A Comprehensive Guide for How to Minimize Pores

Here's the truth about pore size

how to minimize pores universal: a woman touching her face in the mirror
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Before we go down the rabbit hole of how to "minimize" pores, it should be noted up top that you’re not actually shrinking their size; rather, you’re minimizing their appearance (which is still helpful if you often feel like your pores are taking away from an otherwise fab makeup application).

Meet the Expert

Dr. Claire Chang is a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York. Dr. Chang received her Bachelors of Science in Biology and her Doctorate of Medicine from University of Pennsylvania. She completed her internal medicine training at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., and subsequently completed a prestigious three-year dermatology residency at Boston University. Dr. Chang completed her American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS)-accredited Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery Fellowship at UnionDerm, and she continues to perform research and run clinical trials at UnionDerm.

Let Me Get This Straight, Doc. Can You Shrink Your Pores?

As Dr. Chang explains, "Pores are a natural part of our skin anatomy and cannot be eliminated or reduced in size with skincare products. [So when] products claim to 'shrink' pores, [what they're] actually doing is helping to remove the contents of blackheads, including oil and other impurities, which can temporarily make them appear smaller. However, you can’t actually reduce the size of your pores and consumers should not expect these results.”

TL;DR: Pore size is genetic—meaning, the pores you’re born with are the pores you’ll die with. Thankfully, there are a number of simple things you can do at home to make them look cleaner and tighter overall. Let’s get right to it then, shall we?

What Can I Do to Make My Pores Look Smaller?

1. Keep them clear

The most important thing you can do is keep them clear. Clear pores are smaller and less-obvious, while clogged ones look enlarged and more noticeable. This means using the right products (and ingredients) and practicing good habits.

2. Choose the right products

And of course, there are also products to avoid, but they’re very straightforward: any skin-care treatment or makeup that’s comedogenic. Always look for the words “non-comedogenic” and “oil-free” on labels.

What Products Should I Use to Keep My Pores Clear?

1. A non-comedogenic cleanser

For starters, you’ll want to get a mild, non-comedogenic cleanser that you can use twice a day—once in the morning and once at night. (If you have acne, you can swap in a cleanser with salicylic acid, which can help clear your pores.) 

According to our friends at the American Academy of Dermatology, the best way to cleanse your face is to use warm water and a gentle pressure (read: no scrubbing or tugging). This will ensure that your face is rid of excess oils without causing further irritation. 

2. An alpha or beta hydroxy acid

Next, you’ll want to incorporate an alpha or beta hydroxy acid into your skin-care routine. These chemical exfoliators help clear up any dead cells or debris (like residual makeup or oil) that are sitting on the surface of your skin; they also penetrate beneath the surface to dissolve the intercellular glue that holds cells together. Left on its own, this “glue” can build up and get lodged in your pores.

Not sure which one to use? AHAs are typically better tolerated by people with dry or sensitive skin, while BHAs are better suited for oily or acne-prone skin types.

What Else Can I Do to Help My Pores?

For additional benefits, consider using a prescription retinoid or an over-the-counter product with retinol or retinyl palmitate. This vitamin A derivative works to decrease oil production while also increasing collagen production. What this means for you: clearer pores and firmer skin overall.

Though retinoids and retinols (which, in case you’re wondering, come from the same ingredient—just at different concentrations) are pretty much the closest thing to a miracle product we have available to us, they do come with a few drawbacks. Namely, they can cause irritation—especially in the beginning as your skin acclimates to the ingredient.

Every derm we’ve ever spoken to about this topic says the key to using retinol is to ease into it. Start by using it no more than once a week on just washed but completely dry skin. Use a pea-sized amount for your entire face and let it absorb for a few minutes before applying your moisturizer on top. Take note of how your skin reacts in the subsequent days; if there’s little to no irritation, you can gradually up your usage to twice a week and so on. If you get to a place where your skin can tolerate every other day, you’ve hit the maximum.

And on That Note, You Must Be Vigilant About Your Sunscreen

Guys, we don’t need to tell you how important sunscreen is, right? In addition to protecting against sun damage (hello, dark spots and premature aging) and skin cancer, SPF is also crucial for keeping your collagen intact. Remember: More collagen means firmer skin and firmer skin means tighter-looking pores.

For optimal protection, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. Every. Single. Day. Yes, even on cloudy or snowy days and even when you’re just running a quick errand. Sunscreen is always a must, but it’s especially crucial when you’re using those aforementioned AHAs, BHAs or retinols, as those ingredients tend to increase sensitivity to UV rays. (We’re currently loving Round Lab Birch Juice Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ because it’s hydrating and blends easily into our skin.)

With good skin-care practices in place, your pores will look much clearer, and, in turn, smaller. (And if you still feel self-conscious about them, a spot of primer and concealer is always there to help.) 

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...