How To Minimize The Appearance Of Pores

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Over the course of my 25 years in the skin-care industry, working hands-on with clients, one of the most common questions I get asked is, “How can I shrink my pores?” Unfortunately, pores aren’t like doors: They don’t open or close, and you cannot change their size.

Typically, large pores are an indication of how much oil your skin has produced over time. If your skin has been rapidly pumping out oil (usually in the teenage years, which are formative as far as pore size goes), the walls of the pore lining will stretch, resulting in — you guessed it — bigger pores. Likewise, those who are very oily all over the face (primarily due to genetics) will have larger pores everywhere. Those who only produce oil in the T-zone will probably notice larger pores exclusively in that area. And, most people who produce very little oil will have tiny pores. 

While you can’t magically shrink them, it is possible to minimize their appearance. Here are some of my top tricks for doing just that.  
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
The most immediate way to deal with the appearance of pores is through exfoliation. Use a gentle facial scrub, or opt for a gentle serum you can leave on overnight, and you're likely to see an instant visual improvement. Using a combination of both physical exfoliants (facial scrubs with round grains) and chemical exfoliants (like alcohol-free glycolic serums) on a regular basis will help remove the surface dry cells that surround pore openings, making them look smaller and less deep. Once you've exfoliated, it’s important to use a moisturizer to hydrate the skin and stall the inevitable dead-cell buildup. 
Deep-clean clogged pores.
For a lot of people, simply cleaning out pores and getting rid of blackheads is a big step toward minimizing pore appearance. An experienced professional can do this for you (my recommendation) or you can do it yourself. Whatever you choose, make sure to make it a part of your beauty routine — once a month is best. Without a doubt, nothing will clean out pores more effectively than manual extractions — not even a facial-cleansing brush. When combined with extractions, steam can be beneficial. The heat it produces will raise the temperature of the skin and soften the hardened oil in the pores for easier extraction and deep cleansing. 
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Keep pores clean.
After you've manually cleared out pores, my favorite ingredient for penetrating the pore lining and helping to keep them clean is salicylic acid. It’s a keratolytic beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) famous for its ability to smooth skin without causing irritation. It also reduces acne-causing bacteria and oil to prevent blemishes while penetrating the pores to help clear out impurities.  
Use a primer. 
There are primers, powders, and balms that you can use under makeup to create a smooth canvas for applying foundation and concealer. These can work double-duty and minimize the appearance of large pores. Benefit Cosmetics' Porefessional is one of my favorite balms.   

Focus on long-term results. 
The most effective long-term approach is to use a product with retinol. Long-term use will really help smooth and resurface skin texture and make pores look smaller and less noticeable — permanently (as long as you’re using it consistently). Retinol is truly the most scientifically proven ingredient to re-texture the skin and minimize visible pores, lines, and wrinkles.

Prescription retinoids will work the fastest to give results, but this ingredient can be irritating to people with sensitive skin. Some may experience peeling until the skin gets used to it. A gentler, but still effective, alternative is to use a high-performance, stable non-prescription retinol serum under moisturizer at night five times a week. If you use it consistently, you can still benefit from its visible pore-reducing abilities.

While there’s no overnight cure for making pores look smaller, you can minimize their appearance with some consistent effort. 

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