Here's how to minimize pores for a flawless-looking face

Michelle Gant
·4 min read

In the age of Facetune and Photoshop, it’s hard to remember what real skin actually looks like. When every photo you see on social media is that of doll-like poreless perfection, it can be disheartening when the reflection in the mirror doesn’t match what you see on your screen. Before we dive into how to shrink pores, it’s important to remember that human skin naturally has pores, fine lines, spots and more.

While we can’t walk around with digitally edited skin in real life, there are tricks we can take to address the issues we’d rather not see staring back at us, like minimizing the look of our pores and getting rid of blackheads. While it’s not technically possible to decrease pore size, there are steps you can take to make them look smaller and less noticeable.

So what determines the size of our pores? According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, it’s mostly genetics.

“Our oil glands and hair follicles join together and exit the skin through our pores. People who make more oil tend to have larger-appearing pores,” he told TODAY Style in an email.

“While we cannot change the amount of oil that we make, we can help remove excess oil from the surface of the skin to minimize the appearance of pores. We also can keep the skin foundation strong so that pores do not become dilated,” he added.

There are a number of topicals you can employ in your skin care arsenal that are best for minimizing pores. For example, Zeichner suggests using products that contain hydroxyacids, like glycolic or salicylic acid, which help remove excess oil from the skin.

“(Hydroxyacids) also enhance exfoliation of dead cells that accumulate around the surface of the pores, making them look more prominent,” Zeichner explained.

See the complete A-to-Z guide to skin care

Zeichner likes Neutrogena’s Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser, which uses glycolic acid along with manual exfoliating ingredients to help keep your skin clear and make pores look smaller.

Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser

Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser - 6.7 fl oz

Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser - 6.7 fl oz
Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser - 6.7 fl oz

Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser - 6.7 fl oz, $6.99, Shop now

He also recommends Ghost Democracy Transparent Gentle Exfoliating Daily Cleanser. It combines glycolic acid and mandelic acid in a formula that is mild enough for daily use.

Ghost Democracy Transparent Gentle Exfoliating Daily Cleanser

Transparent Gentle Exfoliating Daily Cleanser

Transparent Gentle Exfoliating Daily Cleanser
Transparent Gentle Exfoliating Daily Cleanser

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Retinoids are also worth trying, as they help accelerate cell turnover and stimulate collagen, which provides structure to the skin and pores, according to Zeichner.

And for those self-care Sundays (or any day you just want to take a few moments for yourself), masks are a great option.

“Masks that contain ingredients like clay and charcoal can also remove excess oil, modify the skin, and make pores appear smaller temporarily,” Zeichner said.

Try Clean & Clear Acne Triple Clear Clay Face Mask with Salicylic Acid, an affordable drugstore option Zeichner swears by.

Clean & Clear Acne Triple Clear Clay Face Mask

Clean & Clear Acne Triple Clear Clay Face Mask

Clean & Clear Acne Triple Clear Clay Face Mask
Clean & Clear Acne Triple Clear Clay Face Mask

Clean & Clear Acne Triple Clear Clay Face Mask, $6.97, Shop now

If at-home treatments aren’t getting you the results you desire, you can always turn to the pros. “With the natural aging process, along with exposure to environmental factors like UV light, collagen can become damaged, leading to dilation of the pores,” Zeichner said.

To counteract this, he recommends resurfacing lasers, which help strengthen the skin to support the walls of the pores, keeping them looking as small as possible.

Makeup can also work wonders when it comes to hiding enlarged pores. Alix Taylor, a Los Angeles-based makeup artist and owner of Hairy Little Things, admits skin care should always come first. But she also has some great makeup tips that will help you look and feel your best.

Taylor warns that people with easily clogged pores should stay away from any products that contain mineral oil, coconut oil or silicone, as they are some of the worst offenders and can easily cause breakouts.

When it comes to concealing enlarged pores, mattifying products are key. “I love mattifying primers for enlarged pores. Makeup Forever has a great mattifying primer that works wonders. Mattifying primers paired with matte-based foundations are best for oily skin with enlarged pores,” Taylor said.

Make Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalizer Mattifying Primer

Make Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalizer - Mattifying Primer

TODAY, product courtesy of merchant site
TODAY, product courtesy of merchant site

Make Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalizer - Mattifying Primer, $37.00, Shop now