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We're about to throw some bad news your way, but don't worry, we'll follow soon after with some good news. Here it is: You can't get rid of your pores, no matter how many products you use, or hard you try to pick and prod at them. But now here's the good news: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, reducing the look of pores so they're virtually impossible to see without a magnifying glass is a possibility, one that's not so difficult to achieve.
The right cleansers and exfoliators remove dead skin cells and unclog dirt-filled pores, which can help, as can moisturizing with collagen-boosting creams and lotions (when collagen weakens in the skin, pores look larger), wearing broad-spectrum SPF daily, sticking to non-comedogenic skincare, and more. Then there are pore-minimizing products that allow you to emulate the smooth, almost poreless (emphasis on almost, since again no skin is truly free of pores!) skin of youth.
Below, we rounded up the best pore minimizers from exfoliators to toners, so you can shrink the look of your pores at every step of your routine.
Best Overall: Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer
There’s nothing as enticing as a two-in-one product, and here’s one that actually delivers. Somewhere between makeup and skincare, this primer gently exfoliates with salicylic acid to combat dead skin cells and rebalances skin with flower extracts while absorbing excess oil. The result is the perfect canvas for makeup, and smaller-looking pores over time. Whether you’re a makeup novice or expert, this is worth the investment.
Best Budget: Biore Charcoal Pore Minimizer
You don’t need to break the bank to see results. Biore, a brand famous for its nose strips, is back with another pore-declogging product. Microcrystals polish away dirt and dead skin while charcoal draws out oil and impurities for cleaner skin and visibly smaller pores. While it may be a little harsh for dry or uber-sensitive skin, an oily visage will love this product.
Best Exfoliator: Paula's Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment with 2% BHA
Innovation is at another level with this leave-on exfoliant, which—unlike almost any other—can be used up to twice a day. Cleanse, tone, then pop this bad boy on and watch congested pores grow smaller as salicylic acid flushes out debris.
Best Mask: Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask To Clear Pores
Activated charcoal is created from carbon-rich materials burned at high temperatures, like coal, coconut shells, and wood. In skincare, there are claims that it binds to and removes impurities from the skin, but more research is needed.
This charcoal mask is everything when it comes to pore-clearing and refining. Formulated for all types of skin, it addresses environmental toxins with white China clay and removes excess oil. Bamboo charcoal stops blackhead formulation in its tracks while lecithin tackles impurities. Origins claim that it should only take seven days to see clearer pores, and this mask is gentle enough to use as you would an exfoliant.
Best Toner: Perricone MD No:Rinse Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner
If we’re talking about multi-faceted products, this toner should certainly be on the list. In fact, even to label it a ‘toner’ feels reductive considering it gently exfoliates, purifies, and controls sebum. While some balk at its pungent smell, that’s just a small price to pay for clearer, more mattified skin on application. In fact, across the board, some 90% of consumers noticed their pores were tighter than ever before.
Best Cleanser: SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
For those sick of cleansers that contain physical exfoliants, this cleanser uses naturally-sourced acids to buff away to your clearest complexion yet. Think all of the benefits of a chemical peel without the irritation, and at a fraction of the price. So long to dead skin and pore-clogging debris, hello improved texture and tone.
Best Moisturizer: Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Stay-Matte Hydrator
It’s not exactly a primer or serum, but this hydrating solution is ace when it comes to pre-makeup prepping and pore refining. Boasting eight-hour staying power to mattify even the oiliest T-zones, this can be used with other moisturizers and primers as supplementary hydration. It’s also non-acnegenic, so you can rest easy that it won’t be breaking you out while keeping that excess oil under control.
Best Serum: Glossier Super Pure
Zinc is an essential mineral that is needed for numerous healthy bodily functions, including boosting the immune system, healing wounds, and assisting in DNA/protein synthesis and growth. Applied topically, it's shown to aid in wound healing and regeneration, as well as protect the skin by deflecting UV rays.
Ready to overhaul your complexion? Look no further than this serum. Formulated with zinc and niacinamide, this won’t irritate the skin like some other products that rely heavily on salicylic acid. It’s a favorite among Glossier regulars for its ability to combat congested pores and reduce their appearance. The best part? It’s water-based and incredibly lightweight, meaning it's easily absorbed by the skin. Perfect to use alongside acne-fighting or anti-aging oils and moisturizers.
Best Sunscreen: Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting SPF 35 Sunscreen
Go the extra mile with your sun protection. This SPF 35 sunscreen works for all skin types and creates a poreless complexion. This can be used as a makeup primer, or on its own due to its mattified, invisible finish (goodbye chalk!). Over time, some 80% of users said they noticed a reduction in the size of their pores, while over 90% claimed fine lines were smoothed. By the way, every Tatcha purchase gives back to educating girls around the world, so you can minimize your pores while doing some good.
Best Splurge: SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
If you are going to spend $100 on a skincare product, it may as well be one of the most highly recommended. SK-II claims one bottle of their Facial Treatment Essence is sold every two seconds, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Somewhere between a toner and serum in texture, the product is fast absorbing and won’t compete with your existing routine. Almost all users noticed a refined texture and reversed signs of damage. Pat into the skin and watch it work its magic.
Best Foundation: Gressa Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation
Working to the same coverage level as a CC cream, the Corrective Serum Foundation is perfect for those who want to take a day off from makeup without going bare-faced altogether. It's formulated with skin-balancing botanical extracts as well as minerals to help even out the skin's tone.
Best Night Cream: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
Not only is this night cream affordable, but it also promises to reduce the appearance of pores and deep-set wrinkles with regular use within three months. Retinol spurs the restoration of the skin by buffing away dead cells and encouraging their regeneration, while the brand's undisclosed mineral complex (secret ingredient alert!) works on reversing signs of aging. This award-winning product is a beauty bag must-have for all.
We love the Dr. Brandt Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer for several reasons, but first and foremost because it’s a great two-in-one, pulling double duty as both makeup and skincare making pores look smaller in the process. A good toner can make a world of difference when it comes to minimizing the look of pores, and the PerriconeMD No:Rinse Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner does exactly that, while also exfoliating, purifying, and helping to tamp down excess oil. Budget-conscious skincare shoppers should try the Biore Charcoal Pore Minimizer, while those who are ready to splurge will find the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence a worthy investment.
What To Look For in a Pore Minimizer
This is by far the most important criteria. When dead skin cells build-up in the pores they make them appear much larger, says Ross. Choosing a pore minimizer that contains chemical exfoliants such as fruit acids or physical exfoliants such as jojoba beads will help minimize that build-up, she explains.
Your pores will also be much more prominent if your skin is well-hydrated, points out Ross. Look for lightweight hydrating ingredients—glycerin, hyaluronic acid—in a pore minimizer to help impart an extra hit of hydration even before you apply moisturizer.
How do you minimize pores?
Let’s start with a big caveat: You can’t minimize your actual pores, but you can minimize the look of them. “The size of your pores is genetically determined, so there is no way to make them physically smaller,” explains Dr. Amy S. Ross, a dermatologist in Tampa, Florida. But 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.
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 a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.