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Large Pores, Ick! 5 Causes and How to Fix Your Skin

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I love summer, but a heatwave brings a new set of problems to manage. My plants are dying, my t-shirts are developing stains under the arms, and I’m wearing the unavoidable scent of bug repellent and sunblock, a noxious combination. On top of that, my skin’s under siege by sweat, dirt, and UV rays — which has me temporarily fixated on my large pores.

I never really noticed my pores until about 10 years ago. It was like one day I looked in the mirror and there they were, on display for everyone to see. Honestly, I kind of freaked out when I realized that aging skin woes included wrinkles AND large pores. I started staring at strangers in public, assessing my own pore troubles against theirs. This informal research revealed that — shocker — everyone has pores, and I was probably over-reacting to my own.

Even so, I don’t really want to cruise around with pores that are larger than necessary — especially because a few good skincare habits can minimize the appearance of large pores.

5 causes of large pores

How to best manage your pores depends on their underlying cause. Take a look at the four most common reasons for large pores below.

1. Aging

Collagen strengthens, plumps, and firms the skin. Elastin provides structure so your skin can expand but still bounce back. As we age, the skin’s collagen and elastin production slows. That’s why older skin can look thin and slack. With less of an ability to hold its own shape, facial skin can sag, which pulls on pores and makes them look larger.

You can address aging-related pore troubles by taking a collagen supplement — this study suggests that these supplements do have some level of efficacy. Know that the quality of collagen supplements vary widely, so lean on reviews and recommendations to help you make the right choice.

2. Sun damage

Woman with sunburn which can exacerbate large pores

Overexposure to the sun also affects the collagen and elastin levels in your skin, as well as its moisture level. Prolonged sun exposure can even thicken your skin. Thicker, dryer skin exacerbates the appearance of large pores in the same way a lack of collagen does, by sagging and pulling on the edges of pores.

Topical products containing niacinamides, Vitamin C, retinol, or AHAs can help you reverse old sun damage. Remember to use a daily moisturizer with SPF to protect yourself going forward.

3. Oily skin

Excess sebum production can trap dead skin cells and dirt in your pores. That can lead to swelling and blackheads, both of which make pores appear larger.

Treating your oily skin may take some experimentation to get the regimen down. Most women see results from regular cleansing and exfoliation, plus the occasional use of a charcoal mask. You might also keep blotting papers on hand to dab away excess oil throughout the day.

4. Genetics

Some people just have large pores. If your mom, sister, and brother all have large pores, then your pore situation is probably genetic. You can still manage the appearance of your pores with a proper skincare and beauty regimen as described below — but you might also take steps to love your skin the way it is. There’s no point in raging against large pores if they’re unavoidable.

Skincare, beauty regimen for large pores

If you’re ready to wage an all-out attack on your pores, try the skincare and beauty regimen outlined below. It addresses the key causes of large pores, including genetics (with some makeup tricks).

1. Cleanse daily  

Woman washing her face

Cleanse daily with a gentle cleanser like CeraVe. Experiment with cleansing morning and night, versus at night only. I have found that my skin is more resilient and less prone to breakouts by cleansing once a day. But that goes against conventional pore wisdom, so try it out for yourself to see what works best.

Avoid aggressive scrubbing cleansers. These can dry out skin, increase oil production, and even make pores look larger.

2. Use a gentle exfoliant daily

A gentle chemical exfoliant can unclog pores and leave skin brighter and younger-looking. I use Paula’s Choice 2% BHA liquid exfoliant daily, so that’s my pick.

3. Take a collagen supplement

Collagen supplements are generally safe, but they can cause heartburn and digestive upset. As long as you don’t have a sensitive stomach, try incorporating a quality formulation into your routine. Woman’s World reviews collagen supplements here.

4. Charcoal mask weekly

A charcoal mask gives your skin a deep cleanse by pulling impurities — dirt, oil, toxins, etc. — to the surface. All that bad stuff binds to the mask and then rinses away when you wash. If you’ve never used a charcoal mask, do a patch test first. The mask will leave your skin feeling squeaky clean, but it may irritate sensitive skin. See Cosmopolitan’s picks for best charcoal masks here.

5. Use a pore-minimizing primer

For immediate, but temporary help with your pores, there’s no beating a pore-minimizing primer. These products smooth over your skin, filling in imperfections, including those annoying pores. You then apply foundation over the top of your newly smoothed skin for a flawless finish. For recommendations, see The Apricots list of best primers for pores.

6. Dab your foundation

Always use a brush to apply your foundation with a light circular motion. A sponge and a light dabbing motion can work also, but sponges tend to soak up your foundation — which is wasteful. Whatever you do, don’t apply foundation by smearing it on with your fingers. That can make your pores look larger.

7. Use blotting papers

You can buy blotting papers for less than $5 from budget beauty favorites NYX Professional and e.l.f. Keep these handy papers on hand to dab up excess oil and keep the shiny face at bay.

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