How to Minimize Enlarged Pores & Blackheads

In This Article:

Two of the most stubborn and hard-to-treat skin-care problems are blackheads and enlarged pores. Simply put, they're tough to eliminate completely. You might feel like you've tried everything, but, in fact, most people end up using products or treatments that actually make matters worse. To achieve the best results possible, you need to know exactly what works and what doesn't. Although what works to alleviate these problems has limitations, using the right products consistently will let you see a definite improvement.

How Do My Pores Become Enlarged?

Almost exclusively, hormones regulate the oil glands that produce the sebum (an oily substance the body produces to lubricate and waterproof skin), which moves through the lining of each pore and then onto your face. With normal oil production, the oil easily flows through the pore lining and out of the pore, spreading over the skin's surface. The problems arise when your oil glands make too much oil. This excess oil mixes with other substances (such as dead skin cells) in the pore to form a clog. Not surprisingly, this clog makes it difficult for the oil to flow freely, which causes the pore itself to enlarge.

Even though the pore enlarges to provide extra room for the oil to flow out, the oil still can become trapped (especially around the nose) by dead skin cells. Once this occurs and the material (oil and skin cells) at the end of the clogged pore is exposed to the air, it oxidizes, forming a blackhead.

What can you do? Check out the steps below for the best treatments for blackheads and enlarged pores!

Fixing the Problem: What to Do & What to Avoid

  • Stop using skin-care products that clog pores or cause your oil glands to produce more oil. You must avoid products that are too emollient (meaning thick or greasy creams) or that have a creamy texture, as many moisturizers do. If you have oily skin, creamy, emollient skin-care products will lead to clogged pores.
  • Avoid products with drying, irritating ingredients. Irritating products stimulate more oil production directly in the pore. Learn how irritating skin-care ingredients make your oily skin oilier! 
  • Use only gentle, water-soluble cleansers and avoid bar soaps. Drying cleansers hurt the skin's healing process, making red marks from blemishes last longer. If a cleanser causes irritation, it can stimulate more oil production. Regarding bar soaps: The ingredients that keep bar soap in its bar form can clog pores.
  • Use a salicylic acid (BHA) exfoliant, in gel or liquid form, with absolutely no extraneous irritating ingredients. Gently exfoliating skin with a BHA can both remove excess skin cells from the surface of the face (so they don't build up in the pore) and exfoliate inside the pore (to improve its shape), allowing for a more even flow of oil. Anti-aging bonus: This step also reduces wrinkles and builds collagen! BHA is preferred to AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid) because BHA exfoliates not only on the skin's surface but also inside the pore, where the clogs form. Paula's Choice BHA products get rave reviews; click here to find the best one for your skin type.
  • Absorb excess oil. Clay masks can be great at absorbing oil and are an option, as long as they do not contain other ingredients that are irritating. Some cosmetics companies also offer oil-absorbing products to be worn under makeup; these are definitely worth trying to absorb oil all day long. Paula's Choice Shine Stopper Instant Matte Finish with Microsponge Technology is an excellent choice, and you can visit Beautypedia to find other options.
  • Improve cell production to help the pore function more normally. Effective products for all skin types are prescription retinoids, such as Retin-A, Tazorac, Avita, Renova, and Differin. These can be used by themselves or with a BHA product. Research has definitely established that Retin-A, Renova, and Differin have positive effects on the way pores function, and you should consider these products for very stubborn cases or when blackheads are accompanied by breakouts. Retinoids have anti-aging benefits, too, so they're great for those struggling with blackheads, large pores, and wrinkles.
  • Use products loaded with antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients to help heal skin and reduce wrinkles. Giving skin the important ingredients it needs to look and be healthy is critical, but the trick for those with blackheads and large pores is to use only products with a gel, liquid, or very thin serum texture. A well-formulated toner may be all you need twice a day to take care of this need.

Other Considerations

If the skin-care suggestions above still aren't doing the trick, consider the following additional measures to see if they can get you even better results:

  • Depending on your age and health, talk to you doctor about birth control pills. For those with problems that arise from oily skin, certain low-dose birth-control pills may be an option to reduce the hormone levels that create the excess oil, which is the root of the problem.
  • Learn how to use a tool known as a comedone extractor. No one wants to look at a blackhead or pimple in the mirror. When you get one, if you don't help remove it, the constant pressure and swelling in the pore will cause the pore to stretch (potentially permanently). A comedone extractor can become your best friend if you know how to use it right.
  • Consider having a facial. Aestheticians who know what they are doing can extract blackheads without damaging your skin.
  • Consider cosmetic corrective procedures. For all skin types, AHA or BHA peels, microdermabrasion, and laser resurfacing can improve the appearance of blackheads and whiteheads. However, these procedures don't necessarily improve pore functioning; rather, they temporarily get rid of the surface problem, which does make your skin look better. For best results, an in-office cosmetic procedure must be accompanied by an effective at-home skin-care routine.
  • Be careful about the makeup you use and be sure to get it all off at night. If you're using thick, heavy makeup to cover red marks, even out an uneven skin tone, or hide large pores, be aware that the texture of such cosmetics can make matters worse. Also, be sure you're removing all of your makeup each night; never go to bed without washing off your makeup. Neglecting to thoroughly, but gently, remove all your makeup can make clogged pores worse, increase blackheads and white bumps, and lead to dull-looking skin. Don't let that happen to you!

We cannot guarantee that the options and procedures described above will completely eliminate the problem of blackheads and enlarged pores, but they are absolutely the most well-researched and proven ways available to deal with these common problems.

Recommended Products to Minimize Pores

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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