6 Ways to Minimize the Appearance of Pores

closeup of woman's pores
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Ah, pores. How we hate thee. I remember when I was in cosmetology school learning about skin and our instructor brought in an orange for each station. Our job was to compare each other's pores with the peel of the orange. On a scale of one to five, five being skin that resembled the spotted orange peel, we ranked everyone's pores. We then shared the rankings to see how our findings compared with the rest of the classes' findings—totally humiliating for those of us who were a four or five.

At that time, I was one of those who fell in the fours. How I longed to be a one or two!

If you have large pores, I know you can relate. I'm happy to report that over the years, as I went from having oily to combination to normal skin, and adopted better skin care habits than I had when I was 20, my pores appear much smaller than they did that day in cosmetology school. Yours can, too.

Most people who have large pores are those with oily to combination skin types. These tips, especially the product recommendations, are for combination-oily skin but even someone with skin that is more on the normal side can benefit from the tips below.  If you have dry skin then your pores are most likely already small.

First and Foremost: Can I Really Shrink My Pores?

Everyone has pores. Pores are actually your hair follicles. You have hair follicles all over your body, except for the palms of your hands and soles of your feet.

Like many bodily issues, genetics play into the size of your pores.  The size of your pores is genetically determined which means you have mom and dad to thank if your pores are large.  You can't shrink the size of your pores, but you can definitely minimize their appearance.

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 cleansers that contain salicylic acid and are also gentle on your skin.  We recommend trying their Oil-Free Acne Wash

2. Exfoliate

This step is huge. Exfoliating on a regular basis will definitely 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, I recommend investing in a Clarisonic Cleansing Brush. It uses a massaging motion to gently remove any dead skin cells and leaves your skin clean and soft.  Just make sure you do not go overboard with exfoliation.  Sometimes using a gentler product more regularly is better than a stronger product.  Or consider using a product like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Pore-Refining Anti-Aging Facial Serum.

3. Use a Retinol

Retinol is a form of vitamin A, and it can be found in lots of over-the-counter products.

It penetrates the skin's layers, literally transforming your skin. Retinol can be found in anti-aging products and anti-acne products since it helps our skin smooth wrinkles, unclog pores, and bring healthy skin cells to the surface.  For some people, retinol can cause some skin 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.  

4. Don't Pick

When your pores are clogged, fight the urge to pick. Just don't do it! When you pick, pull and squeeze at your skin, you're causing serious damage to your pores which can leave them permanently enlarged. Plus, you're adding dirt and oil from your hands to the mix, which leads to more breakouts and even infection.

Let the products do the work for you.

5. Use a Primer

A primer is great pore camouflage.  Many times your pores look larger after you apply your makeup, which is the exact opposite of what you want it to do!  A primer sits on the surface of your skin and creates a barrier between your makeup and your skin. Your skin appears smooth and flawless, creating the perfect surface for foundation that won't get trapped 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.

6. Use a Clay Mask Regularly

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

Updated by Hanah Tetro