Tight pores may appear smaller in the short run; however, this moisture-sapping action actually encourages your natural oil glands to over-produce sebum, ultimately expanding pore size. Gentle, natural astringents like witch hazel and rosewater are better choices. You can find healthy skin-toning components in each of our Five Best facial cleansers.

Pores are not the enemy. However unaesthetic they may appear at times, pores play a vital role in skin physiology. Without these tiny openings, the sebum that keeps skin pH-balanced and healthy would have no way of reaching the surface. When pores get out of control, all you need to do is target the key factors that heighten their visibility: unplug debris, wipe out bacteria, eliminate excess oil, blast away blackheads, smooth the edges, and seal the pores closed. If you strategically combine some of the above solutions, your overly ambitious pores won't stand a chance.

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  • September 12, 2013

    by Suyin

    My skin is both oily in places and dry in others. I am very happy when I tried the Citrus CLear Sensitive Moisturizer - its the is the first product I have found that hydrates without clogging my pores.

  • August 28, 2010

    by Michelle

    Thanks Copley!

    Ok, I want to try the regimen you suggested above. But before I do, allow me to check if this is the right procedure. According to your post, these are some of the steps to take (please let me know if I'm missing any steps or if they're out of order, thanks):


    1. Get a spa facial and have an esthetician perform blackhead/whitehead extraction. They'll use suction to effectively pull out the remaning dirt and oil from the pores. I need help finding a facial spa/clinic and an esthetician. =/

    2. Cleanse face w/ natural cleansers. Especially bacteria busting ones.

    3. Steam face to open up pores

    4. Exfoliate with exfoliating cleansers (twice a week or everyday?)

    5. Use Alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic to unblock pores and loosen up the junk that's in them. Since Image anti-aging serum is a glycolic, will it work in this mannger, or do I have to use a different type of glycolic?

    6. I'm not sure what the Juice Beauty Green apple peel is for, or what the Chella Mask is for in this step. Do these actually "PEEL" off the junk that was previously loosened up w/ glycolic in step 5 like Biore nose strips do?

    7. Absorb oil and extract excess dermal waste from pores by using a clay mask.

    8. Don't use harsh pore-clogging makeup and alcohol astringents and toners

  • December 3, 2009

    by copley

    Hi Michelle-
    Thanks for sharing your personal woes and suggestions! I have to admit that I succumb to the temptation to pick and prod at my face nearly every time I find myself in front of a magnifying mirror. It's so satisfying to squeeze an engorged pore and see it get cleared out before your eyes. That being said, it is not recommended because pinching your skin in this way can do long-term damage. It sounds like you suffer mostly from whiteheads, which obviously you want to get rid of ASAP. When they appear as if they're ready to pop without much picking, do the steam facial mentioned in the post or take a steam shower before touching your face. As for professional treatments, your esthetician can recommend a regime that would be appropriate for your particular skin. The Clarisonic brush is good for light daily exfoliation that will remove dead skin cells which might otherwise clog your pores. But you'll also want to use a facial mask with skin-clarifying and pore-cleansing powers a few times a week. Glad to hear you found a mask that works for you!

  • December 3, 2009

    by MIchelle

    Hi Copley,

    Oh no! I just read your post about how it's horrible to pick at your face, which is what I've been doing! I sometimes "squeeze" my visible pores in an attempt to unclog them of those white creamy thing that shoot out like tootpaste does (except in a microscopic way/version of it). Are those things whiteheads? Because I think I have hidden them in my pores all over my face, but have very few blackheads. At least none that I can really see. I'm 24, would extraction be okay for my skin? Sometimes, they feel so clogged that I wish they had some kind of sticky paper towel that I could put over my face (like Biore's nose strips, but for the face) and just peel off, or better yet, rip out all the junk that's stuck in EVERY pore. The ultimate test would be to squeeze the pores in my face and see if anything is left over or comes out. -_- I wonder if an esthetician can do something like this. Would you have any suggestions for what I should request the esthetician to do when I go to the spa? And I thought the Clarisonic brush was a form of microdermabrasion. What's the difference between the brush and the microdermabrasion with the esthetician?
    Also, is the Juice Beauty face peel like a mask, or is it something you can actually "peel" off your face like a sticky papier mache? And if it's like a mask, how is the peel different from the clay masks?

    I used to have really tight, smooth and clear skin as a kid, but as I've grown older, my pores seemed to have enlarged for some reason (I don't smoke, I don't eat lots of fat or sugar, so maybe it was using make-up too early?) and now my skin doesn't look as smooth anymore. It's sad to know that they'll never return to their original size. =/
    Also, when looking into the Astara Blue purification mask, I came across great reviews for Queen Helen's Mint Julep Mask, and decided to buy it for a fraction of the price of Astara. It's worked well to help w/ my acne and pore size. I think TIA might want to take a look at it. It's a bit difficult to find though, as I've only found it sold from drugstore.com. I know I asked a bunch of questions again, sorry. hehe =P

  • November 22, 2009

    by Leslie

    Copley,
    Thanks so much for this great article. I've had oily skin and blackhead issues since Junior High and as I've grown older (although I'll never admit to that!) my pores seem to have grown larger. I've only recently become more methodical with my skin care and really appreciate the information on the science behind my main skin concern, as I've all but given up on trying to remedy it. I'll definitely give one of the recommended cleansers and masks a try.

  • November 22, 2009

    by copley

    Microdermabrasion is one of the most gentle of the non-surgical procedures and is very effective at clearing out pores and stimulating cellular renewal. See how it works in this video of Marta with her esthetician Ildi Pekar: <a href="http://www.truthinaging.com/treatments/video-microdermabrasion-at-ildi-pekar-salon" rel="nofollow">http://www.truthinaging.com/treatments/video-microdermabrasion-at-ildi-pekar-salon</a>

  • November 22, 2009

    by Ha

    Copley,

    No, I have not. Is that better?

  • November 21, 2009

    by copley

    Ha- Pore extraction should be safe in the hands of a professional. Have you tried a microdermabrasion treatment?

    Angela- I am not familiar with Glacial Clay but you piqued my interest. Stay tuned for a post on it in the coming weeks.

  • November 19, 2009

    by ha

    Hi Copley,

    I go to my esthetician to remove my white heads, squeezing it out. Is that bad? If I want to get rid of white heads, making my pores look smaller, what type of facials should I be getting if it's not removing the impurities?

    Thanks,
    Ha

  • November 19, 2009

    by Angela

    Terrific post, Copley! I adore masks and am currently using Jurlique's Purifying Mask which makes my skin feel tighter, but I don't feel like it's actually cleansing my pores. As soon as I finish it, I'm going to give one of your suggestions a try. Do you know anything about Glacial Clay? I've read good things about it, but I'm not sure if it's hype or if there's an actual difference between it and other types of clay.

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