Why Your Pores Are So Big (& How To Unclog Them)

There are hundreds of products out there marketed toward shrinking large pores, but in order to find the best treatment, it’s important to understand what pores are, how they work, and what can be done to actually minimize them.

You probably know they can get clogged, and it seems like almost everyone is on an endless quest to shrink them. But other than that, what do we really know about pores?

A closeup photo of skin showing pores


5 minute read 

What is a pore?

Simply put, a pore is a teeny tiny opening in your skin — which is covered in thousands of them. Some are sweat pores, which help your body to regulate its temperature, but most are hair follicles, meaning they contain a tiny hair root and a sebaceous gland, which produces your body’s natural oil (or sebum).

Pores play an incredibly important role in keeping our bodies healthy. They work like a tunnel, allowing the body to deliver sebum from the sebaceous glands to the surface of the skin, where it works to moisturize and protect our largest organ — the skin itself. It “waterproofs” our skin essentially, preventing too much water from entering or exiting our skin, which keeps us from getting dehydrated or water logged. You might hate on your pores for being so visible, but don’t hate on them too much — they do a lot for you.

Why do pores become visible?

Everyone has lots of pores, but some peoples’ are more visible than others, especially around the nose, front part of the cheeks, and forehead. The size of our pores can be determined by three things: our age, where we’re at in our hormonal cycle, and our genes.

Most people with large pores are simply born that way, likely having inherited their specific skin type. As we age and our skin loses its elasticity, it will often stretch or sag. This can cause pores to expand over time, making them more visible as we age. During hormonal periods, the overproduction of oil can make pores appear larger, when excess sebum collects on the skin’s surface, magnifying these small openings.

A closeup photo of skin showing enlarged pores

What causes pores to become “enlarged”?

While some people are born with smaller pores than others, there are certain bad habits that can impact the size of them. Sun damage and over-washing are at the top of the list. Both have a drying effect on the skin, and this can either zap collagen (which keeps skin plump and healthy looking) or trigger more oil production. Boom clogged pores. Having congested pores can also contribute to their large appearance, and the longer they’re clogged, the greater chance your pores have of becoming stretched out.

How can I unclog my pores?

In pursuit of smaller pores, it’s important to understand what you can and can’t expect from treatment. So many products are marketed to help “shrink” pores, and while we hate to be the bearer of bad news, we’re going to be straight with you: this isn’t possible. No matter how much time or money you spend on them, the size of your pores will never be made smaller with a product, treatment, or home remedy. The good news? Their appearance can be minimized with various tips, tricks, and good skincare habits.

Tip #1: Cleansing

The best way to reduce the appearance of pores is to keep your skin clean without over washing and over drying your complexion. When you strip too much oil away, the body will only trigger those sebaceous glands to produce more sebum to make up for it. We recommend using a gentle cleanser like SLMD Salicylic Acid Cleanser, with pore penetrating beta hydroxy acid.

Tip #2: Sunscreen

Be sure you’re also using a lightweight moisturizer that contains SPF, like SLMD Dual Defender SPF 30. This will help reduce damage to your skin’s collagen because exposure to UV rays not only leaves you with a sunburn, but also breaks down collagen and causes signs of premature aging. Collagen keeps the walls of your pores plump and tight —preventing them from sagging and appearing larger.

Tip #3: Exfoliating

Exfoliating your skin also plays a major part in keeping pores in tip-top shape. Getting rid of dead, dry skin cells not only prevents clogged pores and acne, it also encourages your skin to continue to produce new cells. If you hear “exfoliation” and think of a gritty, harsh scrub, think again. Don’t let the word chemical scare you – they can be gentle and fabulous. You can find our fave three exfoliating acids (salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids) in SLMD Resurfacing Acne Swipes — pre-soaked pads you can use twice a day, that will exfoliate and have your pores clean in one, simple step. 

SLMD Resurfacing Acne Swipes

Using a topical retinoid like SLMD Retinol Serum is another way you can proactively exfoliate clogged pores and increase cell turnover, while you sleep. Just remember, when we say "at night," we mean it. Retinol usage should be limited to nighttime because it reveals delicate new skin, which can be very vulnerable to sun exposure.

You may not be able to shrink your pores into oblivion, but now you at least know how to reduce the appearance of them. Keep them clean, hydrated, and protected, which will reduce their appearance one day at a time.


Shop the Article