In pursuit of clear, smooth skin, minimizing pores is a goal many share. While pores are a natural — and necessary—part of everyone's complexion, some people get off scot-free in the pore department while others contend with their more pronounced appearance. So what gives?
Let's start with what pores are and how they work to help our skin health. According to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf, pores are small openings throughout the skin that are vital to skin health, excreting gas, sweat, oil, and other substances from the skin. They help keep out dirt, debris, and other things that can damage the skin and control excess oil for those who are acne-prone.
So, what makes reducing the appearance of pores desirable? “Some people want to minimize the appearance of pores because they don’t like the appearance of enlarged pores on the skin,” explains Michael I. Jacobs, MD. “When pores become enlarged, it’s often because they have become clogged, which can lead to acne, ranging from blackheads to cystic acne. Minimizing pores reduces the likelihood of breakouts and keeps skin looking bright and healthy.”
So, if you’ve been looking for ways to minimize pores and smooth out your skin’s texture, you’ve come to the right place. See what the experts have to say below.
Meet Our Expert
Jeannette Graf, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Michael I. Jacobs, MD, is an associate professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and medical technology director at Cortina.
Causes of Enlarged Pores
There are an array of factors that can contribute to enlarged pores. Dr Graf says the first is genetics; some people naturally have larger pores than others. Other causes include increased sebum production, which can clog the pores, and aging, which inherently decreases the skin’s elasticity. Lifestyle factors contributing to large pore sizes include smoking and excessive sun exposure, which can lead to sun damage.
In-Office Treatments for Enlarged Pores
While it’s not possible to physically shrink pores, you can minimize their appearance. This is where in-office treatments can be especially fruitful.
Jacobs recommends doing laser treatments such as Clear & Brilliant Perméa, which he says can resurface the skin and improve the appearance of various skin concerns by encouraging collagen production. He’s also a fan of radiofrequency treatments, which he says can help build collagen and potentially reduce pore size.
Michael Garner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist on the board of advisors on Matter of Fact skin care, agrees and adds that you can also look to microdermabrasion to exfoliate the skin, chemical peels which remove layers of the skin, and microneedling to improve skin texture.
At-Home Treatments for Enlarged Pores
If you don’t want to book an appointment with your dermatologist and are looking for at-home remedies, all experts agree that the best route to go is using the right skin care products. “The most important thing to do is find a simple and non-irritating regimen that allows you to be consistent; think of it like brushing your teeth,” adds Dr. Garner. “You have to do it consistently to see the benefits.”
Dr. Graf suggests simple methods such as washing your face twice daily, using lightweight products that won’t clog pores, and applying sunscreen daily to protect the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Dr. Garner says to avoid aggressive scrubbing, picking, or squeezing of the skin. “These manipulations can irritate and inflame the skin, making pores appear larger,” he says. “This can result in post-inflammatory hyper- or hypopigmentation. Also, be very cautious with harsh DIY treatments as these often create more problems than they solve.”
It's also important to be skeptical of gimmicky trends flooding social media, like pore vacuum devices. “They can be damaging to the skin and only work for a short amount of time,” says Dr. Jacobs. “Similarly, I don’t recommend pore strips. They can be harmful to the skin and have very short-term results.”
The Best Skincare Ingredients for Minimizing Pores
All the experts agree that the best ingredients to incorporate into your routine are ones that can provide gentle exfoliation. “Ingredients with BHAs and AHAs included can be great for minimizing the appearance of pore size,” says Dr. Jacobs. “AHAs are oil-soluble, so they’re able to penetrate pores and work to dissolve oil and dead skin cell buildup, preventing pores from becoming enlarged. Products containing salicylic acid and retin-A will open and clean out clogged pores, as will peels done in a dermatology office.”
Dr. Garner recommends using a gentle resurfacing product like tMatter Of Fact’s Resurfacing + Hydrating Serum to help clear pores and give you a radiant complexion. Dr. Jacobs recommends looking for a salicylic acid cleanser (our personal picks are the La Roche Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser or the Inkey List Salicylic Acid Acne + Blackhead Cleanser).
The most important thing to remember is that pores are a natural part of the aging process. “Regimens that are designed to reduce pore size are great for overall skin health, but it is also important to remember that pores are a normal and necessary anatomical structure in the skin,” says Dr. Garner. “Magnified focus (pun intended) on them can lead to unnecessary distress and desire to manipulate pores that are otherwise barely noticeable.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I never do to minimize pores?
“Avoid squeezing your pores or using extraction tools yourself as this can damage the skin and lead to potential scarring,” says Dr. Graf. “Avoid scrubbing your face too harshly when cleansing or using harsh products and ensure to avoid sun exposure in order to prevent sun damage.”
Can I actually shrink my pore size?
The tl;dr: no. “I remind my patients that while they can’t shrink their pores, they can minimize the appearance of pores through treatments like Clear + Brilliant Permea and various laser and radiofrequency treatments,” says Dr. Jacobs.
Is makeup bad for pores?
“Not inherently, but heavy makeup without proper removal can lead to clogged pores,” says Dr. Garner.
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