Can you shrink pores? Large Pores: why they happen and what you can do about them.

Posted by Team Maelove on

Hi! Welcome to Maelove.

Today we address the question, are there ways to shrink my pores?

Even though your pore size is largely genetically determined (Flament et al. 2015), so there isn’t a good way to permanently re-size your pores. However, you might encounter conditions that will enlarge your pores beyond what nature intended and for these scenarios there are things you can do.

You can use anti-acne and anti-aging topicals such as retinoids and Vitamin C serums to prevent the further enlargement of pores from elastin loss with aging, or from increased sebum production that results in acne. Though once enlarged, even though you can’t physically shrink them, you can still topically reduce the appearance of pores with hydroxy acids and a niacinamide based product.

If you’re new here, my name is Jackie and I’m the CEO and Chief Product Obsessor here at Maelove.


So first, let’s talk about what are pores, what do they do, and why do I have them?

Pores are openings that allow sweat and sebum, the face oil, onto the surface of your skin and often contain hair follicles as well. 

Enlarged pores are typically related to sebum rather than sweat with increased sebum output associated with bigger pores (Roh et al. 2006).

First, there are pores that are matched to eccrine glands. These are your sweat pores. Sometimes sweat glands are also matched with hair follicles and when so, these are called apocrine glands. Overall though, these types of pores function to secrete sweat.

And then there are pores that are matched to sebaceous glands. These are the pores for sebum, which is your natural face oil. Most of these are matched to hair follicles.

Some pores have all three, hair follicles, sebaceous glands and sweat glands.

skin and pores

Image Credit: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research


Some people just naturally have bigger pores than others and this is largely genetically determined (Flament et al. 2015). So, if your parents have large pores you might, too.

However, in some cases,

pores are enlarged by one of two factors.

The first is that your sebaceous glands go into overdrive and secrete too much sebum leading to enlargement of the pore, or leading to clogged pores, and resultant inflammation that can not only lead to hyperpigmentation but also leave an enlarged pore and even pits in your skin.

Hence clogged pores, inflammation, hormonal changes that lead to increased sebum production, and acne are all factors that can lead to enlargement of pores. You want to treat these conditions using anti-acne and anti-inflammatory products such as retinoids, hydroxy acids, niacinamide, azelaic acid, Vitamin C serums, and anti-inflammatory botanicals. More on this in another video.

The second factor is related to natural aging and the loss of a protein called elastin. Elastin is in your dermis which is where your pores originate and as you age, you naturally lose elastin and another important structural protein called collagen which we will go into in more depth later in another dedicated video.

Loss of collagen leads to wrinkles but loss of elastin leads to loss of elasticity and enlarged pores. 

This is because elastin is a stretchy material like a rubber band and without this elasticity, your pores enlarge. Ironically, UV damage leads to increased levels of elastin but this elastin is not quite right.

Think of it like Pet Cemetary elastin. It just isn't right and leads to a condition called solar elastosis which is characterized by thickened and yellowed skin.

solar elastosis (Mayo Foundation)

Solar elastosis - more elastin but not in a good way
Image Credit: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research


You actually want to get rid of this abnormal elastotic material and rebuild properly with collagen and elastin for this condition. To fix both natural aging and photoaging, you want to use anti-aging products such as retinoids, niacinamide, Vitamin C serums, some peptide serums, and some botanical serums. More on this in another video.

Wrinkles that result from the loss of our skin’s firmness and bounciness may also lead to adjacent pores connecting leading to an even more enlarged pore appearance (Lee et al. 2021). Photoaging, the aging of skin as caused by sun exposure, accelerates these unwanted developments.

So, use of anti-acne, anti and anti-aging products will help you from preventing further enlargement of the pores.


But if you already have enlarged pores, what can you do?

First, exfoliate your skin with hydroxy acids. This will not only keep your pores clear, it will help remove the dead skin on the surface of your skin that makes your skin look more dull and your pores look larger.

Another good option is physical exfoliation which I personally like. I use a good scrub once every week or so. It’s like giving myself a simple version of microdermabrasion and my skin feels instantly smoother. I recommend scrubs that contain clay which is particularly good for pulling away oily residue. Scrubs today are NOT like the harsh stuff from years before that cut your skin so you don’t have to worry about that.

Second, use a niacinamide based product. Not only is niacinamide a powerful anti-inflammatory, it helps to normalize and reduce sebum production and by doing so, has been clinically shown to reduce pore size (Draelos et al. 2006, Berson et al. 2014).

Thanks for reading and don't forget to check out our other articles!


Related Products:

NIA 10 Calming Serum with Niacinamide

Deep Exfoliator Facial Scrub with Clay




Berson DS, Osborne R, Oblong JE, Hakozaki T, Johnson MB, Bissett DL (2014). “Niacinamide: A topical vitamin with wide-ranging skin appearance benefits.” Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Practice, edited by PK Farris, John Wiley & Sons, 103-112.

Draelos ZD, Ertel K, Berge C (2005). “Niacinamide-containing Facial Moisturizer Improves Skin Barrier and Benefits Subjects with Rosacea.” Cutis 76: 135-141.

Flament F, Francois G, Qiu H, Ye C, Hanaya T, Batisse D, Cointereau-Chardon S, Seixas MD, Dal Belo SE, Bazin R. Facial skin pores: a multiethnic study. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015 Feb 16;8:85-93.

Lee S, Cherel M, Gougeon S, Jeong E, Lim JM, Park SG. Identifying patterns behind the changes in skin pores using 3-dimensional measurements and K-means clustering. Skin Res Technol. 2022 Jan;28(1):3-9.

Roh M, Han M, Kim D, Chung K. Sebum output as a factor contributing to the size of facial pores. Br J Dermatol. 2006 Nov;155(5):890-4.

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