Before we delve into how to make pores look smaller, we're going to give it to you straight—your skin needs pores to house its natural oils, called sebum. Because of this rather inescapable reality, you can never get rid of them completely. What you can do, however, is keep your pores clear of any impurities that might make pores appear larger.
Erika Arguello, co-founder and product developer at Baiser Beauty, says, "When pores are infected or clogged, they expand. Especially around the nose where there are more oil glands, it leaves them enlarged. While it is not possible to eliminate pores since we need them for our skin to breathe, it is possible to make enlarged pores less noticeable." In an interview with Allure, dermatologist Papri Sarkar explains that "when people talk about skin 'breathing,' they're usually referring to whether the skin is occluded or not. Occluding the skin can cause pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads." It's this buildup that can lead to clogged pores.
You've heard what the experts have to say—now learn the simple way to make pores appear smaller in five easy steps.
Before you exfoliate, place a warm washcloth on your face for five minutes to try to open pores. Then gently exfoliate in smooth, circular motions without applying excessive pressure to the face. Focus on problem areas where dry skin and clogged pores may be the most prominent, like on the nose and cheeks, before rinsing your face completely with warm water.
Exfoliate two to three times a week (or once, for sensitive skin) to avoid aggravating the skin.
Dry skin is instantly smoothed away with this intensive treatment. If you have particularly sensitive skin, this treatment may not be the best option. It's full of fruit enzymes that exfoliate away dead skin, but sometimes acid exfoliators can be harsh on sensitive skin. As a basic rule of thumb, it's better to start out exfoliating fewer times a week until you're sure about a product.
If you're prone to acne, this scrub contains salicylic acid meant to help fight breakouts.
Use a Gentle Cleanser
While using an exfoliating cleanser may seem like a good idea to get rid of dry skin, it might actually irritate your skin and make dryness worse. Look for gentle cleansers, like this oil-based one, that moisturize and calm skin while cleansing.
Arguello recommends the following for clear pores: "Gently massage the Formula 13 into your skin with clean fingers, lie down, and cover your face with a warm face cloth for several minutes to help open pores. Rinse the washcloth, and gently wipe away any excess oil. If you have time, repeat the process for even better results. Finally, rinse your face in cold water to help close the pores."
Moisturizing is an essential step in any skincare routine—one that will also diminish the look of pores. Dry skin produces excess oil in an attempt to alleviate dryness, but this can result in clogged pores instead. Use a gentle noncomedogenic moisturizer, and while you're at it, be sure to apply sunscreen as well. Sun damage can lessen the elasticity and collagen in your skin, which can result in enlarged pores over time. By pairing moisturizer and sunscreen, you can keep skin healthy, and that means no flared pores.
Use a Face Mask
Make it part of your weekend routine to use a face mask that can do a bit of gentle, deep cleaning on your pores. As with exfoliating, place a warm washcloth on your face for five minutes before applying your mask. Additionally, if you can indulge in a facial every one to two months, a professional can help extract and exfoliate deeper debris in your pores.
Apply Topical Retinol
To shrink pores even more effectively, Dr. Melissa Doft recommends, “using non-clogging makeup, routine exfoliation, and topical retinol.” She goes on to explain that retinol, along with regular exfoliation can “increase cell turnover,” creating a smoother appearance of the skin. If enlarged pores persist, Dr. Doft says, “I also recommend fraxel to boost collagen production.” A fraxel laser can even out skin texture while an increase in collagen production tightens and rejuvenates skin.
Keep Your Hands Off
One of the most important steps you can take to prevent clogged pores is to avoid touching your face. Poking and prodding at blemishes or pores might aggravate the skin and push debris deeper into pores instead. Even clean hands might aggravate flare-ups, so leave the extractions to a professional.
Not only can trying to pop any blemishes lead to further irritation, it may cause scarring, too. Keeping your hands off is the best way to make sure your blemishes heal faster and don't leave a mark afterward.
Darlene Zembrod of Ecco Bella says, "The salicylic acid helps to remove debris in the pore; environmental debris and dead skin cells can enlarge the pore and run the risk of blackheads forming. Invisible Daily Exfoliant is effective yet gentle, as it only digests debris and dead skin cells, leaving healthy new cells intact."
Since this is a leave-on exfoliant, it doesn't require any harsh scrubbing. It promises to gently clear away dead skin cells and acne with salicylic acid instead.
If you'd rather avoid scrubs, Perricone MD's Pore Refiner works as a toner. Dab it onto a cotton pad, and apply once over the face.
Roh M, Goo B, Jung J, Chung H, Chung K. Treatment of enlarged pores with the quasi long-pulsed versus Q-switched 1064 nm Nd:YAG lasers: A split-face, comparative, controlled study. Laser Ther. 2011;20(3):175-180. doi:10.5978/islsm.20.175
Preissig J, Hamilton K, Markus R. Current laser resurfacing technologies: a review that delves beneath the surface. Semin Plast Surg. 2012;26(3):109-116. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1329413