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.