Enlarged pores — the small openings in skin that release skin's oils and sweat — might seem like a teen or twenty-something issue, but they're actually a sneaky sign of skin aging, too. Smaller pores can mean a smoother-looking complexion and a more even tone and makeup finish.
The bad news: You can't change the number of pores you have or their natural size, which is genetically determined, and can increase over the years (it's not just your eyes). "Collagen, which strengthens the walls of pores, making them look tighter, breaks down with age," explains Shari Marchbein, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City.
The good news: There are solutions to shrink their appearance (and make your face look more youthful), from fast-acting pore-perfectors to in-office treatments. Take notes from expert dermatologists, makeup artists, and aestheticians to get one step closer to poreless skin with products to minimize pores on the face and nose instantly, DIY at home and natural remedies, plus solutions for reducing pore size permanently.
1. Wash your face regularly (and thoroughly)
It's no surprise that shrinking pores starts with a great skincare routine, and one of the easiest ways to minimize your pores is to keep them clean. Yet 12% of women don’t regularly use face cleanser, according to a GH survey. "When dirt clogs the pores, they expand and appear larger," explains Margarita Lolis, M.D., a dermatologist in Hackensack, New Jersey. "So it's important to always wash your face with a gentle cleanser, especially before bedtime, to remove any extra dirt and grease."
To cover all areas of the face, including the hairline and around the nose, where grime can accumulate and clog pores, apply your cleanser “from the middle of the face up, then out and down along the hairline and perimeter to just under the chin,” says Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab Senior Chemist Sabina Wizemann. Using a facial cleansing brush can help provide an even deeper clean, GH Beauty Lab testing has found.
In addition to cleansing every day, always use clean makeup brushes (you should clean them at least once a week, or else your makeup brushes could get pretty disgusting) and never touch your face with your fingers. Your complexion (and your makeup brushes!) will thank you.
2. Exfoliate your skin twice a week
Unlike cleansing alone, exfoliating helps dislodge and clear away dead skin cells that can clog or block pores. "Exfoliation can be achieved in a number of ways, both physical (like face scrubs or a cleansing brush) and chemical (products with gentle acids that encourage cell regeneration)," says Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, M.D., dermatologist in Dedham, Massachusetts and consultant for HydroPeptide.
Look for "gentle cleansers containing low concentrations of salicylic acid (.5% - 1%) or lactic or glycolic acid (2.5% - 5%), which will stimulate cell turnover and keep pores clean," she says. You can also try "using a prescription-strength topical retinoid, such as Retin-A, [which] can increase cell turnover, thus exfoliating pores and making them appear smaller," Dr. Solis recommends.
3. Remember to be gentle on your skin
Regular exfoliation is important, but being too rough on your skin can actually damage your pores. Avoid forceful scrubbing or skin picking and squeezing “so you don’t expand your pores, which can be permanent,” advises Mariola Barczewska, an aesthetician at Haven Spa in New York City. Instead, massage products into skin lightly with fingertips, using a circular motion, Wizemann says, and avoid manipulating pores or popping pimples.
4. Moisturize twice a day, every day
You already know all the bad things that happen if you stop moisturizing (dryness, flakes, irritation, oh my!), and enlarged pores are just another one. "It's important to use a high-quality, noncomedogenic face moisturizer twice a day," says Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. And consistency is key, which is why you should apply morning and night: "If you leave your skin to get dry, it will respond by producing excessive amounts of oil that can clog your pores," she says.
5. Apply sunscreen every single day
You've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times, and for good reason: Daily use of broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher is an integral part of any complexion routine for skin health and anti-aging, including preventing enlarged pores. In addition to causing sun damage like wrinkles and dark spots, "UV radiation breaks down collagen and elastin, thus expanding pores," Dr. Solis says.
"The best way to prevent your pores from becoming enlarged is to protect yourself from the sun." Some sunscreens can make skin appear shiny or oily, accentuating pores, so opt for a matte finish, oil-free, or lightweight gel formula (like the GH Beauty Lab test-winning face SPF here), or top with a face powder to cancel greasiness.
6. Use a makeup primer to smooth pores
Primer is the makeup artist’s magic trick for making pores “disappear”: Think of it as being like spackle for skin, evening out textural imperfections before the paint goes on. “Silicone-based primers can fill in large pores (and small scars, and fine lines),” explains Jenny Patinkin, a makeup artist and author of Lazy Perfection: The Art of Looking Great Without Really Trying. As a first step after applying skincare products, smooth a light layer of
makeup primer all over your face, or tap it on problem areas. Thoroughly cleanse skin with makeup remover and face wash at the end of the day to prevent makeup from building up in pores.
7. Dust on a pore camouflaging powder
Setting your makeup with a light layer of finishing powder as a last step can help blur the appearance of pores. Look for a formula with mineral pigment like mica, which can scatter light for a diffused effect.
And don’t just cake it on: "The key is how you apply," says Alex LaMarsh, a celebrity makeup artist in NYC. "Load your fluffy powder brush with a few swipes of powder, then gently buff it into your skin in a circular motion. This swirls the product onto your face, smoothing over lines and pores to maximize the blurring effect."
8. Get frequent facials
You go to the dentist to have your teeth deep-cleaned regularly — a skincare professional can do the same for your complexion. For stubborn pore issues, Barczewska recommends seeing an aesthetician for a facial or a pore-specific treatment every four to six weeks. (Not in the cards? Try a few times a year or on special occasions.) A pro pore extraction and exfoliation can remove impurities without causing damage so skin will stay clearer over time.
9. Stay hydrated
Yes, you can and should start by drinking a lot of water, but you should also use a hydrating serum before layering on moisturizer. "It helps shrink your pores by plumping up the surrounding skin," explains Craig Kraffert, M.D., a dermatologist in Redding, California and president of Amarte Skin Care. Just make sure you exfoliate often so your hydrator can really work its magic — otherwise, all those great ingredients will merely sit on the skin's surface on top of a layer of dead skin.
10. Find the right face mask for your skin type
They aren’t just a nice way to unwind— face masks can also help reduce the look of pores over time. "At-home treatments such as face masks and peels work with consistent longterm use," says Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. Incorporate one into your regimen once or twice per week. And they're also a way to minimize pores naturally: If you have large pores and oily skin, "masks containing ingredients such as clay or charcoal work by absorbing oil out of pores," she says.
For other skin types, “multimask” by applying these formulas on the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin), where pores tend to be most visible, and one targeted to other needs, like a hydrating face mask, on the rest of the face. Want to try a DIY mask? Make a homemade gentle baking soda exfoliating mask to help clear pores: Combine 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of water, then apply to your damp face, avoiding eyes. Leave on for one to two minutes, rub into skin, then rinse.
11. Consider a laser treatment
To reduce pore size permanently, make an appointment with a dermatologist, who can recommend professional laser treatments. “A series of treatments with non-ablative lasers builds collagen, thereby plumping the skin and shrinking pores,” Dr. Lolis explains. Downtime is minimal, but the cost is $1,000 or more per treatment on average.
One option is the popular laser treatment Fraxel, which resurfaces the skin and reduces the appearance of enlarged pores, explains Allie Summers, a medical aesthetician at Tribeca MedSpa in NYC. “Fraxel technology uses thermal heat to create controlled, microscopic wounds in the skin to stimulate the body’s production of new collagen, resulting in a smoother texture and more refined pores.”
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