Enlarged facial pores are a cosmetic concern that plague individuals with oily skin types. Even though this condition besets a majority of individuals, especially those who live in humid climates, treatment options for large pores are elusive or unreliable.
Large pores may not be health-threatening or a disease symptom, but they can be the reason why we refuse to get up close with a mirror. A skin pore usually refers to an enlarged opening of pilosebaceous follicles. The pilosebaceous unit has the hair follicle, the sebaceous (oil) gland and skin muscles.
The mechanism by which visible facial pores occur remains unclear, but three possible causes have emerged: loss of skin elasticity, hair follicle size and excessive sebum production. Other potential factors that can influence this skin condition include genetics, chronic photodamage, acne and vitamin A deficiency.
Excessive sebum production from pores
Oily skin results from excess production of sebum by the oil glands, which fills the follicles and leaks onto the skin surface. During the menstrual cycle, sebum production levels are higher. Pore size is also larger during the ovulation phase. A surge of three hormones during the ovulation phase triggers the oil glands – luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone and progesterone.
Severe acne from pores
Previous cases of inflamed acne can destroy hair structures and leave them susceptible to influence by androgenic stimulation. Androgen is a hormone that exerts a major effect on sebocyte (cells found in oil glands) proliferation and sebum secretion. This means acne inflammation may cause you to be more prone to androgen activity, bringing about change in follicle volume and size.
Loss of skin elasticity
A main feature of skin’s ageing process is the loss of elasticity. Our skin’s collagen and elastin framework that supports skin resilience become less efficient due to ageing and chronic photodamage. A protein, crucial for elastic fiber assembly, called microfibril-associated glycoprotein-1 is also produced less over time. Without it, tissues around follicles provide less structural support and there is a loss of thickness in the skin dermal layer. Such changes lead to skin fragility, sagging and enlarged pores.
The volume of our pores is dependent on the size of the hair follicle. There are dermal papilla cells in our hair follicles that contain androgen receptors. Our pore size is affected by the androgen activity in hair follicles.
- Topical retinoids are often considered as first-line therapies to reverse collagen and elastin-associated changes caused by aging and photodamage. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives and were previously used as anti-ageing therapies before the efficacy for improving the appearance of facial pores were discovered.
Commonly used retinoids are tretinoin, isotretinoin and tazarotene for skin rejuvenation, regulating sebum production, and the reduction of wrinkles and large facial pores. Isotretinoin is the most potent inhibitor of sebum production.
Patients are advised to consult their dermatologist before any use of retinoids as side effects – such as inflammation, burning, redness or dry skin – are common.
- Niacinamide is another cosmetic ingredient that can reduce sebum production.
- Chemical peels can also help rejuvenate the skin and improve the appearance of large pores. At the epidermal or dermal level, the application of acids induces the temporary breakdown and regeneration of healthier cells. Glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid are commonly used for chemical peels.
Common oral therapies targeted at enlarged pores are anti-androgens, such as oral contraceptives, spironolactone and cyproterone acetate. They modulate sebum levels by blocking androgen action.
Lasers and ultrasound devices
Advanced devices have been developed to deliver targeted thermal or ultrasound energy to the skin. Such therapies work by remodelling the collagen fibers near our pores for increased skin elasticity and decreased sebum production. Non-ablative lasers helps with facial pore minimalisation and improved appearance of photoaged skin.
Pore volume may decrease with hair removal, especially so if patients have thick and dark facial hair. Laser or intense pulsed light sources can create photothermal destruction of the hair follicles to minimise appearance of large pores.
© 2018 TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre. All rights reserved.
Meet with Dr. Teo Wan Lin, an accredited dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, for a thorough consultation to determine the most suitable treatment for your skin.
To book an appointment with Dr. Teo, call us at +65 6355 0522, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you may fill up our contact form here.