If you’re in the middle of your morning skincare routine and you catch yourself lamenting about your large pores, you’ve come to the right place. While large pores might annoy you, our pores actually serve an important purpose, so cut them some slack. Not only do they allow our skin to breathe, but they also excrete sweat, which keeps our body from overheating.
While it would be incredible to permanently reduce pore size, the reality is that a magic fix doesn’t exist for shrinking pores—but that doesn’t mean you can’t drastically minimize pores with proper care. We’re breaking down the main culprits behind large pores, offering up simple tips that can make a major difference, and even sharing the best pore-minimizing products to improve the appearance of your pores in no time, so continue reading below if you want to make pores look smaller.
About the Expert:
The primary cause for large pores? Genetics. The size of your pores is determined by the structure of your glands. But there are some factors that you can control. “Enlarged pores are from a buildup of sebum (oil), keratin (dead skin cells), and, if the person is older, weakened collagen (from chronic sun exposure) that allows the pore to expand,” says triple board-certified dermatologist, Mamina Turegano, MD. In order to reduce the appearance of pores, keeping your skin clean and keeping your oil production in check is key.
While it’s impossible to physically shrink pores for good, with proper care and maintenance you can make it look like your pores shrunk away, leaving you with a smooth, even complexion.
According to Dr. Turegano, it’s all about a regular routine. “I make sure everyone is on a regular skincare regimen that includes cleansing twice a day with a gentle cleanser, using sunscreen in the morning, and using a retinoid (usually prescription) in the evening.” It’s tempting to start up a flashy 11-step routine, but when it comes to your skin, sometimes excess can be more damaging than just sticking to the basics. What are the basics? More on those below.
Exfoliation will do wonders for your pores, as it removes buildup that causes pores to appear bigger. Using a chemical exfoliator that contains alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids will also keep your oil production in check and ensure your pores don’t get clogged, drastically reducing their appearance, all while sloughing off dead skin cells and debris, leaving you with a brighter, smoother complexion. “AHAs and BHAs are both skin exfoliants—they can unclog pores, remove dead skin cells, improve skin texture, and even out skin tone,” explains Dr. Turegano.
For oily, acne-prone skin, opt for BHAs, like salicylic acid, which can make a major difference. “BHAs are oil soluble and can help pull oil and dead skin cells deeper from within the pore,” says Dr. Turegano. Not only do they exfoliate the top layer of your complexion, but their small molecule size makes it possible for them to travel below the surface, within the pores, to clear up acne, dull skin, and premature signs of aging.
If you have aging, sensitive skin or suffer from dry skin, alpha hydroxy acids, like lactic acid and glycolic acid, are your best bet. “AHAs exfoliate dead skin cells to unclog pores and remodel collagen to tighten the skin around the pores,” says Dr. Turegano.
One of the easiest (and most readily available) types of masks are clay-based—which act like a mild pore vacuum. “Clay can draw out oil from the pores. Because an increased buildup of sebum in the pores contributes to enlarged pores, there can be improvement when the sebum is drawn out,” says Dr. Turegano.
Throughout the day, our skin comes into contact with pollutants, oils, dirt, and bacteria that all act like a perfect storm to enlarge pores and potentially trigger inflammation—aka zits. Adding a clay mask into your routine a few times per week can help mitigate the buildup, leaving you with less damage control.
While there are many types of clay masks (Bentonite! Kaolin!), the basic function of them remains the same: To suck out the bad stuff. How do they work? Clay carries molecules that are negatively charged, while most sebum and bacteria carry positively-charged molecules. The result is a magnet-like functionality that binds the two charges together, bringing toxins to the surface to lift up and away.
Sun damage and aging are two major factors that contribute to large pores. In order to minimize pores, keeping your skin protected against harmful UV rays is key. “I always tell my patients that SPF is like a coat for your skin—it protects you from sun damage and aging which can also lead to bigger pores,” says Tamila Deveny, medical esthetician at MDCS Dermatology in New York City.
As tempting as it can be to touch your face and examine your pores (especially with a magnifying mirror), it’s best to resist the urge. “You stretch your pores every time you squeeze your pores,” says Deveny. Not only does touching and picking cause your pores to stretch, but it creates a vicious cycle. “The bigger the pore, the more sebum (oil) it will collect,” says Deveny. When oil collects in our sebaceous glands, it makes them appear larger. In order to stop this cycle, keep your hands off your face, even when you’re tempted to pop a pimple. “Picking at clogged pores can be tempting, but untimely it usually results in an angered blemish which can lead to infection and/or scarring,” says Deveny.
When our skin is dry it can lead to redness and irritation. Soothe skin with a moisturizing lotion to minimize the appearance of pores. “Moisturizing creams help shrink your pores by plumping up the surrounding skin,” says Deveny, who stresses the importance of moisturizing for everyone—including those with oily skin. If your skin is more oily, moisturize with a light serum. “Look for a moisturizer for your skin type,” says Deveny.
Did you ever notice that your pores often look more prominent after a night of drinking? What gives? Dehydration. “If you are dehydrated, your body can signal your oil glands to produce more oil,” says Deveny. When our glands produce excess oil, our pores become more prominent. In order to ensure your skin doesn’t suffer, be sure to drink enough water throughout the day.
Since retinoids encourage cell turnover and clear away pore-clogging debris, in a matter of weeks your pores will look much smaller—and fine lines and wrinkles will also start to shrink away. “You can ask your doctor or dermatologist for a prescription, but even over-the-counter retinol cream will help you keep your pores tight,” says Deveny.
Reducing the appearance of pores begins with proper cleansing, so reach for an exfoliating cleanser specifically formulated for your needs. This potent formula combines salicylic acid and glycolic acid to break apart stubborn dirt and oil to leave you with a clean complexion.
Give your pores the detox they need with this purifying mask that dissolves impurities, unclogs pores, and reduces the appearance of blackheads with just one use.
A blend of botanicals physically buff away dulling dead skin cells for a brighter, more even-toned complexion. Pink clay (all the way from Australia) helps to detox skin, tighten pores, and absorb excess oil for skin so radiant and smooth, it practically looks filtered.
Set your makeup and forget it with this universal, non-comedogenic powder that’s like an Instagram filter IRL and allows you to achieve a blur matte finish. Not only does the translucent shade work on all skin tones and delivers a smooth finish, but a unique blend of peptides, silk, antioxidants, and hydrolyzed collagen leaves your skin plumped up with a more airbrushed glow. Great to use on-the-go when you notice your T-zone is looking a little oily.
Worried about harsh ingredients and over exfoliation from scrubs and masks? Consider switching up your cleanser. Formulated specifically for sensitive skin, this clay-based foam is mild and non-irritating. Kaolin clay works to clear excess sebum while oat extract and glycerin soothe and hydrate your skin.
Dirt is no match for this powerhouse toner. A blend of lactic and glycolic acids help give bacteria the boot to assist in clearing pores and refining your skin’s texture. To balance this high-performing AHA solution, probiotic-rich kombucha and tree bark ferments are added in to help maintain your skin’s natural microbiome.
Enlarged pores are often accompanied by another unwelcome friend: Uneven texture. Jojoba beads and Moroccan rose clay gently lift out impurities and scrub away dry skin flakes to reveal brighter, smoother skin.
If winter is wreaking havoc on your skin, this invigorating mask can help press the reset button. Montmorillonite clay (oui, from France) helps to bind to and remove dirt deep within the pores while stimulating blood flow. To help reinforce your skin’s barrier and lock in moisture, sea salt and allantoin help to soothe irritation and reduce redness and flaking.
While having larger pores is hereditary, with the right routine and pore-minimizing skincare products you can dramatically reduce the appearance of pores, (even if you aren't really shrinking them), leaving you with a tighter, smoother complexion.
Want in on all the IPSY Glam Bag fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.
Like this article? Share it with your friends by clicking the icons below!