Enlarged pores and blackheads are super-common. Of course we can never make pores disappear – and we wouldn’t want to since they have important functions! – but with the right skincare, you can make pores look smaller, and get rid of blackheads.
By Maria Ahlgren
All over our body we have pores. The are tiny openings around our sweat glands and hair follicles that help liquids, like oil (sebum) and sweat, travel through the skin. Under the pore sits the sebaceous glands, that are responsible for creating the oil that keeps our skin lubricated, soft and comfortable. WIthout our pores and the oil running through them, skin would quickly become dry and flaky. Our sebum is full of healthy fatty acids and good things that lubricate skin and keeps our skin barrier healthy – it's when we over-produce sebum and acne bacteria grows in trapped sebum that the news starts.
Without pores, we wouldn't be able to perspirate and get our sweat out, which would be a VERY BAD thing. But that's another story. So pores are actually one of the many wonders of human physiology.
Everyone has pores – being "poresless" is impossible. But how prominent your pores look can be down to factors like genetics, ethnicity, age and skin type.
The pores on our T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) are the biggest ones.
Let's look into what causes large pores, why you get blackheads and what you can do to make pores look smaller – and blackheads being a thing of the past!
What causes large pores?
- Your oil glands produces too much oil (sebum).
- In the pore, the oil mixes with dead skin cells and possibly bacteria.
- This mix forms a "plug" in the pore and stretches it out.
- The pore looks bigger.
- The trapped oil can lead to acne breakouts and blackheads. More on that below!
Does skin type affect pores?
Very much so! Oily skin types with high sebum production often have larger pores than dry skin types with low sebum production for the simple reason that sebum fills out the pore. Many people experience their skin as combined, with dry cheeks and an oily t-zone. Genes also determine whether we have small, neat pores or more bombastic variants.
Why do I get blackheads? Is it dirt inside my pores?
Inside your pores, you have a cocktail of sebum, dead skin cells and, in some cases, acne bacteria. Blackheads – which are classified as a mild, non-inflamed form of acne – appear when sebum gets trapped with dead skin at the surface of your pores. When sebum come into contact with oxygen in the air, it oxidises and darkens. Just like an apple quickly darkens when you cut it and it get in contact with the oxygen in the air. So no, it's NOT dirt!
Just like some people are more prone to getting pimples, some of us are just more prone of getting blackheads. If you have oily skin, you’re more likely to get blackheads by the simple reason that you have more oil in your pores than your dried-skinned friends. But there’s lots you can do to prevent and treat your blackheads.
Preventing the excess oil from getting trapped in the pore and form a blackhead in the first place is your best bet.
Getting rid of blackheads – the DO's and DON'Ts
- Wash your face twice a day with a non-drying cleanser. This is the first basic step to remove excess oil and oil buildup.
- Exfoliate your skin with BHA acid (salicylic acid) a few times a week to dissolve dead skin cells and excess sebum in the pores. Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, meaning it will dig through oil and loosen gunk up INSIDE the pore. How amazing is that?
- If your skin is very oily you can use our gentle BHA toner Cloud Water daily. If you have areas with lots of blackheads or clogged pores, you can spot-treat that area with Cloud Water daily, and use the toner 2-3 times/week on the rest of your face where you aren't as oily.
- Retinol is mostly known for its outstanding ability to turn back the clock by stimulating collagen and making skin cells behave like young skin cells, but it’s also a great ingredient for oily, acne-prone skin. Retinol regulates sebum production and reduces the stickiness of skin cells that clog pores. Watch this space for a gamechanger ;)
- Regular visits to a skin therapist or dermatologist for deep pore cleansing are a great addition if you are troubled by your blackheads.
- Moisturise! As tempting as it might be to dry out skin, or as much as a paradox it may seem to add a cream to oily skin, moisturising skin is crucial to all skin types. Otherwise, your skin can over-compensate by producing more oil, making skin MORE oily and prone to breakouts and blackheads.
If you have oily skin which easily gets breakouts and blackheads, avoid heavy creams or oils that can clog your pores. Instead, use a lightweight moisturiser like Cloud Light Fluid. It contains 4% niacinamide, which regulates sebum production and encourages skin’s own hydration functions. It also controls shine throughout the day, giving skin a cloud-like finish. (Oily skin babes – check out our Clean & Calm Duo with our daily essentials Cloud Wash and Cloud Light Fluid at a great saving price!)
- Don’t EVER try to squeeze your blackheads. Always leave extraction to the professionals. You risk pushing the blackhead deeper into your skin, or trigger an infection that can, in worst case, leave a scar.
- Stay away from pore strips as they can be aggressive to the skin. We know they’re all over TikTok, but be really careful unless you really trust the company behind the product, and know that they have a deep knowledge in skincare.
Oily skin is associated with adolescence, so why do my pores seem to get larger with age?
When we are young, our skin is full of the proteins collagen and elastin, which give skin plumpness, resilience, firmness and elasticity. As early as the age of 25, collagen formation slows down and by the mid-30s we start to see the first lines. The depletion of collagen is accelerated by daily skin saboteurs such as UV rays, air pollution and lifestyle factors such as smoking, sunbathing or too much sugar.
As collagen and elastin break down, skin loses its elasticity and becomes looser, like a stretched rubber band. The skin around the pore is simply not as tight, while gravity pulls the skin downwards. So, it is not the pore itself that grows, but the skin around it that can hold the pore like it did in its youth.
Enlarged pores is young people have a round shape, as we age the pore gets an egg-shape. Gravity babes, it will get us all!
How do I create a pore-minimising skincare routine for oily or combination skin?
For skin with an active sebum production where excess oil fills up the pore, a three-step approach of cleansing (avoid greasy balms), regular chemical exfoliation with fat-dissolving salicylic acid and occasional deep cleansing clay masks is the best recipe for crystal clear pores.
Even though you don’t get blackheads, you can still feel that your pores are the size of a small country. But first of all, EVERYONE has pores, and NO ONE is looking at or judging your pores. Step. Away. From. The. Mirror. You. Beautiful. Human. Being.
If you want to minimise the look of your pores and prevent blackheads, make sure to include these steps in your skincare routine.
- Daily cleansing is essential for all skin types to remove excess oil, makeup, sunscreen, and anything that might clog skin or irritate your skin. Avoid heavy balms and go for a lighter gel cleanser. With Cloud Wash, you don’t need another product to double-cleanse, simply repeat your cleansing if wearing a lot of makeup or sunscreen.
- Salicylic Acid (the BHA acid used in skincare) is your skin’s – and your pores’ – best friend. It dissolves bonds between dead skin cells, excess sebum and boost cell renewal for a smoother, brighter skin surface. Use Cloud Water at least 2-3 times/week, or more if it makes your skin happy!
- Niacinamide (vitamin B3) works miracles on the appearance of pores, minor blemishes and skin structure in general. All skin types need moisture, so never try to dry out your skin. We included 4% niacinamide in our moisturiser Cloud Light Fluid, as well as squalene to balance oil production and keep skin supple and smooth. It also hold a good dose of probiotic Lactobaccilus Ferment to keep the good bacteria on your skin happy and strong, so your skin microbiome is less inviting to acne bacteria.
Can I make my pores disappear?
The million dollar qestion. No. A pore-free skin would not be able to sweat, lubricate or regulate body temperature. Love your pores, but tame them with a good skincare routine.