Your face has thousands of pores on it. Some of them are practically invisible, while others might look gigantic if you make the mistake of peering into a magnifying mirror.
These tiny openings are part and parcel of hair follicles, oil glands and sweat glands. Without them, your body couldn't regulate temperature or protect your skin. But that may be difficult to remember if your pores are often blocked, resulting in acne, or are very noticeable. Large pores can also make your skin appear older -- after all, when is the last time you noticed the pores on a baby's face?
Several factors come into play where pore size is involved. Once you know what affects their appearance, you'll be armed with the information to improve it.
Step 1: Know Your Limitations
Three factors affect the size of pores: oily skin, age and sex [source: British Journal of Dermatology].
We all have oil coating our skin to keep it hydrated and safe from bacteria, but some of us have it in abundance. Oily skin and large pores tend to go together. When your pores are full with oil, for example, they expand.
Age contributes in a different way. Your skin loses elasticity as it ages, and this slackening of the skin can make pores look larger. Men, in general, seem to have bigger pores than women do, although hormones make a difference for women. During, before or after menstruation, hormonal shifts can cause skin changes, as well.
You can't change your skin type, your age or your biological sex. In fact, you can't "shrink" your pores at all. They don't open or close, because they don't have muscles, so you can't exercise them into submission. Shrinking pores is really more about tricking the eye than changing your skin structure.
Step 2: Clean and Exfoliate
To make pores as invisible as possible, keep them clean. Use a gentle cleanser in the morning and evening and after you sweat. A product that's too harsh will dry out your skin and trigger an undesirable response: an overproduction of oil. Scrubbing doesn't help empty those tiny openings, either -- stick to gentle exfoliants that help clear out dead cells. You can also try a pore-minimizing cream designed to increase the production of glycosaminoglycans, which tackle the problem of inelastic skin [source: Crawford].
There are pricier treatments you can try at a doctor's office, including microdermabrasion and chemical peels. Both clean out pores and can make skin look smoother, but there are also side effects involved -- and a hefty price tag. Try a gentle at-home regimen first.
Step 3: Choose the Right Makeup
Makeup can be a friend to large pores. To get your face ready for cosmetics, begin with a noncomedogenic (read: won't clog your pores) moisturizer. Then, spread on some primer, which evens out your skin's appearance and puts a barrier between oil and your makeup [source: DocShop].
For foundation, you'll also want to look for something oil-free and noncomedogenic. Some people recommend mineral makeup for people with large pores. It tends to be free of perfumes and preservatives, so it's worth a shot [source: Bouchez].
Remember that your hair comes into contact with your face as well, so try to keep it free of lots of product that can get into your pores.
Step 4: Put Your Efforts Into Prevention
One factor you can definitely control is sun exposure. You know it contributes to wrinkles and age spots, but it also does a number on your pores.
Slather on sunscreen every day, even if it doesn't look sunny outside. To treat sun damage, you can use a topical retinoid solution that you can get from your doctor. It will help fight bacteria that cause acne while dealing with the effects of the sun at the same time. Retinoids are one of the few skin products that have been clinically proven to help with the appearance of aging skin.
Large pores are a fact of life for many of us. But taking care of your skin goes a long way toward making them less important.
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Acne Awareness." Dermatology Insights. Fall 2000. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.aad.org/public/conditions/_doc/DIFall00.pdf
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Skin Care for People with Acne." (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/acneguidelines_new.html
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Treating Acne in Skin of Color." (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/article_skinofcolor.html
- Bouchez, Collette. "The Lowdown on Mineral Makeup." WebMD. (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/features/the-lowdown-on-mineral-makeup
- Crawford, Holly. "Your Skin: Are You Doing Too Much or Too Little?" WebMD. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/your-skin-are-you-doing-too-much-or-too-little
- DocShop. "Large Pores." (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.docshop.com/education/dermatology/skin-flaws/large-pores/
- Mayo Clinic. "Folliculitis Causes." (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/folliculitis/DS00512/DSECTION=causes
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. "What Is Acne?" (Sept. 9, 2009)http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Acne/acne_ff.pdf
- Roh, M., Han, M., Kim, D., Chung, K. "Sebum output as a factor contributing to the size of facial pores." British Journal of Dermatology. 155(5):890-894, Nov. 2006. (Sept. 9, 2009)http://pt.wkhealth.com/pt/re/bjdr/abstract.00002300-200611000-00005.htm;jsessionid=KyvTD4rYLYJVcdry04py3QpcK619Jxgf2NMzJTGmTh6H4D8hqhL6!-1910442030!181195629!8091!-1
- Taylor S., F. Cook-Bolden, Z. Rahman and D. Strachan. "Acne vulgaris in skin of color." PubMed. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11807471?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
- Villett, Michelle. "Face off: Can you really banish large pores?" Elle Canada. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.ellecanada.com/beauty/face/face-off-can-you-really-banish-large-pores/a/27247/2