6 Ways to Minimize the Appearance of Large Pores

Closeup of a woman's pores
JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

Ah, pores. How we hate thee. If you have large pores, you probably have days when you feel like your skin resembles that of an orange, especially if you're still young enough to have oily skin. As we get older, we typically refine our skincare habits, and skin tends to produce less oil—improving the pore situation somewhat. Still, if you're not among the lucky few with flawless skin, those pores likely still taunt you in the mirror.

Can You Really Shrink Your Pores?

Everyone has pores. Pores are actually hair follicles, and you have them all over your body, except for the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. As with many bodily issues, genetics play into the size of your pores. That means you have Mom and Dad to thank if your pores are small and to blame if they're not. So, to answer the question, you can't actually shrink the size of your pores, but you can definitely minimize their appearance.

Tips for Minimizing the Look of Large Pores

The tips below (especially the product recommendations) are for oily to combination skin types—the most common among the large-pored—but even someone with skin that's more on the normal side can benefit from them.

  1. Pick the right cleanser. Your pores will look larger and more noticeable if they're clogged, so start by using a cleanser that will help unclog them. Choose one that contains salicylic acid, which will help reduce the number of dead skin cells that get stuck in your pores. Salicylic acid will also help reduce the oil on your skin, which can make your pores look bigger. Neutrogena makes a great line of gentle cleansers that contain salicylic acid. Try the Oil-Free Acne Wash.

  1. Exfoliate. This step is huge. Exfoliating on a regular basis will make your pores appear smaller. If you're routinely removing the dead skin cells that clog your pores, your pores won't stretch out and look larger. You can use a clean washcloth with your daily cleanser to gently exfoliate your skin. If you’re looking for a deeper exfoliation, invest in a Clarisonic Cleansing Brush. It uses a massaging motion to gently remove dead skin cells, leaving your skin clean and soft. Just make sure you don't go overboard with exfoliation. Sometimes, using a gentler product more regularly is better than a stronger product; try something like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Pore-Refining Anti-Aging Facial Serum.

  1. Use a retinol. Retinol is a form of vitamin A found in lots of over-the-counter products such as those focused on fighting acne and the effects of age. It helps smooth wrinkles, unclog pores, and bring healthy skin cells to the surface. For some people, retinol can cause some peeling, so if you have sensitive skin, start by using it every other day or every third day until you see how your skin reacts to it. Retinol creams hit a range of price points, but a great inexpensive option to try is the RoC Multi Correxion 5-in-1 Restoring Night Cream.

  2. Don't pick. When your pores are clogged, fight the urge to squeeze and pick. Just don't do it! When you pick, pull and manipulate your skin so roughly, you cause serious damage to your pores that can leave them permanently enlarged. Plus, you add dirt and oil from your fingers to the mix, which leads to more breakouts (and even infection). Let the products do the work for you.

  3. Use a primer. A primer is great pore camouflage. Many times, your pores look larger after you apply your makeup, which is, of course, the exact opposite of what you want. A primer sits on the surface of your skin and creates a barrier between your makeup and your skin. The result is a smooth, flawless surface that won't trap foundation in your pores. A primer will improve the overall appearance of your skin. Try Neutrogena Shine Control Primer or Too Faced Cosmetics Primed and Poreless.

  1. Use a clay mask regularly. Face masks with kaolin clay are great for those with large, clogged pores. You need to use a clay mask only once or twice a week for noticeable benefits to the look of your pores. Bioelements Restorative Clay mask is particularly helpful because it absorbs excess oil. You can also mix up your own clay mask using cult favorite Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay.