When it comes to skin care woes, pores often hold a top spot on the list. Still, they play a vital role in skin health.
Pores connect to your hair follicles, which also contain sebaceous oil and sweat glands. These small openings allow natural oil (sebum) to reach your skin’s surface and lubricate it. They also release sweat.
Despite their importance, it’s pretty common to dislike the look — and size — of your pores.
A few different factors can affect their size and appearance, including:
- age — skin becomes less elastic with age, which can make pores seem larger
- amount of sun exposure
- skin type — oilier skin may lead to more noticeable pores
Your pores might also become more prominent in appearance if those sebaceous glands grow, or the tracts fill with debris, explains Dr. Calvin Williams, a board certified dermatologist at Essential Dermatology Group.
If you’re hoping to shrink your pores, we’ve got some good news and bad news.
Bad news first: You can’t actually change the basic size of your pores.
But here’s the good news: You can do plenty of things to help minimize their appearance.
Although your basic pore size can’t be changed, there are plenty of ways to help minimize their appearance. You’ll find 9 tips to try below.
If you feel tempted to pick, squeeze, or scrub your pores into nothingness, take a deep breath.
Going on the attack won’t do much to minimize your pores. In fact, aggressively attacking your skin will usually only lead to irritation, which can make your pores look even bigger.
Instead of harsh scrubbing, gently massage your skin when you cleanse. And remember, it’s always best to avoid picking or poking pores.
Starting a regular skin care routine is one way to help pores look smaller. A good first step? Ensure you’re using the right products for your skin.
Pro tip: Products labeled “noncomedogenic” typically won’t clog pores.
When it comes to cleansing, look for products designed specially for your skin type. For example, light foams and gels may work well for combination and oily skin, while creams and balms tend to be more suited to drier complexions.
Not sure about your skin type? Our guide can offer more insight.
You’ll most likely want to use moisturizer, too. Look for lightweight, water-based formulas if you’re hoping to reduce oiliness.
Looking for a product specially designed to reduce the appearance of pores?
Williams recommends SkinCeuticals’ Retexturing Activator or ZO Skin Health’s Instant Pore Refiner.
It’s easy to forget to cleanse twice a day. You might be more of a “once daily” or “whenever I remember” cleanser.
If that works well for your skin, we say carry on. Everyone’s skin has unique needs, after all, and washing your face too frequently can — you guessed it — lead to dryness and irritation.
That said, a gentle wash both morning and night can make a difference when it comes to keeping pores clean (and less visible).
“Clean pores will always appear smaller,” explains Dr. Suzanne Friedler, board certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology, PC.
When washing, use warm water instead of hot to help reduce irritation. And don’t forget, scrubbing can lead to inflammation and more noticeable pores, so always wash with a gentle touch.
Oil and dead skin cells can easily build up and fill your pores. Clogged pores can, in turn, lead to breakouts, making pores even more obvious.
Exfoliation, however, can help you get rid of that dirt and debris more effectively.
Common facial exfoliants include alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), among others.
- Glycolic acid and other AHAs exfoliate your top layer of skin. If you have dry or somewhat sensitive skin, these exfoliants might offer a safe starting place.
- Salicylic acid and other BHAs go deeper, so they can work well for people with oilier skin.
- Some people also find clay masks helpful for drawing out excess oil and unclogging pores. Just take care to use them only once or twice a week, at most, to avoid dryness and irritation.
- Chemical peels offer a deeper exfoliation, but like clay masks, you’ll want to use them sparingly — generally no more than once a week — to prevent irritation.
Retinoids, which boost skin cell turnover, could also help minimize the appearance of pores.
Williams explains that vitamin A derivatives, like tretinoin and isotretinoin, don’t just help clear out clogged pores. They can also help shrink the oil glands themselves and potentially provide lasting improvement.
“It’s important to have a proper assessment to ensure these medications are right for you,” he cautions.
In other words, you’ll generally want to consult a dermatologist before trying retinoids.
Sunscreen is a necessity for everyone, so don’t forget this vital step!
Sun damage can negatively affect your skin in a number of ways, from dark spots to increased risk for skin cancer. In terms of surface-level effects, the sun can leave your skin looking less firm, with more visible pores.
Protecting your skin from the sun is pretty simple, though: Make sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 on a daily basis, no matter the weather.
Having a hard time choosing the right sunscreen for your skin type? We can help.
Makeup can be a double-edged sword, when it comes to your pores.
While certain formulas can mask pores, others can end up clogging them.
To avoid expanding your pores, try to use only noncomedogenic makeup, especially if your skin happens to be oilier or prone to acne.
A few other cosmetic tips:
- Steer clear of ingredients that could dry or irritate your skin, like alcohol and fragrance.
- Avoid shimmery products on areas with more noticeable pores — the shiny effect will only emphasize them.
- Try matte formulas and pore-minimizing primers to blur the appearance of pores.
- Consider blotting paper to absorb oil and reduce the risk of clogging throughout the day.
It never hurts to keep in mind that you need your pores, even if you don’t love how they look.
They’re a natural part of your skin, not a flaw.
It can also help to come to terms with the fact that your genes play a role in their size. In other words, you can’t make them smaller or get rid of them entirely.
Struggling to get results at home?
Dermatologists have access to much more powerful pore treatments.
Pore-shrinking procedures include:
- laser treatments
- medium or deep chemical peels
“All of these treatments create microscopic injuries to the skin, which in turn stimulates new collagen and elastin production,” Friedler explains.
The above strategies can go a long way toward improving the appearance of your pores.
All the same, Williams says, “skin care has to be individualized.”
The best advice? Connect with a board certified dermatologist —particularly if you have any long-term or significant skin concerns, like acne.
Don’t forget, too, that your pores are simply part of your skin, and there’s no need to do anything to change them.
Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.