Can You Really Shrink Your Pores? Top Dermatologists Have the Answer
The skincare myth ends here.
Forget the homemade remedies and hacks you've read about online. No matter what your favorite skincare brands products promise: there is no way to really shrink your pores.
But it's also equally as important to remember that the idea that large pores equal unhealthy or bad skin is a social construct.
"First, I think everyone needs to take a step back that it is normal to have pores," says board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss. "This idea to have pore-less skin is not real. As we get older, pores can increase in size due to the loss of elasticity of your skin or not being protected from the sun."
While you can't permanently shrink your pores, there are a few tricks you can try to make them look smaller, if that is one of your skincare concerns.
First Things First: What Are Pores?
Before deciding whether or not you want to target your pores with any treatments, it's important to understand why they exist in the first place. Basically, pores are tiny holes covering your skin that act as a built-in cleaner.
"They allow your sweat and oil to escape through them while cooling you off and keeping your skin healthy," Dr. Idriss explains. "Buildup from makeup or dead skin cells can make pores appear larger."
What In-Office Treatments Can Make Your Pores Look Smaller?
At the dermatologist's office, board certified dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara suggests her pore-concerned patients get microdermabrasion, a gentle exfoliation of skin's outermost layer that. "[It] has a plumping effect on the complexion that pushes on the perimeter of each pore, making them appear smaller," she explains.
Dr. Idriss says other in-office tricks include resurfacing treatments such as Fraxel laser, microneedling, and even injectables. "Sometimes even Botox on the nose area can help minimize the appearance of pores temporarily," she says.
How Can You Make Pores Look Smaller At Home?
Cleansing your skin is the first step of any skincare routine, and also essential for getting rid of pore-clogging buildup from your face. Dr. Idriss recommends including a chemical exfoliator in your routine to further clear any buildup.
"If you have enlarged pores or are oily, you might prefer using one salicylic acid as this AHA acid tends to fair better with oily skin," she says.
We're fans of Dr. Peter Thomas Roth's Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads. These exfoliating pads are infused with phytic acid, salicylic acid, sodium lactate, collagen-boosting peptides, and soothing chamomile and green tea to minimize irritation.
To buy: $52; sephora.com.
Using a retinoid is also beneficial, Dr. Gohara adds. By increasing collagen production these vitamin A-derived ingredients — whether over-the-counter retinol or prescription retinoid acid like Retin-A — tighten the diameter of pores, which doesn't necessarily shrink them, but makes them less noticeable. Prescription retinoic acid also has the ability to keep skin un-clogged (that's why it's often prescribed for acne), another pore-minimizing talent.
SkinMedica's Age Defense Retinol Complex 0.5 is an over-the-counter retinol that improves texture and includes brightening ingredients such as niacinamide and algae extract to prevent irritation.
To buy: $78; dermstore.com.
A face mask is another option. Dr. Gohara advises using an activated charcoal mask once a week. "Activated charcoal can absorb up to 200 times its weight in impurities and is able to rid the skin of oil, debris and pollutants that dilate pores," says Dr. Gohara.
Origins cult-favorite Clear Improvement is infamous for sucking the gunk out of pores without leaving skin stripped and dry.
To buy: $26; sephora.com.
Whether you add a chemical exfoliant, retinoid, or mask to your routine, it's important to wear sunscreen every day. "Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!" says Dr. Idriss. "SPF will protect your skin from ultraviolet light, which leads to the breakdown of collagen in your skin. Hence, the appearance of large pores."
VIDEO: When You Apply Sunscreen in Your Skincare Routine Actually Matters A Lot
In a pinch, though, there's always makeup. A a silicone-based primer instantly blurs both pores and fine lines, leaving skin looking naturally flawless. And if you want to use a silicone-free formula, Tatcha's The Silk Canvas Protective Primer, which is infused with silk extracts to create a smooth base and botanicals that like a barrier between makeup and skin.
To buy: $52; sephora.com.