"I really wish my pores looked bigger," said no one ever. If you're like us, enlarged, dilated pores are one of those cursedly annoying little skin woes that are far, far from the end of the world but annoying and frustrating nonetheless. With the fall and winter season upon us, we wanted to find out what specifically we can do to help minimize the look of pores, especially post-summer when things like sun, sweat, and sand have only seemed to exacerbate our pore predicament.
After reaching out to two A-list skin experts on the subject, we sadly found out there isn't anything that will actually change or fix the size of our pores, but there are certain things that may surreptitiously make them appear larger and more noticeable than they need to be. Intrigued? Keep scrolling! Ahead, we're uncovering seven major skin mistakes hindering your efforts where pore minimization is concerned.
But First, Some Pore 101
According to Rowan Hall-Farrise, head of international education and training for QMS Medicosmetics, pores are the small openings on the skin that are in charge of regulating and releasing toxins through our natural oils and sweat. Therefore, they actually play a pivotal role in our overall skin health.
As far as pore size, however, that mostly comes down to genetics, skin type, aging, and environmental factors. Celebrity esthetician Cynthia Franco (who has worked with Salma Hayek, Lucy Boynton, Lena Headey, and more) points out, pores can become packed and dilated with sebum, makeup, dirt, and other debris, which can ultimately cause them to stretch, making them appear larger than their natural size. Generally, the T-zone (aka the forehead and nose) is where people notice the biggest issues with pore size because the sebaceous glands in that region tend to be more prominent than other areas of the face.
"Olive and darker skin tones tend to have larger pores and more sebum production," Franco adds. Additionally, UV damage and the natural aging process can play a major role in how big or small our pores look. "An important factor to consider is the elasticity of the skin," agrees Hall-Farrise. "As we age, we produce less collagen and the skin’s elastin decreases. Firm skin supports the pores and makes them appear smaller, so when our skin starts to lose that bounce or plump feel, pores can appear more dilated."
Another common denominator is the overproduction of oils and congestion, but it’s not just oily skin types that are prone to large pores. "Skin type is another major factor," says Hall-Farrise. "If you have an oily skin type, your pores will expand to release the overproduction of oils from the glands. Equally, if the skin is dehydrated, your pores can overcompensate by releasing oils to combat the dehydration."
These Mistakes Make Your Pores Look Bigger
Mistake #1: Using Cleansers That Are Too Harsh
"I notice that a lot of clients with large pores and oily skin types are using cleansers that are too harsh for daily use," states Hall-Farrise. "I would always recommend double cleansing with a gentle cleanser, like the QMS Medicosmetics Deep Gentle Cleanser to avoid stripping the skin of its natural oils, which then creates a cycle of overstimulation and excess oil production—and enlarged pores."
She also recommends specifically looking for cleansers with the word "milk" in their name and avoiding foaming formulas at all costs. (They can be harsh and stripping to the skin.)
Mistake #2: Overusing Scrubs and Exfoliants
Additionally, Hall-Farrise explains overstimulating the sebaceous gland by using physical or manual exfoliants (like harsh scrubs) can actually do the opposite of what we think they'll do, and in retaliation, our skin may increase the production of oil, which can lead to enlarged pores.
She recommends using an active chemical exfoliant to tackle congestion and dull skin and likes the gentle peeling effect of QMS's Active Exfoliants formula, which targets buildup leading to clogged or enlarged pores, without overstimulating oil production.
Mistake #3: Not Wearing SPF Every Day Year-Round
"Not protecting your skin from UV damage with sunscreen is one of the biggest mistakes I see when it comes to pore size," shares Franco. "And I don't just mean at the beach! You should be wearing SPF every day and everywhere—there are amazing, clean, non-comedogenic, reef-safe sunscreens out there, so don't let that be an excuse for not slathering it on."
According to Franco, sun damage can cause the skin to lose the elastin and collagen that keep the fibers of the pore firm, and when we damage our skin with UV rays, it breaks down the collagen and elastin, and the casing around the pore starts to fall, making pores appear larger.
Mistake #4: Using the Wrong Acids
"Products with either a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) like salicylic acid up to 1% or an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) like lactic or glycolic acid up to 5% will help with cell turnover and keep pores clean," says Franco. I like utilizing them in a lotion form and love Epicuren’s 5% glycolic lotion as it refines pores while accelerating the release of dry, dead skin cells.
"This concentration of glycolic acid won’t cause flaking, which makes it a good choice for those with sensitive skin. Glycolic is the smallest molecule of AHA; the small molecular size means that it can be absorbed easily by the skin and enters the ducts, pores, and follicles to clarify the pores with minimal irritation. I also love Goop's overnight peel once a week."
Mistake #5: Skipping Toner
If you're looking to minimize the apperance of your pores, Franco says to make sure you're not skipping a toner both morning and night. She loves formulas with witch hazel (these by Thayer's and Weleda in particular) and recommends following the toning process in the morning with a vitamin C serum, an oil-free moisturizer, and sunscreen. At night, she suggests following your toner with a retinol and the same oil-free moisturizer. Obviously, no sunscreen at this point.
Mistake #6: Not Removing Your Makeup
Okay, maybe this is the obvious, but it's an important mistake to mention all the same since it's still super common. (Hey, we're guilty too!)
"Dissolving debris and makeup daily is a must," warns Franco. "You need to remove your makeup—I personally love the Angel Puffs from Croon. They are made by hand, all-natural without plastics, and absorb impurities with fibers that are made with a technology that removes impurities without depositing them back into the skin. Use your gentle cleanser afterward to make sure the skin is completely clean."
We also love a good old sweep of micellar water pre-cleanse to excavate debris from every last inch and pore of our skin.
Mistake #7: Forgoing Regular Facials
Although regular facials are an investment, they can make a big difference in terms of minimizing the look of your pores. According to both Hall-Farrise and Franco, shooting for somewhere between every four to eight weeks is a good goal for optimum skin maintenance.
"A licensed skin therapist can do wonders for your skin," Franco confirms. Keeping the skin clean with extractions and treatments can and will help, and things like peels, micro-channel needling, radiofrequency skin-tightening, and microdermabrasion will not only help with exfoliation but also help with helping pores to look smaller and more refined.
Other treatments by a board-certified dermatologist will greatly help as well, and Franco specifically lists things like IPL (intense pulsed light), ablative and non-ablative fractional laser, C02 peels, and photodynamic therapy as potentially great options for those looking to minimize the look of pores. She recommends checking in with your dermatologist to find out how many treatments might be needed and what the downtime/commitment is like.