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How to minimise enlarged pores and blackheads

When skin produces too much oil, it mixes with dead skin in the pore and forms a clog that causes the pore to expand. If the oil becomes trapped by dead skin, it oxidises and forms a blackhead.

Consistently using the right pore-minimising products can help mitigate these issues, but first you need to know exactly what works and what doesn't, as well as how enlarged pores and blackheads form in the first place.

What causes large pores?

  • Oil glands make too much oil.
  • This oil mixes with other substances (such as dead skin) in the pore.
  • The pore is now clogged, making it difficult for oil to flow freely.
  • The pore is now enlarged.

Even though the pore expands to provide extra room for the oil to flow out, the oil can still get trapped within the pore (especially around the nose) by dead skin. Once this occurs, the oil and dead skin at the end of the clogged pore becomes exposed to air, it oxidises and forms a blackhead.

Dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman emphasises that “oil production and pore size are largely genetically determined.” This means that although we can try our best to temporarily reduce the size of pores with impactful skincare ingredients, we can’t completely eliminate them! That’s actually a good thing because pores play a necessary role in the skin’s overall health, so you wouldn’t want to have poreless skin anyway.

How to get rid of large pores

  • Don’t use bar soap or other skincare products that clog pores. The ingredients that keep bar soap in its solid form are usually comedogenic (another way of saying they cause blackheads). You should also avoid products that are overly emollient (meaning thick or greasy creams) especially if you have oily skin.
  • Only use gentle, water-soluble cleansers and avoid products with drying, harsh ingredients. Surprisingly, these products can make oiliness worse.
  • Never go to bed without thoroughly, but gently washing off your makeup.
  • Avoid harsh scrubs and cleansing brushes with stiff bristles. The myth that you can scrub away blackheads is false. Harsh scrubbing just makes skin dry and flaky, creating more dead skin that can then block more pores.
  • Exfoliate with a completely non-abrasive, leave-on salicylic acid (also known as beta hydroxy acid or BHA) to shed built-up dead surface skin that would normally collect in the pore, stretch it out and risk it turning into a blackhead.
  • BHA top tip: because beta hydroxy acid can exfoliate within the pore, it can help return the pore to its normal shape and allow for a more even flow of oil. It really is amazing how well BHA works to combat large, clogged pores.
  • Protect your skin from sunlight every day! UV rays in sunlight damage your skin cells so they don't function as well as they should. This distorts the pores, so that it is more difficult to discharge the sebum and they become enlarged.
  • Use products loaded with niacinamide. Once a pore has stretched beyond its normal size, niacinamide can help provide a "tightened-up" look by boosting the skin’s healthy, natural quality. The research about how niacinamide benefits skin is impressive.

Best skincare routine for large pores

For particularly stubborn blackheads, add a clay mask to your routine to see if it can help you achieve even better results:

  • Absorbing excess oil with a clay mask can temporarily minimise the appearance of enlarged pores due to the clay’s oil-absorbing properties. As always, look for a clay mask that does not contain added harsh ingredients. You can also try an oil-absorbing product meant to be worn under makeup.

How long does it take to minimise pores?

The tough part about reducing large pores is that it can take time to see results. Truly improving the look of big pores (not just temporarily making them less visible) can take weeks of treatments. The key is to keep at it! Patience and consistency in your skincare routine are the key to reaching the results you want – and you will see them if you stick with it.

How to minimise pores for sensitive skin

Thankfully, the best way to minimise enlarged pores for sensitive skin is the same way you would treat enlarged pores anyway: with a BHA exfoliant. When starting out with a BHA exfoliant, you might want to begin with a gentle, calming lotion formula designed for sensitive skin to see how your skin tolerates salicylic acid. If your skin responds well, you can gradually work your way up to a BHA exfoliant with a 2% concentration.

One of the additional benefits of BHA is that it also helps to reduce the visible appearance of redness. As always, make certain your whole skincare routine is full of products for sensitive skin to see optimal results.

How to minimise pores for ageing skin

Research has shown that the appearance of enlarged pores can increase as we age. As we get older, our pores don’t function as optimally as they did when we were younger. Part of this is because of the natural ageing process and part is due to environmental factors, like exposure to pollution and sun damage. If you’re seeing a noticeable increase in your pore size – including teardrop-shaped pores or orange peel texture – using a 20% niacinamide treatment can yield impressive results.

References for this information:

1. The Egyptian Journal of Hospital Medicine, January 2022, 759-761
2. Skin Research & Technology, August 2018, pages 367-370
3. Dermatologic Surgery, March 2016, pages 277-285
4. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, August 2015, pages 85-93
5. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery, March 2008, pages 170-176
6. Dermatologic Surgery, Volume 31, Part 2, 2005, Discussion 865

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