The Best Pore Minimizers for a Smooth Complexion

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The 17 Best Pore Minimizers of 2022

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Pores are just a fact of life, and no product or procedure will effectively get rid of their appearance. That said, we know of some standout skincare formulations that can make them a bit less glaring.

"Ingredients that are 'pore minimizers' simply help pores appear smaller by exfoliating your skin, unclogging pores, and preventing sun damage," says board-certified dermatologist Marie V. Hayag, MD. Whether it's a toner, serum, moisturizer, or mask, she recommends products containing retinoids, niacinamide, AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids), and salicylic acid (beta-hydroxy acid or BHA).

"Salicylic acid exfoliates the skin and also penetrates the pores to dissolve the dead skin cells and debris that may be clogging them," Dr. Hayag tells Byrdie. "It also reduces excessive oil production, preventing clogged pores in the first place."

To find the very best in pore minimizing, we tried out some of the top-rated products on the market, from toners to exfoliating treatments. Our testers used these products for weeks at a time, taking note of how well each clarified their skin and improved overall pore appearance. 

With our research and pointers from experts in mind, we compiled this list of the best pore minimizers out there today.

Best Overall: Paula's Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment with 2 Percent BHA

4.8
Paula's Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment with 2% BHA

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Replenishes skin barrier

  • Soothing

  • Doesn't leave a residue

  • Boosts radiance

What We Don't Like
  • May irritate sensitive skin

Paula's Choice is a fan-loved brand for many reasons, one being its exceptionally effective BHA toner. Containing 2 percent salicylic acid, plus peptides and allantoin, the Pore-Refining Treatment sloughs away dead cells and replenishes the skin barrier. It also soothes stressed complexions.

In addition to clearing debris from your pores and strengthening your dermis, this clever concoction plumps your skin, boosts collagen production, and creates a smoother complexion over time.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, peptides, allantoin | Skin Type: Oily, acne-prone, combination | Size: 3 ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Editors Say

"I have relatively clear skin, but like many people, I still suffer from sebum and blackheads in my t-zone. Because of this, I’ve tried quite a few products, and Paula's Choice is the only one that works for me. It cleared up my pores and is easy to integrate into a simple skincare routine. Plus, you can’t beat the price." — Madeline Hirsch, Sr. News Editor

Best Budget: InstaNatural 7 Percent Glycolic AHA Toner

InstaNatural 7% Glycolic AHA Toner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Balances oil production

  • Boosts radiance

What We Don't Like
  • May irritate sensitive skin

This toner from InstaNatural dissolves sebum with AHA all-stars like glycolic acid and lactic acid. It then calls on witch hazel to balance oil production and vitamin C to tackle dullness.

Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, vitamin C, witch hazel | Skin Type: All | Size: 4 ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Drugstore: Bioderma Sébium Pore Refiner Cream

Bioderma - Sébium - Pore Refiner Cream
What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Works well under makeup

What We Don't Like
  • Contains synthetic fragrance

Bioderma's Sébium Pore Refiner dissolves dead skin cells with salicylic acid, then soaks up excess oil and sebum with silica powder. Thanks to the formula's mattifying effect, this French pharmacy favorite works well under makeup.

Key Ingredients: Silica powder, salicylic acid, agaric acid | Skin Type: Oily, combination | Size: 1 ounce | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Splurge: SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Clearing Serum

SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Clearing Serum

SkinBetter Science

What We Like
  • Noticeable results

  • Dermatologist-recommended

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

This fancy BHA serum is one of Dr. Hayag's favorites. "It improves skin tone, texture, appearance of pores, and clears skin," she tells Byrdie. "It also has multiple antioxidants alongside niacinamide (vitamin B3) and other moisturizing ingredients to prevent irritation."

Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide, retinol | Skin Type: Mature, oily, acne-prone, combination | Size: 1 ounce | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Cleanser: The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser

Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Balances oil production

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note the bottle can leak

If you're just dipping your toes into the world of BHA skincare, this budget-friendly cleanser from The Inky List is a great place to start. The mild foaming formula dislodges dead cells from your pores and minimizes excess sebum, all while washing away the day and soothing irritation.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, zinc, allantoin | Skin Type: Combination, oily, acne-prone | Size: 5 ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Toner: Perricone MD Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner

3.9
perricone md intensive pore minimizing toner

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Gently exfoliates

  • Noticeable results

  • Balances oil production

What We Don't Like
  • Strong scent

  • Expensive

After cleansing, reach for this pore-minimizing toner, which promises to exfoliate, refine, and control oil production while prepping your skin for the next step. Though some folks balk at its pungent smell, this almost makes us trust the no-nonsense formula even more.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, vitamin C, copper | Skin Type: Oily, combination | Size: 4 ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Serum: Glossier Super Pure

Glossier Super Pure

Glossier

What We Like
  • Non-irritating

  • Balances oil production

What We Don't Like
  • Small bottle

Formulated with zinc and niacinamide, Glossier Super Pure is said to combat sebum production and balance your complexion. "Niacinamide also helps the appearance of pores," says Dr. Hayag.

Key Ingredients: Zinc, niacinamide | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 ounce | SPF: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Multitasker: Fenty Skin Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum

Fenty Skin Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum

Sephora

What We Like
  • Generous amount

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Balances oil production

What We Don't Like
  • Contains synthetic fragrance

  • Contains dye

Who says you can't consolidate skincare steps? Fenty Fat Water is a toner-serum hybrid that balances oil production, fades dark spots, and fights shine. We like that it contains niacinamide, which Dr. Hayag says "increases ceramide biosynthesis and helps restore the skin's moisture barrier."

Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin C, witch hazel, Japanese raisin tree | Skin Type: All | Size: 5 ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Lotion: Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Stay-Matte Hydrator

clinique stay matte hydrator

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Mattifying

  • Oil-free

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Whether you use it as a moisturizer, serum, or makeup primer, you can count on Clinique's Stay-Matte Hydrator to soak up sebum and keep excess oil under control for up to eight hours.

Key Ingredients: Silica, St. Paul's wort extract | Skin Type: Oily, acne-prone, combination | Size: 1.7 ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Moisturizer: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Moisturizer

Alpha Beta® Pore Perfecting Moisturizer

Sephora

What We Like
  • Non-comedogenic

  • Dermatologist-developed

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Unhygienic container

Dr. Dennis Gross is a brand you can trust when it comes to minimizing the look of pores. Thanks to a blend of farnesol, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and squalane, this brilliantly lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer encourages cell turnover. It also prevents breakouts and supports the skin barrier.

Key Ingredients: Farnesol, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, squalane | Skin Type: Balanced, dry, combination, oily | Size: 2 ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Sunscreen: Exuviance Daily Corrector SPF 35 Moisturizer

Exuviance Daily Corrector SPF 35 Moisturizer

Ulta

What We Like
  • Balances oil production

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Fragrance-free

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

This non-comedogenic face sunscreen boasts broad-spectrum SPF 35 protection while balancing oil production, boosting your complexion, and reducing the appearance of pores.

Key Ingredients: Avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate | Skin Type: Oily, acne-prone, combination | Size: 1.4 ounces | SPF: 35 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Night Cream: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream

4
roc retinol
What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Noticeable results

What We Don't Like
  • Small bottle

RoC Retinol Correxion is your best bet for a night cream. As Dr. Hayag explains, "Retinoids have many functions, including clearing clogged pores, exfoliating dead skin cells, and improving the look of pores."

Key Ingredients: Retinol, minerals | Skin Type: Dry, mature, oily, combination | Size: 1 ounce | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream

Byrdie / Leigh Weingus

What Our Testers Say

"Overall, I was very happy with RoC’s Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream. On top of being affordable, it didn’t irritate my skin, and I noticed a reduction in fine lines within a week." — Leigh Weingus, Product Tester

Best Exfoliator: Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment

5
Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Improves skin texture

  • Noticeable results

  • Balances oil production

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

When it comes to effective at-home skincare treatments, ExfoliKate is one for the books. Containing naturally exfoliating fruit enzymes, plus AHA and BHA, it pulls out all the stops to loosen up pore-clogging debris. It also tackles sebum production.

Key Ingredients: Fruit enzymes, lactic acid, salicylic acid | Skin Type: Balanced, mature, oily, combination | Size: 2 ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Mask: Temi Botanical Masque

Temi Botanical Masque

Essentials by Temi

What We Like
  • Minimizes inflammation

  • Unclogs pores

  • Balances oil production

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

This anti-inflammatory mask calls on kaolin clay and maca to draw out impurities from your pores, then soaks up excess oil, sloughs off dead skin cells, and soothes with chamomile.

Key Ingredients: Kaolin clay, maca, chamomile | Skin Type: Oily, combination, sensitive, balanced | Size: 1 ounce | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Peel: Wishful by Huda Beauty Rose Quartz Lift & Glow Peel-Off Face Mask

Wishful by Huda Beauty Rose Quartz Lift & Glow Peel-Off Face Mask

Sephora

What We Like
  • Balances oil production

  • Tightens complexion

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

If you're more of a peel person, go with Lift & Glow. This pretty-in-pink mask goes on like a gel and dries into an iridescent finish. When it peels off, it takes dirt, oil, and pore-clogging sebum along with it.

Key Ingredients: Rose quartz, witch hazel | Skin Type: All | Size: 2 ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best K-Beauty: CosRx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

CosRx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

Amazon

What We Like
  • Tightens complexion

  • Dermatologist-tested

  • Calms redness

What We Don't Like
  • Results take time

We're also big fans of CosRx Blackhead Power Liquid, which contains generous doses of salicylic acid and niacinamide. "These factors help your skin achieve a 'tighter' look, reducing the appearance of pores," says Dr. Hayag.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, niacinamide, betaine salicylate | Skin Type: All | Size: 3.4 ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Primer: Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer

4.8
dr. brandt skincare pores no more pore refiner primer

Ulta

What We Like
  • Balances oil production

  • Mattifying

  • Works well under makeup

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

It can be tricky to minimize the look of pores when wearing a full face of makeup, but this mattifying primer is up for the task. Red clover extract helps balance oil production to shrink the appearance of pores, while a BHA derivative gently exfoliates to create a smooth canvas.

Key Ingredients: Red clover flower extract, capryloyl salicylic acid | Skin Type: Oily, combination, balanced | Size: 1 ounce | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

dr. brandt skincare pores no more pore refiner primer

Byrdie / Ashley Rebecca

What Our Testers Say

"It felt so lightweight and blended well with the various foundations I tried it with. I noticed a major difference in the oil production of my skin throughout the day. My skin looked smooth and velvety all day, and I did not need to touch up my makeup." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester

Final Verdict

Our number one pick is Paula's Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment 2 Percent BHA, a fan-favorite toner containing exfoliating BHA, replenishing peptides, and soothing allantoin. For folks on a budget, we recommend InstaNatural's 7 percent Glycolic AHA Toner. And if you're open to splurging, your best bet is the dermatologist-approved SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Clearing Serum.

Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer
Byrdie / Ashley Rebecca

Meet the Expert

  • Marie V. Hayag, MD, of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics, is a New York-based board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai Hospital.
  • Dr. Amy S. Ross is a dermatologist in Tampa, Florida who specializes in Mohs micrographic surgery and laser treatment of skin disorders.

What to Look For in a Pore Minimizer

Exfoliating Ingredients

This is by far the most important criterion. "When dead skin cells build up in the pores, they make them appear much larger," says dermatologist Dr. Amy S. Ross. "Choosing a pore minimizer that contains chemical exfoliants like fruit acids or physical exfoliants like jojoba beads will help minimize that build-up," she explains.

Hydrating Ingredients

"Your pores will also be much less prominent if your skin is well-hydrated," points out Ross. Look for lightweight hydrating ingredients—glycerin and hyaluronic acid—in a pore minimizer to help impart an extra hit of hydration even before you apply moisturizer. 

Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer
Byrdie / Ashley Rebecca
FAQ
  • How do you minimize pores?

    “The size of your pores is genetically determined, so there is no way to make them physically smaller,” explains Ross. "However, you can make them look smaller by keeping your skin hydrated, exfoliating regularly, protecting yourself from the sun, and using a dedicated pore minimizing product," she says.

  • When should you apply a pore minimizer?

    "Pore minimizers should be used after you wash your face, but before you apply any moisturizer or sun protection," says Ross.

  • How often should you use a pore minimizer?

    According to Ross, "they should be used twice daily, morning and night, immediately after cleansing."

Why Trust Byrdie

This article was written and updated by Theresa Holland, a freelance copywriter specializing in beauty and commerce. Before making her final selections, she interviewed a board-certified dermatologist for product suggestions and formulation considerations, referenced a long list of peer-reviewed resources, and considered myriad products. From the above, she has personally tried Paula's Choice, InstaNatural, CosRx, Clinique, Kate Somerville, RoC, The Inkey List, and Dr. Dennis Gross. Theresa covers skincare, makeup, and lifestyle products at Byrdie.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough pore minimizers from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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