Better Skin
January 7, 2009 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Large pores on my face are getting me down.

My skin is looking rougher and rougher as the years go by. I'm 36, female. I have a few sun spots on my cheeks and many large pores on and around my nose, on my cheeks, and basically all over the center of my face. I also have some superficial acne scars. I'm looking for solutions to get a more refined look. I'm not expecting miracles but it would nice to see some improvement.

Is there anything I can do besides harsh chemical peels in the doctor's office? I'm not against chemical peels but am concerned about recovery. Anecdotes are appreciated. Also, is there an at-home chemical peel line that you especially like?

I've had microdermabrasion in the past. I do think microdermabrasion is beneficial for looking more refreshed, but it does nothing to improve the texture of my skin, nor does it fade sun spots.

Thanks so much.
posted by Fairchild to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Do you regularly exfoliate? You could try an exfoliating alpha hydroxy product. I like Paula's Choice AHA Gel . A little pea-sized drop 2-3 times a week goes a long way. An Eesthitician told me that at my age (33) retinol creams are better than AHAs - haven't tried them though. I think retinols are more for wrinkles than pores.
posted by delladlux at 9:14 AM on January 7, 2009

Retin A and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) are supposed to be the things for this kind of problem. You need a prescription for Retin A (at least at the higher concentrations you need), and then you apply it at home at night. Everyone I know has had good results with it, and I have too with only some mild flakiness at first.

The IPL I haven't tried, but my dermatologist is recommending it to deal with some uneven pigment and small acne scars. There is definitely a recovery period, although I don't think it keeps you away from work or anything on that level.

I think you should go to a good cosmetic-focused dermatologist (not a spa and not a derm who is mostly concerned with major skin illnesses) and talk it through with them.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:38 AM on January 7, 2009

Exfoliation (every other day) has made a noticeable improvement in my skin, and I buy the cheap stuff at the grocery store (St. Ives Apricot Scrub). It won't help with sun spots, but I'd try this first, give it a few weeks, and if it doesn't have the desired effect, escalate to more drastic measures. If you have the money, you might as well see a derm and explore your options.
posted by desjardins at 9:47 AM on January 7, 2009

I have nothing but good things to say about 'photodynamic therapy' with 'Levulan' and the Fraxel laser.

Googling "photodynamic therapy large pores" gives you an idea of the claims being made. I did not have big expectations; I was told to expect to need maybe three treatments; I was nearly in tears, I was so happy with the results from just one go with it.

Other people's reviews of Levulan, including the manufacturer's, are less than glowing, but I'm much less oily and extremely happy with the results.

I was pink and peeling for about 48h but quite presentable after that. The Fraxel left me red in the Fraxel-ed area for a week or so, and somewhat pinker than usual for maybe a month. Nothing major.

At-home-wise, the NeoStrata microdermabrasion kit does a nice job in the 'more refreshed' line.

On preview: yes, find the right sort of dermatologist. Not a 'spa' that advertises on billboards, but a doc who specializes in this sort of thing. I have been using Retin-A for twenty years and like it, but the results don't compare to what you can have done in a doctor's office.
posted by kmennie at 9:48 AM on January 7, 2009 [4 favorites]

For an at-home option which ain't cheap, but did wonders for sun spots and texture, I loved the Obagi system. It has Vitamin C, Retin-A, exfoliation, and sunspot removal aspects. I got it from my dermatologist and the before/after pictures were dramatic.
posted by *s at 10:21 AM on January 7, 2009

I did one session of IPL and it detroyed almost all of my sunspots. It was freaking amazing. Way exceeded my expectations. I'll be watching the thread for good large pore advice, though. Still looking for that myself. I love my laser lady in San Francisco. If you're near by I'll give you her info.
posted by Wolfie at 10:58 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wolfie, not the original poster but I live near SF and would love the name of your laser lady. I have been looking into IPL for sunspots on my face. Thanks!
posted by serac at 11:09 AM on January 7, 2009

OK, I think you have a couple of different issues. This is just from my experience.

1. Chemical peels: a dermatologist can do a light glycolic acid peel in office. It will take about 10 minutes and you will notice a difference in the texture of your skin by the next day. It stings a little bit, but it does not hurt. I had this done last year when I was pregnant and could not use my normal salicylic acid wash or my Ziana, and it was covered by insurance.

2. For pore size, try a cream or lotion with caffeine in it. This will shrink the pore size temporarily (like 12 hours). You can buy this type of thing at your local drugstore, but I have heard Clinique has a really good one. An advantage to buying Clinique is that you can take it back if you do not like it. My dermatologist started selling her own line of it, so I bought that, and it works well for me. (But I want to try the Clinique, too.)

The "medical spa" I go to for laser hair removal has the Affirm laser, which is supposed to be able to get rid of some scars and even out skin tone and texture--it's often recommended to people with rosacea. But, it is costly. These other two options are not, in comparison.

Also, the second-generation retinoids like Ziana are like miracles in a tube, in my opinion. Just a week with Ziana smooths my skin and tightens everything up. Plus, it has an antiobiotic in it to counteract the bacteria that cause pimples. I highly recommend it, and it is covered by insurance most of the time. If not, your doctor should have lots of samples to let you try before you buy.

Good luck!
posted by FergieBelle at 11:55 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I use ROC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum at night under LUSH Gorgeous, and Alpha Hydroxy Souffle on my face in the morning, under LUSH Paradise Regained moisturizer (which has a sunscreen). Both ROC and Alpha Hydroxy products are available on

Since I've worked out this particular skincare regimen (about 3 months ago) my face has never looked better. My pores are shrinking and the fine lines around my eyes are smoothing out. LUSH moisturizers are expensive, but a wee pea-sized dollop does it for an application so it lasts a long time.

With all the products I use I don't use a coarse-grained exfoliant because that would be overkill. I use Alba Papaya face mask once or twice a week, and LUSH Sacred Truth once a week after exfoliating with a warm, wet washcloth.

And one more thing - drink lots of water. Coffee, tea and sodas are actually drying to your skin. Plain water is the best. And lots of fresh fruit - especially oranges, mangos, clementines and other colorful orange-toned fruits - are good for the skin too.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:01 PM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

Her name is Erin and she is at a place called Urban Allure on California. She is an RN. Everywhere else I went wanted to sell me a package of treatments. She did one treatment and then a quick follow up a month later to zap a few remainders for no charge. Awesome. She has also done my laser hair removal on my under arms and upper lip. I was a gorilla - and haven't had to shave my underarms in - no kidding - months. My only regret is not seeing her sooner.
posted by Wolfie at 1:19 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Retin-A is very good.

IPL is da' bomb. I have very pale skin and I'm outside all the time in situations where sunscreen gets washed away (competitive swimmer for many years and now a marathon runner). 1 IPL treatment did a great job getting rid of sunspots. I have another treatment scheduled to clean up some remaining discoloration, but even those remaining spots are much, much lighter. IPL also zapped away some broken capillaries by my nose. IPL is a little uncomfortable and expensive. However, there is no downtime. You can put makeup back on as soon as the procedure is complete.
posted by 26.2 at 1:36 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had IPL, too, for some broken capillaries. Not so pretty. But the end result was great.

If you're interested: First day after PDT w/Levulan (covered in Vaseline, too); second day, and there wasn't anything weird to photograph on the third. Me last week with minimal make-up; least greasy photo I've seen of myself in years...
posted by kmennie at 5:56 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have been using Alpha Hydrox products with great success for the last couple of months with great success (Btw, I am 37 and am experiencing much the same as you. Damn aging!!!). Their products are really effective and inexpensive (ka-ching).

My skin is brighter and smoother and it has helped my pores immensely. I use a washcloth every morning to to help the exfoliation along. I also use really good moisturizers from Alpha Hydrox and Clinique afterwards because my skin is super dry.

For sunspots and scarring, my dermatologist has prescribed Hydroquinone. Some people don't use it because it's controversial, but it's widely used and has been great for me. And, it's cheap. WOOT!

If I let myself really freak out about it I could spend tons of money on laser treatments, peels, etc. But I think it also depends on how sever your skin issues are. I have rosacea and my dermatologist said I need to baby my face along for a bit before I hit some of the more extreme treatments. Neither of these options is an immediate fix, but I am extremely happy.
posted by inquisitrix at 8:12 PM on January 7, 2009

I use the Clinique products mentioned by FergieBelle, the Pore Minimizer Refining Serum, used after moisturising, it claims to repair pores permanently and I'm not sure that's true, but it definitely shrinks them and is a bit less drastic than the chemical options. The Instant Perfector from the same range is also amazing, it literally fills the pores in and especially when used under foundation they become almost invisible. Pop to your local Clinique counter and they'll apply it for you to see how it works before you decide to buy..
posted by hibbersk at 12:26 AM on January 8, 2009

When I started using the Bare Minerals makeup I noticed that I had huge pores. I googled make pores smaller and found a forum that suggested using witch hazel so I bought a bottle of it and now you can barely see them. I use the St. Ives apricot scrub and then the witch hazel. I have recently started using Oil of Olay night fortifying cream and I'm seeing a difference in the feel of my skin. I love it.
posted by Jules22871 at 2:41 AM on January 8, 2009

Exfoliation will certainly help you some in this area. I'm a fan of the Paula's Choice line of stuff...I use the 2% BHA (beta hydroxy acid) lotion and sometimes the liquid under makeup. Unlike a lot of BHA/salicylic acid products out there, the Paula's Choice ones are formulated w/ the correct ph level to actually work effectively. If you use it too much, you could get a little flaky, though. There is also a 1% version you could try too, if the 2% is too much for your skin. BHA is different than AHA (which the first responder recommended) in that BHA can actually penetrate the pore and dissolve oil/dirt/dead skin cells that are in there, which in turn make the pore look larger. AHA just exfoliates on the surface, so a BHA might work better for you.

I've also read that retinol products can help reduce pore size by restructuring the pore to function better. Seriously, check out Paula's Choice products and the writings of Paula Begoun...she writes about this kind of stuff all the time and doesn't buy into the silly hype most companies try to pass off as fact. She also discusses the benefits of IPL pretty thoroughly. (i'm not in any way affiliated w/ Paula's Choice...I just really love the products and think Paula's advice is very smart and fact-based).

You should definitely steer clear of using a scrub like St. Ives, though. That scrub uses crushed walnut shells to remove the dead skin cells, which can make microscopic cuts in your skin due to the jagged, sharp edges of the shells. It *looks* like your skin is improving, but really, you are just damaging it. If you use an AHA or BHA and still want more exfoliation, just using a wash-cloth should be enough to do the trick without hurting your skin. Witch hazel is also a known skin irritant, so stay away from that as well.
posted by ozinn at 1:38 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for these answers. The IPL laser sounds very promising, I'm honestly intrigued.

There is no doubt that I will be trying some of these potions y'all have recommended. I know a little bit about skincare but have been slacking and my skin sure is showing it.

Thanks again! I truly appreciate your time and detailed answers.
posted by Fairchild at 8:57 PM on January 8, 2009

Green Cream.
posted by guniang at 7:23 PM on January 19, 2009

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