You can’t really shrink your pores – 9 tips to try instead
When it comes to skin care issues, pores are often first on the list. Yet, they play a vital role in the health of the skin.
The pores connect to your hair follicles, which also contain sebaceous oil and sweat glands. These small openings allow natural oil (sebum) to reach the surface of your skin and lubricate it. They also release sweat.
Despite their importance, it’s quite common to dislike the look and size of your pores.
A few different factors can affect their size and appearance, including:
- age – the skin becomes less elastic with age, which can make pores appear larger
- amount of sun exposure
- skin type – oily skin can lead to more visible pores
Your pores may also become more noticeable if these sebaceous glands grow or if the pathways fill with debris, says Dr. Calvin Williams, a board-certified dermatologist. Essential Dermatology Group.
If you’re hoping to shrink your pores, we’ve got some good news and some bad.
The bad news first: You can’t actually change your basic pore size.
But here’s the good news: there are a lot of things you can do to help minimize their appearance.
While the basic size of your pores cannot be changed, there are plenty of ways to minimize their appearance. Below are 9 tips to try.
If you’re tempted to pluck, squeeze, or rub your pores all the way, take a deep breath.
Going on the attack won’t do much to minimize your pores. In fact, aggressively attacking your skin will usually only cause irritation, which can make your pores even bigger.
Instead of rubbing vigorously, gently massage your skin as you cleanse it. And remember, it’s always best to avoid picking or puncturing your pores.
Starting a regular skin care routine is one way to help pores appear smaller. A good first step? Make sure you are using the right products for your skin.
Pro tip: Products labeled “non-comedogenic” generally do not clog pores.
When it comes to cleansing, look for products made specifically for your skin type. For example, foams and light gels can work well for combination and oily skin, while creams and balms tend to be more suitable for drier complexions.
Unsure of your skin type? Our guide can offer more insight.
You will probably also want to use a moisturizer. Look for light, water-based formulas if you’re hoping to cut down on fat.
Are you looking for a product specially designed to reduce the appearance of pores?
It’s easy to forget to clean twice a day. You could be more of a “once a day” or “whenever I remember” cleanser.
If it’s working well for your skin, we say keep going. Everyone’s skin has unique needs, after all, and washing your face too much can frequently – you guessed it – lead to dryness and irritation.
That said, a gentle wash morning and night can make a difference when it comes to keeping pores clean (and less visible).
When washing, use lukewarm rather than hot water to help reduce irritation. And remember that the scrub can lead to inflammation and more noticeable pores, so always wash with a gentle touch.
Oil and dead skin cells can easily build up and fill your pores. Clogged pores can, in turn, lead to rashes, making the pores even more obvious.
However, exfoliation can help you get rid of this dirt and debris more effectively.
Common facial scrubs include alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA), among others.
- Glycolic acid and other AHAs exfoliate the top layer of the skin. If you have dry or somewhat sensitive skin, these scrubs can provide a safe place to start.
- Salicylic acid and other BHAs are deeper, so they may work well for people with oily skin.
- Some people also find clay masks helpful in removing excess oil and unclogging pores. Just be sure to use them only once or twice a week, at most, to avoid dryness and irritation.
- Chemical peels provide a deeper exfoliation, but like clay masks, you’ll want to use them sparingly – usually no more than once a week – to avoid irritation.
Retinoids, which stimulate cell turnover in the skin, may also help minimize the appearance of pores.
Williams explains that vitamin A derivatives, like tretinoin and isotretinoin, don’t just help clear clogged pores. They can also help shrink the sebaceous glands themselves and potentially provide lasting improvement.
“It’s important to have a proper assessment to make sure these drugs are right for you,” he cautions.
In other words, you’ll usually want to see a dermatologist before trying retinoids.
Sunscreen is a necessity for everyone, so don’t forget this vital step!
Sun damage can negatively affect your skin in a number of ways, from dark spots to increased risk of skin cancer. In terms of surface effects, the sun can leave your skin less firm, with more visible pores.
Protecting your skin from the sun is simple enough, however: be sure to apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 daily, regardless of the weather.
Having trouble choosing the right sunscreen for your skin type? We can help.
Makeup can be a double-edged sword, when it comes to your pores.
While some formulas can mask pores, others can end up clogging them.
To avoid enlarging your pores, try to use only non-comedogenic makeup, especially if your skin is oily or prone to acne.
Some other cosmetic tips:
- Avoid ingredients that could dry out or irritate your skin, such as alcohol and perfumes.
- Avoid shimmering products on areas with more visible pores, the shiny effect will only emphasize them.
- Try matte formulas and pore-minimizing primers to fade the appearance of pores.
- Consider blotting paper to absorb oil and reduce the risk of clogging throughout the day.
It never hurts to keep in mind that you need your pores, even if you don’t like the way they look.
They are a natural part of your skin, not a blemish.
It can also help accept that your genes play a role in their size. In other words, you can’t reduce them or remove them completely.
Struggling to get results at home?
Dermatologists have access to much more powerful pore treatments.
Pore shrinkage procedures include:
- laser treatments
- medium or deep chemical peels
- micro needle
“All of these treatments create microscopic lesions in the skin, which in turn stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin,” says Friedler.
The above strategies can go a long way in improving the appearance of your pores.
All the same, says Williams, “skin care needs to be individualized.”
The best advice? Connect with a board certified dermatologist –especially if you have long-term or severe skin problems, such as acne.
Also, remember that your pores are just part of your skin and you don’t have to do anything to change them.
Lauren Sharkey is a UK-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she’s not trying to figure out a way to banish migraines, she can be found finding the answers to your health questions that lurk in your face. She has also written a book featuring young activists around the world and is building a community of these resistance fighters. Catch her Twitter.