Beauty Exclusives
from Paula Begoun, The Cosmetics Cop
Shop Skin Care Makeup Advice On Sale  

How To Minimize Enlarged Pores

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 the fact is most people are using products or treatments that actually make matters worse. To achieve the best possible results, 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 (oil), which moves through the lining of each pore and then on to your face. With normal oil production, the oil easily flows through the pore lining and out of the pore, imperceptibly spreading over the skin's surface. The problems arise when your oil glands make too much oil. The 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! You may never be able to completely eliminate either, but if you follow these steps consistently, you likely will see a huge difference—significantly reducing blackheads and minimizing 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, then creamy, emollient skin-care products will lead to clogged pores.

  • Avoid products with drying and/or, 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 that has absolutely no 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: BHA exfoliation 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 clog forms. 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. Products that are effective for all skin types are prescription retinoids, such as Retin-A, Tazorac, Avita, Renova, and Differin. These can be used by themselves or in combination 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 who have blackheads and large pores is to use only products with a gel, liquid, or very thin serum texture. A well-formulated toner twice a day may be all you need to take care of this. Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel and Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner are formulated to meet this need for those with oily skin.

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

  • Depending on your age and health, talk to your doctor about birth control pills. For those with problems that arise from oily skin, certain low-dose birth control pills may be an option for reducing the levels of the hormones that stimulate excess oil production, 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 by temporarily getting rid of the surface problem, which does make your skin look better. However, these procedures don't necessarily improve pore functioning. For best results, an in-office cosmetic procedure must be accompanied by an effective at-home skin-care routine.

  • Be careful about what makeup you choose; if you're using thick, heavy makeup to cover red marks, even out your 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 it off. 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.

Paula's Online Radio Show
Next Radio Show Topic: One-Minute Skin Rules with Dr. Jaliman
Next Show: October 10th at 6 p.m. PST/9 p.m. EST

Renowned dermatologist and author Dr. Debra Jaliman is back by popular demand! Get some quick and easy tips to improve your skin, and get the inside scoop on the latest and greatest from a top dermatologist. We'll be taking caller questions for any of your beauty and skin-care needs.

Listen Online (previous shows and transcripts available too!). To listen via phone, call 347.426.3783.

Paula's Product Review
paula's pick
Sephora Colorful Blush ($13.00). Colorful Blush has a silky pressed-powder texture that blends on beautifully and evenly. The multitude of shades ranges from nude to pink to, mauve colors with just the right amount of pigmentation (neither too sheer nor too dark). Both are matte and shimmer finishes available, but we prefer the matte shades because the shimmer shades are on the glaring side with all their glitter particles.

• Silky pressed-powder texture blends beautifully.

• Attractive shade range.

• Overly glittery shimmer shades.

Dear Paula

Dear Paula,

I was recently diagnosed by my dermatologist with folliculitis on my chest and shoulders, and now seem to have developed occasional minor seborrheic dermatitis on my face (in the T-zone).

A moisturizer was recommended to me by the name of Vanicream, made by Pharmaceutical Specialties. They have a small line of products, all formulated without dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, parabens, or formaldehyde. I'm wondering if you have any knowledge or opinion of the line as I don't see any reference to it on your websites.
I've been alternating their Moisturizing Skin Cream with your RESIST Weightless Body Treatment and Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel for several weeks now and so far, so good. Thanks for the great work and products you provide!

Patrick, via email

Dear Patrick,

My team and I have not officially reviewed the Vanicream line, but we're aware of it. We wish their formulas were more state-of-the-art, but for those who need skin-care products with as few ingredients as possible, Vanicream products are an option.

What has me concerned is that the Vanicream moisturizer you're using to treat folliculitis is thick and heavy—and folliculitis isn't about dry skin!

There are various types of folliculitis, but generally it refers to an inflammation of the hair follicle. It can occur from an infection, mechanical irritation (such as tight pants chafing skin), or chemical irritation, such as using products with pore-clogging ingredients (the pore is the hair follicle opening). Bacteria, yeast, and even mites also can cause folliculitis.

The Paula's Choice Weightless Body Treatment you're using is excellent because salicylic acid reduces inflammation (redness) and also has a mild antibacterial action. However, it may not be enough, so it would be a good idea to go back to your doctor and ask him or her to determine what type of folliculitis you're dealing with. Oral or topical antibiotics may be needed to clear it completely, or you may need topical anti-fungal or anti-yeast products—but you won't know which you need until you determine the root cause of the problem.

For seborrheic dermatitis on the face, talk to your doctor about a prescription for an anti-yeast cream (Nizoral makes one), or you can consider a topical cream known as DermaZinc. This cream is medicated with zinc pyrithione, which is considered one of the best ingredients to combat the yeast buildup believed to be a contributing factor to this type of dermatitis. You can apply this under the Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel each evening. Good luck!


Ingredient Spotlight

Categories: Cell-Communicating Ingredients, Vitamins, Anti-Irritants

Also known as vitamin B3 and nicotinic acid, niacinamide is a potent cell-communicating ingredient that offers multiple benefits for aging skin. Assuming skin is being protected from sun exposure, niacinamide can improve the skin's elasticity, dramatically enhance its barrier function, help erase discolorations, and revive a healthy tone and texture.

Topically applied niacinamide has been shown to increase ceramide and free fatty acid levels in skin, to prevent skin from losing water content, and to stimulate microcirculation in the dermis. It also has a growing reputation for being able to treat an uneven skin tone and to mitigate acne and the red marks it leaves behind (known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation). It also is an excellent ingredient for those struggling with wrinkles and breakouts. Niacinamide is stable in the presence of heat and light.

Sources: American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, April 2011, pages 87-99; Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, January-February 2010, pages 20-26; British Journal of Dermatology, December 2009, pages 1357-1364, October 2003, page 681, and September 2000, pages 524-531; Dermatologic Surgery, July 2005, pages 860-865; Experimental Dermatology, July 2005, pages 498-508; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, April 2004, page 88; Journal of Radiation Research, December 2004, pages 491-495; and Journal of Dermatological Science, volume 31, 2003, pages 193-201.

    Customer Feedback: A must-have moisturizer!    

I am so pleased with the RESIST Barrier Repair Moisturizer with Retinol. I originally bought it for the neck area, but have been using it on my face as well as around my eyes and the results are amazing. My skin looks much younger, firmer, and moisturized. I love it!

Read More Reviews About Paula's Choice RESIST Barrier Repair Moisturizer!

Follow us on these sites: