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Blog skincare basics

Enlarged Pores and Uneven Skin


There are all sorts of tricks and hacks out there that are supposed to give you perfectly smooth, pore-less looking skin. But steaming, squeezing, or zapping them isn’t likely to work, because the size of your pores is largely determined by genetics.

However, there are some ways to help your skin look smoother if you’re suffering from enlarged pores or rough skin texture. These are symptoms of underlying skin issues. Figuring out how to treat it will mean finding out which issue applies to you.

Why do pores get enlarged?

We have two types of pores, sweat pores, and oil pores. Sweat pores are very small and normally aren’t much of an issue. When people worry about enlarged pores, they’re usually talking about the oil-releasing pores.

Contrary to what many people think, pores don’t open and close. There isn’t a way to “shrink” pores, because they don’t have any muscles. So why do they sometimes just seem more visible? What you’re seeing is oxidized sebum (the oil your skin naturally produces). When the oil becomes exposed to the air, it turns dark (blackheads), making your pores more obvious. Oil clogs in your pores can also stretch them, making them seem more bigger.

Another reason has to do with aging. Our skin naturally loses elasticity (“stretchiness”) as we age, so the skin around the pores gets less tight, making them more visible. One way to prevent this is to try to boost collagen and elastin levels in the skin so it stays firmer.

What about uneven skin?

What we’re taking about when we say “uneven skin” has to do with texture. There may be parts of your face that are more prone to feeling bumpy or rough. Depending on your skin type, some of that rough feeling may have to do with clogged pores (see above for more on clogged pores). If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you may see some scarring from past flare-ups. Some scars may show up as a darkened spot, but more severe scarring can show up as indents in the skin.

On the opposite end, dry skin can end up bumpy as well, as dead skin cells build up on the surface. And some uneven texture occurs naturally as skin ages, losing lipids and collagen that kept it plump and smooth. Fine lines tend to gather in parts of your face that are more expressive (eyes, mouth, forehead), and skin gets drier.


Enlarged pores and uneven skin can be treated in similar ways. Clogged pores, rough skin, and acne scarring can all be improved by exfoliating. If visible pores and oily skin are an issue for you, use a BHA, like salicylic acid. It is especially good at dissolving excess oils and preventing acne. Unclogged pores appear smaller and are less obvious.

AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid are great for resurfacing. If your skin is rough because it’s dry, scarred, or due to aging, encouraging skin cells to turnover faster will help reveal smoother skin. You’ll also clean off the dead cells that cling to the surface and make it dull-looking.

Clay Treatment

Products that contain clay are excellent for treating enlarged pores and rough skin. They are absorbent, pulling excess oil and dirt from the skin. Depending on the type of clay used, they can also exfoliate, removing dead cells that make your skin rough and dull.

If your skin is oily or prone to acne, you may want to consider a volcanic clay or sea clay. These are both exfoliating, and great at cleaning dirt and oil out of your pores. For people with drier skin, kaolin clay is a good choice. It’s still good at unclogging pores but is gentler, and won’t dry out more sensitive skin.

Clay is most often found in the form of masks. These are thicker products that you spread on your face, leave for a while (sometimes letting them dry), then wash off. Different masks may use different types of clay, and may be more or less absorbent, depending on the needs of your skin type. Use 1 to 3 times a week, being careful not to dry out your skin.

Never tried a clay product before? Check out these masks for super clean skin

While we can’t change the size of our pores, keeping your skin clean can make them seem less noticeable. Using a great exfoliator or clay mask a few times a week can go a long way towards addressing the underlying issues, making for smoother and healthier skin!