If you feel like your pores are magically getting larger by the day, there might be an all too real effect at play here: sagging. It’s annoying but true that while the general size of those little skin openings is genetically determined, they can droop over time for a variety of reasons, ultimately holding you back from your dream of looking filtered IRL.
If it seems like this is just one more way your pores are out to get you — on top of blackheads and breakouts — we’ve got good news: There are ways to fix sagging pores. Read on to find out what causes a pore to give in to gravity, how to prevent it, and how to perk it right back up. (Hint: Our new toner is involved.)
Why Do Pores Sag?
We turned to NYC-based dermatologist Hadley King, MD, to get the low-down on what’s behind sagging pores. First thing to blame? Time. This mainly boils down to a loss of collagen, a protein Dr. King likens to scaffolding for the skin, giving it structure and firmness. “As you age, you produce less and less of these proteins,” she says. “This is why the skin thins and laxity increases.” The result is sagging of all sorts — including in the tissue around your pores.
But age isn’t the only factor here. Other things that can contribute include sun damage, pollution, stress, smoking, and even repetitive facial expressions. These all add to the breakdown of the skin’s scaffolding structure, eventually causing things to go south, so to speak.
Last but not least, there’s the debris, aka physical gunk like sebum, dead skin cells, grime, and makeup. Not only is a blocked pore more noticeable, period, but “if pores are clogged enough to stretch them out, then ultimately this will lead to larger pores that will look worse as the skin ages,” says Dr. King. The combo of increasingly lax skin plus big clogs stretching them out gives pores that telltale sagging appearance.
What’s the Difference Between Saggy Pores and Large Pores?
Large pores may seem interchangeable with saggy pores, but there are a few key differences. Large pores are more common among oily skin types, since excess sebum lends itself to clogs and breakouts. So, you could be in your 20s with an admirable sunscreen habit and still just be predisposed to large pores.
Saggy pores, on the other hand, result from loss of firmness due to aging, including that caused by sun damage, in addition to the usual suspects like clogs. So, you could develop sagging pores even if you’re not genetically predisposed to large pores. That being said, large pores do “have the risk of looking saggier as skin laxity increases with aging,” says Dr. King.
How to Treat Sagging Pores
If your pores have already started to look enlarged, incorporate these topicals into your routine to get them back into shape.
Since a clear pore is a happier pore, you’ll want to turn to ingredients that help exfoliate and decongest, such as willow bark (nature’s salicylic acid) and tea tree extract. Both keep them more invisible — as well as prevent those big blockages that can stretch them out.
Our new Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner was designed to help support those little skin openings in several ways. It starts immediately with plumping action, thanks to amino acid-rich watermelon extract, cactus water, potassium-packed cucumber, and hyaluronic acid (more on why that’s important in a bit).
Then, you have the pore decongestants. The toner has two types of oil-soluble BHAs that get down into pores to root out the gunk, plus antimicrobial tea tree extract for an extra skin-clearing boost. Add the toner to your routine and you might notice results sooner than you think. In a clinical study, 90 percent of users saw a reduction of pore size in two weeks.
Next, look for effective hydrators which, Dr. King says, keep skin looking plump. Not only that, but in bolstering and fortifying the pore walls with moisture, it’ll make the actual pores look smaller and tighter in turn — and therefore less saggy.
So, to keep sagging at bay, make sure you’re using moisturizing ingredients in your skin-care routine. With humectants like hyaluronic acid, the wonder ingredient that draws 1,000 times its weight in moisture to draw hydration deep into your skin, and emollients like cucumber extract, which help skin retain it, and you’ll be on the right track.
How to Prevent Sagging Pores
There’s not much you can do about the age factor, but certain steps can go a long way in preventing sagging pores.
The usual anti-aging suspects happen to be good for pores, too. “Anti-aging topicals, such as retinoids, antioxidants, anti-aging peptides, [can help],” says Dr. King. These refine the skin’s texture, increase cell turnover, and in some cases even increase the skin’s thickness to further assist with firmness in the pore walls.
Plus, by increasing skin cell turnover, retinol in particular decreases the amount of dead cells that could potentially clog pores. And since clogs can contribute to stretching them out, retinol can thus prevent pores from looking saggy. Use a nighttime treatment with retinol, such as our Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask, to help keep your skin firm and your pores, practically invisible.
Sunscreen is a must for skin that is both age- and poreless — and skipping it here and there (or not reapplying regularly throughout the day) still adds up to more damage that you might think. In fact, “much of the sun damage that accumulates in our skin is the result of daily incidental sun exposure,” says Dr. King.
She points to one Australian study that tracked daily sunscreen wearers who slathered it on regardless of the weather or their daily activities versus people who only used SPF on sunny days when they’d be outside for a prolonged period. No surprise here: “The skin of the people who used sunscreen everyday aged significantly better,” explains Dr. King. In other words, add sunscreen to your daily habit all year-round and your tight pores may stay in your favor in the future.
Read more about how to get rid of large pores: