12 Products That Will Make Your Pores Look Virtually Nonexistent

Remember the scene in Mean Girls where the Plastics pick apart their most minute "flaws" (“My nail beds suck!”) as a weird bonding ritual? It’s meant to serve as biting commentary on young women and body image, but when Regina George complains about her pore size, we kind of feel her. In a world filled with legitimate problems, it's certainly not the biggest fish to fry, but it is one more thing standing in the way of our glassy-skin goals.

“Enlarged pores can be attributed to a number of factors, including genetics, high levels of oil production, thicker skin, photodamage, and aging,” says dermatologist Sejal Shah, MD. “It's important to understand that pores don't open or close, but treatments may help them appear smaller.” Since pores can stretch to accommodate the buildup of dirt, oil, and bacteria, Dr. Shah and dermatologist Jessica Wu, MD, both advocate for regular deep-cleansing and exfoliation with alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids, purifying clays, and sulfurs to prevent buildup in the first place.


You can find just about every skin-care product imaginable — including cleansers, toners, serums, and masks — with these actives packed inside, but that doesn't mean you should use all the options all the time. "The biggest concern with mixing too many pore-minimizing products is overly drying the skin and potentially worsening the pores or causing other issues, such as irritant reactions," Dr. Wu says. Dr. Shah agrees, adding, "Dryness will lead to small cracks in your skin that can make pores look even larger. It’s safest to start with one product, then add one new one at a time, to make sure you don’t end up red and rashy."

Ahead, a dozen of our favorite pore-clearing options, and expert tips on how to find the best one for you. With your pore problems out of the way, you can finally move on to tackling some of the world's bigger crises — or, at the very least, your less-than-perfect nail beds.

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"Retinoids help push dead skin cells out of the pores faster to keep them unclogged," which in turn makes them appear smaller, Dr. Wu says. This new serum combines two forms of retinol and blue-green algae with calming ingredients like honey — and it meets the derm's packaging requirements, too. "Retinol serums in see-through glass or plastic bottles may look pretty, but may be weak and ineffective because retinoids break down when exposed to air and light," she says. "For maximum potency and freshness, look for retinoid serums packaged in an opaque, airless pump." She suggests starting gradually by using a mild retinol two or three nights per week at night, and increase to nightly as tolerated.
Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum$85.00 Buy
To give skin a pore-purifying treatment in a split-second swipe, go for treatment pads doused in acids. Dr. Wu recommends those with beta-hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, which slough away the dead skin and oil buildup that typically clogs pores. "If your skin is on the sensitive side, try pads containing willow bark extract, a more gentle source of salicylic acid," she says. These exfoliating wipes combine botanically-derived AHAs and BHAs with soothing burdock root to keep skin happy and balanced.
Indie Lee Gentle Daily Peel$65.00 Buy
As Dr. Shah warns, going too hard on the acids and clays can lead to counterproductive stripping of the skin. "Don't use harsh, abrasive scrubs and exfoliants or overly drying ingredients, as they cause the skin to become dry and flaky creating more dead skin cells that can clog pores," she says. Instead, she suggests starting with a gentle, noncomedogenic cleanser, or double cleansing with oil-based and water-soluble cleansers. This non-greasy twofer taps geothermal clay and a cocktail of oils (like meadowfoam seed and almond) to rinse away gunk without drying skin.
Circcell Geothermal Clay Cleanser$40.00 Buy
Dr. Shah says that a cleanser containing salicylic acid, clay, charcoal, or sulfur should be the top choice for oily skin types. This jelly-like cleanser balances bentonite and kaolin clays, willow bark, and tea tree with hydrating glycerin and amino acids.
Bliss Pore Patrol Cleanser$12.00 Buy
A salicylic acid-based toner is an excellent — and more budget-friendly — alternative to single-use BHA treatment pads, which can top $50 a jar (and tend to go quickly, especially once you've worked up to daily use). This one also contains a hydrating copper-peptide complex, but dries to a matte finish that helps diminish the appearance of pores.
Perricone MD No:Rinse Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner$45.00 Buy
For those with skin that's already parched, using drying ingredients to refine pores is not an option. Enter this multi-tasking serum, which combines hydrating squalane and caffeine, one of Dr. Wu's top pore minimizers. "Caffeine constricts the skin, which makes pores appear smaller and tighter," she says. The luxe liquid also doubles as a makeup primer, which helps take (some of) the sting out of the price.
ReVive Pore Correctif Multi-Action Repair Serum$235.00 Buy
This inventive cartridge elevates a simple moisturizer to a serum-hydrator combo. Drop the pump into one of three lotions from the brand's Dramatically Different lineup to dispense a calibrated 90% shot of moisturizer and and 10% AHA-laced pore-refining serum with every dose.
Clinique  Active Concentrate for Pores & Uneven Texture$39.00 Buy
The combination of exfoliating fruit enzymes and amino-rich sea lettuce in this hard-working flash mask degunks skin while leaving it bright and ready for a night out.
OSEA Black Algae Flash Mask$48.00 Buy
Have a cleanser you already love — and a Clarisonic? Give it the power of an exfoliating scrub with this new silicone brush head, which is equipped with flexible rounded bristles designed to deep clean without creating micro tears in the skin.
Clarisonic Sonic Exfoliator Brush Head$39.00 Buy
This gel cream does the work of hydrating without even a hint of shine, so you get all the moisture without the zoom lens on your pores. That's not all: Salicylic and glycolic acids eat away dead skin cells before they can burrow into pores, while rosehip fruit extract and a proprietary botanical blend are included to refine the appearance of pore size.
Ole Henriksen Counter Balance Oil Control Hydrator$36.00 Buy
Unlike some deep-cleansing masks, which require a washcloth and a prayer to remove, this purifying silt-and-kaolin mask comes off just as easily as it goes on, thanks to its jelly-like texture and an included sponge that removes the dried mask in a few swipes.
Volition Detoxifying Silt Gelee Mask$60.00 Buy
"Pigmentation corrector" only tells half the story of what this serum actually does: With bakuchiol (a gentle retinol alternative that strengthens the skin and supports the pores, according to Dr. Shah), niacinamide (which helps improve elasticity and balance oil production), 11% lactic, salicylic, and mandelic acid (a gentle AHA that's great for darker skin tones, as it is less likely to cause hyperpigmentation), and redness-reducing peptides in the mix, it's a proven pore minimizer and blemish fighter, too.
Allies Of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum$88.00 Buy
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