Pores, Pores, GO AWAY!

Enlarged pores can present a pesky cosmetic nuisance to the grand landscape of anyone’s face. Treating those little black holes requires understanding their formation and the products used to rid them.

Pore size can be attributed to genetics, aging, and quality of skin. No product can change your pre-destined pore size. However, there are several chemicals that can repress the pore clogging pathology.


As mentioned pore, size is genetically defined, nonetheless, pores can be enlarged in people with oily or combination skin, those who have sun damage (which stretches out pore architecture), aging which also stretches pore elasticity, and improper cleansing of debris and oil off skin.


Easing the appearance focuses on treating the cause of enlarged pores, at least those which we can affect. Multiple products are available OTC for pores, while a few more aggressive measures will require an office visit to a dermatology clinician.

1. Chemical Extraction (Pore Strips): Several OTC products use agents which form an adherent film on skin, backed on a physical strip, to loosen debris and remove it from the pore. The methods and chemicals used in such products are lacking in research for their use in acne. Nonetheless, the chemical function of the most common ingredients in these products, makes sense for the intended action of the product.

Cons: May irritate skin, cause peeling, or according to some outlets “pull capillaries (little blood vessels) to the surface” over extensive use.

2. Physical Extraction (Extractor Tool): An extractor is a metal tool that uses physical pressure to push pore contents out. It is much better than trying to squeeze open pores with your fingers, as it causes less damage to skin and works really well.

Cons: The pressure of the metal against one’s skin is a bit uncomfortable.

3. Chemical Exfoliators (Masks/Washes): Chemical exfoliators are often marketed as “Pore Refining” or “Skin Clarifying” cleansers or leave-ons. Many of them contain hydroxy-acids or sulfur. Salicylic acid, a Beta-Hydroxy acid (the oil soluble group), works wonders in shedding off the dead skin cells that clog pores. Its counterpart, Glycolic Acid, is also helpful, but does not immerse and remove the oil like its cohort. However, sulfur is great at reducing oil, sloughing off dead skin, and has an antibacterial affect.

Cons: Sulfur carries an interesting smell….and can be drying. While the hydroxy acids can cause irritation and dryness in some individuals.

4. Retinoids: Retinoids help strengthen collagen & elastin in skin, thereby helping to stabilize structures around the pores, decreasing pore laxity and growth. This helps to decrease the pores appearance. Retinoids also help pores to rid of dead skin and debris through encouraging cell turnover.

Cons: Dryness, redness, irritation possible. The OTC strengths are such low potency, their effectiveness should be questioned. It would be better to obtain a medical grade (from a physician’s office) or prescription for this medication.

5. In Office Treatments: Chemical peels consist of hydroxy or other acids of greater potency than OTC, and can help lift oil, debris, open pores, even tone, and smooth texture of skin. For individuals with severely enlarged pores, laser treatments such as Fraxel may be the most successful treatment to correct texture.

Cons: Redness, peeling, irritation, bleeding, swelling possible and risks may increase with greater potency methods. Chemical peels and laser require more healing time than OTC products.

Although you can’t change your genetics, you can battle the card it deals for your skin. Many of the treatments above are also potent treatments in the war on acne, which will make its debut in my next blog. Stay tuned……

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