Pores: Can’t live with ’em, literally can’t live without ’em. Even though I curse their existence on a semi-regular basis, I also understand they have an important role in keeping my skin naturally lubricated and moisturized and blah, blah, blah. Sigh. I get it. But that doesn’t mean I like it, and it doesn’t mean I don’t spend a ton of time researching pore minimizers and pore vacuums. I mean, am I so wrong in wishing they could do their thing a little more discreetly? Am I stuck with these large pores forever?!
So to help me get some answers, I turned to dermatologist Shari Marchbein, MD, to find out if it’s actually possible to shrink your pores and which pore minimizing tricks and products truly work.
Can you really shrink your pores?
First, let’s talk about what pores are. “Pores are the visible openings of the hair follicles to their connected oil glands,” says Dr. Marchbein, and unfortunately, “their size is genetically determined.” Which means, unfortunately, you can’t do much about their predetermined size. That being said, they can look larger if the collagen around them weakens (from, say, age, sun exposure, or picking at your skin) or if they become clogged (hi, blackheads) with dirt, oil, and bacteria.
And although you can’t actually get rid of your pores (remember, you can’t live without them), or permanently change their size (you’d need a new set of DNA for that), you can minimize their appearance to a degree with certain at-home products and in-office procedures. Keeping scrolling for 13 best ways to make your pores appear smaller as well as the best pore-minimizing products and treatments to try.
Pore minimizing tip #1: Get a professional chemical peel
In-office chemical peels with exfoliating acids (like TCA, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and lactic acid) and/or retinoids are clutch when it comes to minimizing the appearance of pores and uneven skin texture. These peels aren’t exactly cheap (expect to spend anywhere from $250 to $600 depending on where you live), but the skin-smoothing results are impressive.
Chemical peels are customizable too—the intensity of your treatment can be adjusted based on your skin type, skin goals, and how much downtime you’re willing to have (more intensity = more recovery time post-peel). I‘m a big fan of PCA peels and Skinceuticals peels for reducing the look of of large pores, but you can always talk to your doctor to find out what kind of pro peel is best for you.
Pore minimizing tip #2: Incorporate acids into your skincare routine
Some of the same exfoliating acids that are used in professional chemical peels can also be used in lesser concentrations as a part of your skincare routine at home. These acids usually fall into one of two categories—AHAs and BHAs—both of which are exceptional at reducing the appearance of pores. AHAs (like glycolic acid, mandelic acid, and lactic acid) and BHAs (like salicylic acid) help dissolve the glue that holds together pore-clogging dead cells on the surface of the skin. BHAs can even help dissolve oil and build-up that gets stuck inside pores and stretches them out too.
There’s a catch, though—because your pores will eventually fill back up with dead skin cells, you’ve got to use your exfoliator of choice on a regular basis for the best pore-minimizing results. “People with oily or combination skin can typically exfoliate up to three times weekly, where those with sensitive skin should aim for once weekly,” says Dr. Marchbein.
4 acid products to try at home
Pore minimizing tip #3: Consider a skin-tightening treatment
Not only do skin tightening treatments like radiofrequency and ultrasound make your skin look super smooth and firm, they help minimize pore size too. These non-invasive treatments use heat energy to create a controlled injury to your skin, which, in turn, prompts collagen and elastin production. The result? Fresher, newer, tighter skin with noticeably smaller looking pores. Skin tightening treatments take time to work though, so don’t expect any overnight miracles. Most results kick in a few weeks post-treatment and last for around six months.
Pore minimizing tip #4: Use a retinoid
As I mentioned before, when collagen weakens, so does the lining of your pores, which ends up making them look annoyingly large. To stimulate collagen production and strengthen the walls of the pores, Dr. Marchbein suggests using a retinoid serum or cream in your skincare routine. You can either get an Rx retinoid from your derm (like Tretinoin, Tazorac, and Retin-A Micro) or try an over-the-counter retinol (like one of the options below). But be warned: Retinoids and retinols are pretty potent, so use them sparingly at first, increasing your frequency as your skin builds up tolerance.
The best retinols for minimizing pores
Pore minimizing tip #5: Mask weekly
Good news! Your #SelfCareSunday masking sessions can actually be beneficial for minimizing your pores. Dr. Marchbein says that clay and charcoal masks help to draw out build-up, bacteria, and oil—basically all the stuff that clogs pores and expands their size. Just like exfoliation, the effects of masking are only temporary, though, so these treatments need to be repeated at least weekly to maintain results.
4 clarifying clay and charcoal masks
Pore minimizing tip #6: Try an in-office exfoliating treatment
HydraFacial and DiamondGlow—two nonaggressive in-office treatments done in medspas and dermatologist offices—can temporarily improve the appearance of pores by mechanically exfoliating away the top layers of the skin. These aren’t inex
“HydraFacials allow for deeper delivery of active ingredients, like glycolic and salicylic acid, post-treatment, which can further contribute to glowing skin, a reduction in hyperpigmentation, and the appearance of smaller pores,” Dr. Marchbein says. While DiamondGlow (a gentle microdermabrasion device) uses a special exfoliating tip to resurface skin, pull debris from pores, and infuse skin with special serums to make your look super glowy.
Pore minimizing tip #7: Always wash your face before and after a workout
Your pores are surrounded by blood vessels and can dilate with heat and sweating and therefore become more open and visible, says Dr. Marchbein. This makes it especially important to wash your face both before and after exercising so that makeup, dirt, and bacteria don’t get trapped inside your dilated pores. There is an upside though: Once you’ve washed the loosened debris and oil from your face, your open pores will allow for slightly deeper delivery of the topical medications and skincare products you apply afterward.
Try one of these top-rated cleansers
Pore minimizing tip #8: Book a microneedling appointment
Microneedling is a treatment that involves rolling or pressing multiple tiny needles set to a specific depth over the skin. These needles create superficial wounds that stimulate collagen as the skin heals. And what did we learn about stimulating collagen? Yup, improved pore size and appearance. A word of advice though: For the best results (and safest experience), only go to a certified derm for your microneedling treatment (that means no Groupons or DIY devices).
Pore minimizing #9: Prep with a primer
Makeup has a way of settling into your pores and creases and making them hella visible. The fix? A silicone makeup primer. These velvety gel-like products work by filling in your large pores so that you can lay your foundation smoothly on top. Of course, this isn’t a long-term fix, but if your main concern is how your pores affect your makeup, a good primer is all you really need.
The must-try face primers for minimizing pores
Pore minimizing treatment #10: Go for a laser treatment
Dr. Marchbein’s favorite laser to improve the appearance of pores is the Clear and Brilliant fractionated laser, which stimulates collagen, improves skin texture and discoloration, and, you guessed it, minimizes pore size. The downtime is minimal (usually a day or two of mild redness) and you’ll need to do four to six treatments spaced six weeks apart for the best results. If you want more dramatic results with fewer treatments, you can try Fraxel—but be warned, the downtime is a solid week of looking like you got a serious sunburn.
Pore minimizing tip #11: Wear sunscreen, always
Dr. Marchbein says exposure to UV light can break down and damage collagen in the skin, including the collagen that surrounds the walls of pores. In other words, UV exposure can lead to larger pores—another reason daily use of sunscreen with a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or above is a necessary step in your skincare routine every single day. If you don’t already have an SPF you love, try one of the options below—each one is oil-free, safe for acne-prone and oily skin, and won’t feel heavy or thick on your face.
4 non-greasy sunscreens for oily skin
Pore minimizing tip #12: Think about fillers
Fun fact: Studies show that fillers can stimulate collagen production and reduce the size of pores. “By injecting hyaluronic acid fillers somewhat frequently, you can gradually build collagen, leading to better structural support for the walls of the pores and ultimately giving them a smaller appearance,” Dr. Marchbein says. And since we’re on the topic of injections…
Pore Minimizing Tip #13: Look into “micro” Botox
Micro Botox is a microneedling technique where dilute amounts of neurotoxin are introduced superficially into the skin. This doesn’t affect muscle movement the way injecting Botox would, but it does decrease sweat and oil produced by glands in the skin. The result? Smaller-looking pores and less oiliness.
And if you’re into it, you could even get a combo of filler and Botox to reap the benefits of both. Dr. Marchbein says some pro microneedling devices, like Aquagold, can “stamp” a combo of Botox and fillers superficially into the skin to improve texture and pores. Pretty cool, huh?
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