Question: How can I shrink my pores?


Pore size

Pore size is genetic. The size of your pores can't actually change, no matter what you do, so you can't physically shrink them or make them disappear. The whole "use warm water to open your pores and cold water to close your pores" is a complete myth. Pores on your skin cannot and do not open and close.

However, there are things you can to do make large pores appear smaller:

  • Exfoliate to keep pores clean. Dead skin cells and clogged sebum can build up in your skin and make pores larger than they actually are. Gentle exfoliation clears your skin of this build-up to make pores look finer and smaller. You can either manually exfoliate with a soft washcloth or chemically exfoliate with a 2% BHA or 8-10% AHA treatment. For very congested pores, retinoids or chemical peels might help. You just have to make sure you don't over-exfoliate and irritate your skin. Only exfoliate your skin as much as it can handle and no more! Most people exfoliate at most once a day, but usually exfoliate every other day. Keep in mind that while exfoliation helps pores stay clean and clear, exfoliating more (i.e. over-exfoliating) will not make your pores any smaller any faster.

  • Remove surface oil. When water and oil are removed from the surface of your skin, your pores can temporarily look smaller as your skin gets dehydrated. A clay mask left on your skin for 20 minutes can have this effect, although how much it shrinks your pores will vary across individuals. Astringents, toners, and pore minimizer treatments can also do the same thing. However, your skin will eventually return back to normal and the pores will look the way they did before. Keep in mind that you do not want to constantly strip water and oil from your skin. A proper ratio of water and oil keeps your skin looking good and healthy. If you over-use clay masks and astringents to shrink your pores, you could irritate and damage your skin in the long run (which ironically may give you larger pores.)

  • Wear sunscreen. What? Are you serious? Wearing sunscreen can make your pores smaller? Well, sunscreen doesn't physically change your pore size, but wearing sunscreen can prevent your pores from getting even bigger. Sun damage breaks down the collagen fibers in your skin, causing premature aging. When your skin becomes "looser" and less elastic, your pores stretch out and end up looking bigger. By wearing a photostable sunscreen to protect your skin against UV radiation, you can help prevent this from happening.

  • Use primer. Makeup primer doesn't reduce the size of your pores, but it can help "fill" them in to make your skin texture look more smooth and even. Primer is the fastest way to temporarily make big pores look better.

If you are doing all of the above but still feel like your pores are too big, cut yourself some slack. It is completely normal to have visible pores. Seriously, everyone has them! Sometimes you don't realize how normal it is to have pores because they are usually photoshopped out of magazine ads. This makes people think you shouldn't have any pores at all and creates really high and unrealistic expectations about how small pores should be. But the fact is, your skin isn't "bad" just because you can see your pores. It is completely normal. Stop staring at your skin 3" from the mirror and give yourself a break.

Large pores can be frustrating, but they don't have to be. Keeping your pores clean and clear will help make them look smaller. Sunscreen prevents them from stretching out and primer helps enlarged pores look smoother and smaller. If all else fails, a healthy dose of reality will help you realize that your "large" pores are actually normal and not big at all.

Last updated: September 28, 2012

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