Why do I have enlarged pores and how do I treat them?

enlarged pores

If you have naturally oily skin, you may find you have enlarged pores. This mainly occurs when excess oil, dead skin cells, and dirt gets trapped in your skin, causing the pores to grow in size. Unfortunately, enlarged pores are quite common and can make your skin look dull and unhealthy. It could also make you look older than you actually are. In some cases, it might even trigger acne.


Our pores are important in releasing sebum (our body’s natural oil) to naturally moisturise our skins and help keep it supple. Enlarged pores are depressions in the facial skin surface that contain one or more openings to the ducts that carry sweat and oil from their respective eccrine glands and sebaceous glands. Although enlarged pores can be frustrating, pores are necessary for maintaining healthy skin.


Enlarged pores can be seen in both men and women of all ages, although often appear larger with age. There is conflicting data on whether men or women are more prone to large pores. In women, pore size may fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, with the largest pore size occurring during ovulation.


But why does this happen?



Your genes are the greatest determining factor in your pore size. People with large pores often have family members with large pores.



As you grow older, your skin loses its elasticity, causing your skin to stretch and sag. This results in your pores appearing larger. Your skin also thickens as you age, which causes miniscule skin cells to gather around your pores, making them look enlarged.


Sun Damage

Years of sun exposure can enlarge your pores. Sun damage can thicken the skin, leading to bigger pores. Prolonged sun exposure can also remove collage, elastin and water from your skin, which causes the tissue beneath your skin to shrink and pull at the edges of your pores.


Clogged Pores

An excess amount of oil and dead skin cells gathering in your pores can cause them to appear enlarged.


While you can’t change the size of your pores, you can minimise the appearance of enlarged pores. Here are 5 effective ways to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores:


Choose Water-based Products

Moisturising products contain a variety of active ingredients, including oils. It is recommended to use oil-free products, including water-based make up.  People with oily skin will benefit from products that are high in humectants rather than oils like honey and urea.

Oil-based products contain petrolatum, coconut oil, and other types of oil that effectively moisturise the skin but may not be suitable for people with oily skin or enlarged pores. The excess oil that collects on the skin can make pores appear larger.


Wash Your Face Everyday

Washing your face is basic skin care. You should be doing the following as recommended:

  • Wash your face up to twice a day (or more if sweating more or doing sports)
  • Use lukewarm water and gently apply a cleanser with clean fingers
  • Choose a gentle cleanser, particularly one that is nonabrasive and does not contain alcohol
  • Avoid scrubbing or rubbing your skin
  • Pat your face dry with a clean towel


Washing your face every morning and night helps to wash away oil and dirt from your pores. This can help make them less visible.


It’s essential to always remove your makeup before going to sleep. Sleeping in makeup overnight can cause the pores to become blocked due to a build-up of makeup, oil, and bacteria and contribute to their enlargement. Cleansing wipes can be useful for removing make up in a hurry.


Exfoliate Your Skin

Someone with oily skin should exfoliate once or twice a week to remove dirt, dead skin cells, and excess oil which can clog your pores. Suitable products for exfoliation may contain:


  • Beta hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid
  • Polyhydroxy acids, such as lactobionic acid and gluconolactone (these help strengthen the skin’s barrier function)
  • Mandelic acid, for sensitive skin


Over the counter products usually contain 7-10% of the active ingredient. Too high a percentage may aggravate your skin; however a dermatologist may prescribe a stronger formulation specific to your skin.


It is important not to exfoliate more than twice a week as this can dry out the skin. While exfoliation helps keep pores unclogged and reduce enlarged pores, pores can also appear enlarged if the skin becomes too dry.


Apply a Clay Mask

Using a clay mask once or twice a week can help remove any additional oil from your pores. This is because clay absorbs sebum. Removing that oil can help to prevent pores from becoming enlarged and make them less visible.


It is advisable to do this on a different day to exfoliating, as over treating the skin can cause irritation. The irritation can cause pores appearing enlarges and lead to blemishes.


Wear Sunscreen

It is crucial to care for the skin while out and about in the sun. Constant sun exposure will result in pores that begin to stretch and sag around the edges, which make them look enlarged. Sunscreen is a must! Many moisturisers contain sunscreen, and you should choose one with an SPF 30 or more.