What are skin pores?

Pores are small openings on the outermost layer of the skin that are connected to hair follicles and sebaceous glands.  They release sweat and sebum (the body’s natural oils) that is produced in the sebaceous glands directly onto the surface of the skin. Sebaceous glands are most abundant in the pores visible on the face, chest and back. Each hair follicle is associated with at least one sebaceous gland.  The opening of that follicle and gland is the visible pore that can be seen. Each hair follicle is also associated with a small muscle called the erector pili muscle.  Hormones and stimulation of nerve endings can trigger sebaceous glands to produce more abundant quantities of sebum.


The skin of the face is always exposed to the surrounding environment and must perform many functions that the skin in other areas do not need to worry about.  Ie they are exercised a lot.  For this reason, it is thought that the pores on the face, most specifically those on the nose, forehead and cheeks may appear larger than they do in other areas of the body.


Why do pores enlarge and become prominent?

Pores are more prominent when they are dilated, infected, or clogged with oil and other debris, making them appear larger than they are at their ‘normal’ state. Pore size and prominence is partially determined by genes but can be significantly affected by intrinsic and extrinsic factors.  Such factors include sun-exposure, ageing, hormonal changes, pollution, daily habits and lifestyles choices such as smoking. Any factor that reduces the amount of elastin and collagen in the skin also contributes significantly to enlarged pores.  As certain biological functions change with age, stress and illness, the underlying dermal layer of the skin can become compromised and lose its structure and elasticity.  Collagen and elastin fibres may deplete and become weaker and the skin naturally loses its firmness and support for surrounding structures. At a micro-level, this change in skin structure allows pores to relax and dilate.


Who gets enlarged skin pores?

 Any skin type – oily, normal or dry can take on the appearance of having enlarged pores.  This may give the complexion of a dull appearance, particularly if the pores are clogged with dirt, bacteria, oil or dead skin cells. It is very common for those with oily skin to complain of enlarged pores.  Enlarged pores are also seen more commonly in those who battle with acne and rosacea.  In these conditions, sebum cannot be dislodged and discharged freely from the pores, resulting in the pores becoming wider and more visible.


Available treatments 

Melbourne Skin & Dermatology provides many ways to treat enlarged pores.  Improving cellular rejuvenation allows the pores to function better and reduces the overproduction of sebum. By doing so, they reduce pore size. This can be effectively achieved through topical skin care alongside non-invasive medical-grade chemical peels.  Incorporating exfoliants such as Salicylic Acid (Beta-Hydroxy Acid) and Glycolic Acid (Alpha-Hydroxy Acid) can help remove excess dead skin cells from the surface of the skin as well as from inside the pores. Sebum can then no longer accumulate within the pore and in response returns to its normal size or makes them appear smaller. Medical prescription grade vitamin A creams used off-label are proven to improve pore size in a few studies.  Applying sunscreen containing antioxidants that combine active ingredients to neutralise free radicals (a form of toxin) can increase collagen synthesis and cell growth while enhancing the structural integrity of the skin and minimising the appearance of pores. Some products however can clog up your pores.  It is important to seek advice regarding which sunscreen may be the right one for your skin.

Medical hormonal treatments are sometimes used to counter-act the testosterone driven enlarged skin pores.  Some oral contraceptive pills may provide this benefit, but one always needs to seek medical advice in this regard.

In some cases where the skin pores are prominent and may be associated with acne, an oral medication is sometimes prescribed off-label in the form of a vitamin A derivative. These oral prescription retinoids work through receptors on the cell surface that encourages natural renewal of skin cells helping to unclog pores.  They also reduce the size of sebaceous glands hence reducing the amount of sebum they produce.

Besides personalised and effective skin care and chemical peels, prominent pores respond well to regular maintenance procedures such as:

  • Radiofrequency microneedling – this treats textural issues by delivering electrical energy in the form of radiofrequency with micro-needles to improve prominent pores.
  • Laser Genesis – a gentle non-invasive laser treatment designed to target large pores by bulk heating the skin, reducing small blood vessels and increasing collagen and elastin production.
  • CO2 Laser Resurfacing – this laser shoots micro-beams of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and breaks down the tissue of the epidermis and dermis in small columns. As the skin naturally heals, healthy new skin grows over the treatment area.

Should you wish to see our dermal therapist or cosmetic registered nurse, please contact us with the form on this page or call us to arrange a consultation.

Large facial pores

Specialist Skin Services

As an all-round specialist dermatology clinic, we work with our patients to achieve their goals and always maintain professional standards.