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What Affects Pore Size?


You may have noticed that the pores on our face vary in size from region to region and from person to person. But do you know why that is and if it’s possible to change our pore size? As with most physical traits, a combination of nature (genetics) and nurture (environment) control the final appearance and function of our pores. Below, we dive deeper and discuss the research behind the genetic and environmental factors that determine pore size and function. 


Pore size and number are almost entirely governed by genetics. In fact60-80% of all facial characteristics (e.g. appearance of photoaging, craniofacial structure, acne) can be explained by genetics [1–4]. While the heritability of most skin characteristics has been well established, the specific genes and mutations within those genes that differentiate us are not well illuminated, especially when it comes to pore size [5]. Pore size is a polygenic trait, similar to height, and could be determined by the specific sequences of hundreds of interacting genes. For instance, the production, maintenance, and degradation of collagen alone involves 60+ genes [6]. Now consider that collagen metabolism, sebum and sweat production, and hair growth are each being regulated at the site of our pores [7]. Thus, the way our pores look is a complex outcome of balancing these essential, continuous functions.  


While pore size is largely genetic, environmental factors like sun exposure, hydration, and cleansing type/frequency can affect pore appearance by about 20-40%. Specifically:

  • Sun damage: accumulated sun damage dysregulates collagen metabolism, contributing to sagging or deflated-looking skin that readily exposes and elongates pores [8].
  • Dehydration: low dietary water intake or lack of topical moisturizer may cause skin to produce more or thicker sebum, leading to the formation of comedones [9–11]. 
  • Cleansing: failure to cleanse or not double cleansing (oil followed by detergent) can leave dirt, oil, and make-up on the skin which collects in the pores and darkens their appearance [12].
  • Exfoliation: lack of gentle chemical exfoliation also contributes to debris build up in pores [13].  


Reducing the appearance of pore size can be performed at 3 levels:

    1. Prevention: using sunscreen to protect from photoaging and staying hydrated internally and with topical moisturizers can prevent breakdown of your skin’s ability to maintain homeostasis
    2. Maintenance: double cleansing daily with an oil-based cleanser followed by a cleanser with a safe detergent eliminates the opportunity for debris to collect in pores. Gentle chemical exfoliation or occasional chemical peels will clear out any dirt, sebum, and makeup that may have already been collected. 
    3. Reversal: topical and oral retinoids, lasers, radio frequency facials, fractional COtherapy, and ultrasound devices have all been shown in small pilot studies to reduce pore size and improve skin texture and appearance [14–17]. One difficulty in verifying the success of these treatments is the lack of standardized measurement criteria/tools for pore size. Only recently have new technologies that aid in research for pore size become well validated and ready for clinical use [18].


[1] Bataille V, Snieder H, MacGregor AJ, Sasieni P, Spector TD (2002) The Influence of Genetics and Environmental Factors in the Pathogenesis of Acne: A Twin Study of Acne in Women.Journal of Investigative Dermatology 119, 1317–1322.

[2] Shekar SN, Luciano M, Duffy DL, Martin NG (2005) Genetic and Environmental Influences on Skin Pattern Deterioration. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 125, 1119–1129.

[3] Naqvi S, Hoskens H, Wilke F, Weinberg SM, Shaffer JR, Walsh S, Shriver MD, Wysocka J, Claes P (2022) Decoding the Human Face: Progress and Challenges in Understanding the Genetics of Craniofacial Morphology. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 23, 383–412.

[4] Naval J, Alonso V, Herranz MA (2014) Genetic polymorphisms and skin aging: the identification of population genotypic groups holds potential for personalized treatments. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol 7, 207–214.

[5] Scobbie RB, Sofaer JA (1987) Sweat pore count, hair density and tooth size: heritability and genetic correlation. Hum Hered 37, 349–353.

[6] Potekaev NN, Borzykh OB, Medvedev GV, Petrova MM, Gavrilyuk OA, Karpova EI, Trefilova VV, Demina OM, Popova TE, Shnayder NA (2021) Genetic and Epigenetic Aspects of Skin Collagen Fiber Turnover and Functioning. Cosmetics 8, 92.

[7] Kolarsick PAJ, Kolarsick MA, Goodwin C (2011) Anatomy and Physiology of the Skin. Journal of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association 3, 203.

[8] Rittié L, Fisher GJ (2015) Natural and Sun-Induced Aging of Human Skin. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med 5, a015370.

[9] Palma L, Marques LT, Bujan J, Rodrigues LM (2015) Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol 8, 413–421.

[10] Kim BY, Choi JW, Park KC, Youn SW (2013) Sebum, acne, skin elasticity, and gender difference - which is the major influencing factor for facial pores? Skin Res Technol 19, e45-53.

[11] Harlim A, Gloria A (2020) The Relationship between Drinking Water Consumption and Sebum Level with Face Skin Wrinkle of Woman at Gereja Batak Karo Protestant. Journal of Advanced Research in Dynamical and Control Systems 12, 192–198.

[12] Walters RM, Mao G, Gunn ET, Hornby S (2012) Cleansing Formulations That Respect Skin Barrier Integrity. Dermatol Res Pract 2012, 495917.

[13] Sj K, Jh B, Js K, Mi B, Sj L, Mk S (2015) The effect of physically applied alpha hydroxyl acids on the skin pore and comedone. International journal of cosmetic science 37,.

[14] J D, J L, G G (2016) Enlarged facial pores: an update on treatments. Cutis 98,.

[15] Katz B (2010) Efficacy of a new fractional CO2 laser in the treatment of photodamage and acne scarring. Dermatologic Therapy 23, 403–406.

[16] Gencebay G, Aşkın Ö, Serdaroğlu S (2021) Evaluation of the changes in sebum, moisturization and elasticity in acne vulgaris patients receiving systemic isotretinoin treatment. Cutan Ocul Toxicol 40, 140–144.

[17] Lee SJ, Seok J, Jeong SY, Park KY, Li K, Seo SJ (2016) Facial Pores: Definition, Causes, and Treatment Options. Dermatologic Surgery 42, 277.

[18] Shaiek A, Flament F, François G, Lefebvre-Descamps V, Barla C, Vicic M, Giron F, Bazin R (2017) A new tool to quantify the geometrical characteristics of facial skin pores. Changes with age and a making-up procedure in Caucasian women. Skin Res Technol 23, 249–257.