- Large pores are those that are more visible to the naked eye.
- Pore size is often genetic, but factors such as sebum secretion and skin elasticity may make them larger.
- Large pores are best treated by exfoliation, and treatments that help regulate sebum production and counteract skin aging.
- Dermatological treatments such as laser therapy, deep peels and prescription-strength retinoids are also available.
- Prevent large pores from developing by keeping your skin clean and hydrated, and ensuring the products you use are suitable for your skin type.
Pores are small openings on the skin that sweat and sebum pass through to reach the skin’s surface. Enlarged pores are those which appear dilated are clearly visible to the naked eye.
Pore size is primarily genetic but overproduction of sebum, or oil, can also lead to visibly enlarged pores due to oil combining with skin debris, which causes clogging.
Skin aging and low skin elasticity may also make pores appear enlarged. They may be present with other skin concerns such as blackheads, because they are more easily impacted by the accumulation of skin debris.
The best way to treat large pores is by targeting their underlying associated causes, such as increased sebum production and skin aging, and by unclogging pores through exfoliation and peeling.
A pore is the opening of a hair follicle. The sebaceous gland within each hair follicle secretes sebum, a lubricating oil, through the pores. Sebum production is important for skin health because it protects and moisturizes the skin.
It is a misconception that pores open or close. “Pores cannot physically dilate or open on their own,” says dermatologist Jeanine B. Downie, MD. They may, however, dilate due to a buildup of skin debris, especially when combined with sebum. It is not clear whether pore size can be reduced, but they can be made to appear smaller.
Another misconception is that enlarged pores on the face are directly affected or caused by sweat. In fact, facial sweat glands have different openings onto the skin. . Sweating on the face, therefore, is not directly related to their enlarged size.
That said, in other regions of the body sweat could be more directly linked to enlarged pores. In areas such as the armpits and groin, sweat is secreted from sweat glands that are directly connected to hair follicles.
Do you have large pores?
Facial pores are typically visible to the naked eye and can range from approximately 250 to 500 micrometers in size. The usual size range varies depending on factors such as skin tone and age.
There is no consensus on how to determine whether a pore is considered large. “There is no objective measurement used in the appointment setting, and assessment in general, is visual and subjective,” says Dr. Downie.
With that said, some dermatologists use specialized imaging techniques and replicas to help determine pore sizes. “In clinical settings in which a study is being performed, dermatoscopes have also been used as a means to measure pore size,” says Dr. Downie. These tools use magnification and polarized light to obtain a more accurate assessment of pore size.
Pore size is primarily genetic, but other factors may also come into play.
The most common causes of large pores are high sebum secretion and decreased skin elasticity. Other factors include chronic acne, hormonal differences, sun damage, smoking, radiodermatitis and vitamin A deficiency.
Large pores on the nose and cheeks
Large pores are often most prominent on the nose as a result of the large sebaceous glands that are beneath the skin in this area. This increases the level of oiliness which further contributes to their appearing larger. They may appear enlarged on the cheeks due to makeup use which may clog pores.
Extremely large pores
Large pores and extremely large pores are basically one and the same and not necessarily the result of different causes. However, cystic acne sufferers will more likely exhibit extremely large pores as cysts may cause pores to stretch and therefore appear significantly larger.
How to Treat Large Pores
Large pores can be made to appear smaller by decreasing or regulating sebum production and counteracting skin aging. Exfoliation can also help by removing clogs and reducing dilation.
Retinoids and anti-aging solutions are utilized to counteract skin aging and encourage firm and elastic skin. Scrubs, cleansers and face masks lightly exfoliate the skin, whereas chemical peels provide a deep exfoliation and can also decrease sebum production.
In many cases, reducing the size of pores also goes hand in hand with addressing the underlying causes of pore enlargement.
A topical retinoid is a vitamin A derivative which helps reverse the skin changes that occur with aging and sun damage by increasing skin thickness and elasticity and by slowing collagen breakdown.
“Retinoids accelerate cellular turnover and force excess sebum out of pores,” says Dr. Downie.
One study showed that tazarotene, a topical retinoid, is effective in reducing the visible size of pores.
A topical retinoid takes only a little time to apply and has the bonus of also helping to treat acne, psoriasis and skin aging. However, retinoids can sometimes cause side effects such as burning, scaling, peeling, redness and swelling that make them unpleasant to use.“Be careful when using any new product containing a retinoid,” says Dr. Downie. “They can make your skin sensitive, cause a potential acne flare and increase sun sensitivity.”
Apply a pea-sized amount of retinoid gel or cream to the skin 20–30 minutes after cleansing, at bedtime.
Because large pores are linked to skin aging, anti-aging solutions might be an effective way to reduce their visibility.
A healthy collagen and elastin framework is vital to preventing or reversing skin aging. “Many anti-aging serums claim to be effective in decreasing large pores because they contain retinoids,” says Dr. Downie. These serums encourage collagen production and help revitalize skin, making it appear more youthful and potentially reducing how large pores appear.
These serums should be applied in small pea-sized dots around the face, then massaged gently into the skin.
Exfoliation can be achieved through the application of a face mask or (gentle) exfoliating face scrubs and cleansers. These exfoliants are lighter and less abrasive than chemical peels. Through regular exfoliation, pores can appear smaller.
Light chemical peels
A chemical peel is a solution which removes and regenerates the outer layers of skin, acting as a much deeper exfoliant than face scrubs and cleansers.“This exfoliation forces sebum out of the pores, reducing the volume within them and therefore diminishes their appearance,” says Dr. Downie.
Light chemical peels also treat acne and skin aging. They can be bought over the counter, but do not work as deeply as professional peels.
While the effects of chemical peels are permanent, peels should still be performed on a regular basis. “Continued production of sebum by the body, damage by the environment and aging will continue to impact the skin,” says Dr. Downie. “I typically recommend several chemical peels to reach a satisfactory skin appearance, then maintenance peels to keep those results.”
Chemical peels have proven effective at treating large pores. However, those with rosacea, dark skin tones and sensitive skin may experience some irritation from chemical peel use. In such cases it is best to apply the light solution to a small area on your forearm as a spot test.
Products to avoid
Avoid any products that are greasy and could contribute to clogged pores. Conversely, avoid products that can dry and irritate the skin as this can lead to an overproduction of sebum. These products include:
- Thick or greasy creams
- Bar soap
- Harsh scrubs
- Dehydrating home treatments such as toothpaste or rubbing alcohol
When over-the-counter treatments are not effective, you could benefit by consulting a dermatologist to discuss further options, such as:
- Stronger retinoids
- Deeper chemical peels
- Oral antiandrogens
- Laser, radiofrequency and ultrasound treatments
A dermatologist can prescribe more potent topical or oral retinoids, especially if you also have acne.
Deep chemical peels
Deep chemical peels penetrate layers of skin to remove and regenerate damaged cells, potentially reducing how large pores appear due to the skin’s newfound firmness and elasticity.
Microdermabrasion, similar to a chemical peel, removes the top layer of skin so that a new layer of firmer, more elastic and smooth skin can form. It also reduces sebum production. This procedure is noninvasive and only takes about 30 minutes to undergo when performed on the face.
They act as androgen receptor blockers, preventing androgens such as testosterone from binding to their receptors. This helps to regulate sebum production, reducing buildup in the pores and making them appear smaller. However, oral antiandrogens can have serious side effects, so it is best to discuss this treatment with your dermatologist or doctor.
Laser, radiofrequency and ultrasound
Targeted thermal or ultrasound energy remodels collagen fibers to increase skin elasticity and reduce sebum production. Studies have shown that both ultrasound and laser treatments are effective in reducing visible pore size.
“Lasers used in dermatology offices act similarly to chemical peels but typically penetrate the skin deeper,” says Dr. Downie. Unlike chemical peels, the settings on laser devices offer dermatologists more control over the process, leading to more precise treatment.
Preventing Large Pores
Prevent large pores by following a good skin care regimen to ensure skin remains hydrated and healthy:
- Follow a skin care routine that incorporates a mild face wash, astringent-free toner, gentle exfoliant and a moisturizer suited to your skin type.
- Choose skin care products that are noncomedogenic, meaning they won’t clog your pores.
- Protect your skin from harmful UV rays and apply SPF 30 sunscreen every day.
While pore size is primarily genetic, large pores are also caused by the overproduction of sebum, plug formation, decreased skin elasticity and skin aging.
To reduce pore size, choose products that help regulate sebum production, counteract the signs of aging, and exfoliate and unclog pores. You may also prevent the appearance of large pores by adhering to a good skin care routine.
Light surface exfoliants such as scrubs, face masks and cleansers can prevent your pores from becoming clogged and dilated. Retinoids and anti-aging solutions can counteract skin aging to reduce the size of pores.
Should you find these solutions are not effective, professional treatments such as potent retinoids, deep chemical peels, microdermabrasion, oral antiandrogens and laser therapy can be considered to treat the appearance of large pores.
- Uhoda, E., Piérard-Franchimont, C., Petit, L., Piérard, G, E. (2005). The Conundrum of Skin Pores in Dermocosmetology. Dermatology, 210, 3-7. doi:10.1159/000081474
- Kim, S., Shin, M., Back, J., Koh, J. (2014). Pore volume is most highly correlated with the visual assessment of skin pores. Skin research and technology, (20)4. doi:10.1111/srt.12135
- Lee, S., Seok, J., Jeong, Y., Park, Y., Li, K., Seo, J. Facial Pores: Definition, Causes, and Treatment Options. Dermatologic Surgery. (42)3, 277–285. doi:10.1097/DSS.0000000000000657
- Jung, H., Ahn, J., Lee, J., Bae, J., Kim, H., Suh, H., Youn, J., Park, M. (2018). Analysis of the number of enlarged pores according to site, age, and sex. Skin research and technology, 24(3). doi:10.1111/srt.12438
- Kang, S., Krueger, G., Tanghetti, E., Lew-Kaya, D., Sefton, J., Walker, P., Gibson, J. (2005). A multicenter, randomized, double-blind trial of tazarotene 0.1% cream in the treatment of photodamage. Journal of the American academy of dermatology, 52(2), 268–74. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2004.06.021
- Dong, J., Lanoue, J., Goldenberg, G. (2016). Enlarged facial pores: an update on treatments. Cutis, 98(1), 33–36. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27529707
- Mukherjee, S., Date, A., Patravale, V., Korting, H. C., Roeder, A., & Weindl, G. (2006). Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clinical interventions in aging, 1(4), 327–348. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699641/
- Arif T. (2015). Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 8, 455–461. doi:10.2147/CCID.S84765
- Sharad J. (2013). Glycolic acid peel therapy – a current review. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 6, 281–288. doi:10.2147/CCID.S34029
- Ganceviciene, R., Liakou, A. I., Theodoridis, A., Makrantonaki, E., & Zouboulis, C. C. (2012). Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermato-endocrinology, 4(3), 308–319. doi:10.4161/derm.22804
- Tan MH, Spencer JM, Pires LM, Ajmeri J, Skover G. The evaluation of aluminum oxide crystal microdermabrasion for photodamage. Dermatol Surg. 2001 Nov;27(11):943-9. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11737128
- Kerscher, M., Reuther, T., Bayrhammer, J., Schramm, G. (2008). Effects of an oral contraceptive containing chlormadinone and ethinylestradiol on acne-prone skin of women of different age groups: an open-label, single-centre, phase IV study. Clinical drug investigation, 28(11), 703–11. doi:10.2165/00044011-200828110-00004
- Zouboulis, C. (2003). Treatment of acne with antiandrogens—an evidence-based review. Journal of the german society of dermatology, 1(7), 535–46. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16295039
- Schmults CD, Phelps R, Goldberg DJ. Nonablative facial remodeling: erythema reduction and histologic evidence of new collagen formation using a 300-microsecond 1064-nm Nd:YAG laser. Arch Dermatol. 2004 Nov;140(11):1373-6. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15545547
- Lee, H., Lee, K., Park, J., Yoon., M., Lee, S. (2015). The efficacy and safety of intense focused ultrasound in the treatment of enlarged facial pores in Asian skin. The Journal of dermatological treatment, 26(1), 73–7. doi:10.3109/09546634.2013.868862
- Suh, D., Chang, K., Lee, S., Song, K., Choi, J., Shin, M., Jeong, K. (2015). Treatment of dilated pores with 1410-nm fractional erbium-doped fiber laser. Lasers in medical science, 30(3), 1135–9. doi:10.1007/s10103-015-1719-4
- Flament, F., Francois, G., Qiu, H., Ye, C., Hanaya, T., Batisse, D., … Bazin, R. (2015). Facial skin pores: a multiethnic study. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 8, 85–93. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4337418