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 them appear larger.
Erika Arguello, cofounder 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." It's this buildup that can lead to clogged pores. We spoke to Arguello and two other experts about how to make your pores smaller.
Meet the Expert
Keep reading to learn more on how to minimize your pores and the best products to help.
Click Play to Learn How to Minimize and Maintain Healthy Pores
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.
Dry skin is instantly smoothed away with this intensive treatment from Kate Somerville. It's full of fruit enzymes meant to exfoliate away dead skin, but sometimes acid exfoliators may be harsh on sensitive skin. As a basic rule of thumb, it's better to start exfoliating fewer times a week until you're sure about a product. If you have particularly sensitive skin, this treatment may not be the best option.
If you're prone to acne, this scrub contains salicylic acid meant to help fight breakouts, blackheads, and clogged pores. The best part is that, while powerful, it's gentle enough for daily use.
Use a Gentle Cleanser
While using an exfoliating cleanser may seem like a good idea to get rid of dry skin, it might irritate your skin and make dryness worse. Look for gentle cleansers that moisturize and calm skin while cleansing.
Arguello recommends the following for clear pores: "Gently massage the [formula] 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 might also diminish the look of pores. 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.
Herbivore's Blue Tansy mask promises to help soothe and soften skin. Surprisingly non-irritating, it's meant to reduce redness and inflammation, and balance acne-prone or congested skin.
Apply Topical Retinol
To shrink pores even more effectively, 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, Doft recommends "Fraxel to boost collagen production.” A Fraxel laser can even out skin texture while an increase in collagen production tightens and rejuvenates the skin.
Avoid Touching Your Face
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, but 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.
"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," says Zembrod. "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 Minimizing Toner works well to hydrate skin, while also removing excess oil and dirt from the skin. Dab it onto a cotton pad, and apply once over the face. With consistent use over time, pores may appear smaller.
Can you really shrink your pores?
Do ice cubes close pores?
Unfortunately, ice cubes will not likely close or open pores.
What is sebum?
Sebum is a natural oil that your skin produces to leave moisturized and protected. An overproduction of it, however, can lead to clogged pores and acne.
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
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Beauty myths.