We know you want to learn how to minimise pores, but we need to get this out of the way first: you cannot shrink pores permanently. Not with a facial pore cleanser. Not with the miracle pore minimiser your friend told you about. Not with a fancy procedure from your dermatologist.
"Your pore size is genetic, based on how your glands are made, so you can’t change its structure," says dermatologist Dr Mona Gohara.
Plus, you kind of need them. "Pores are small openings that allow sweat to travel to the surface of the skin from the dermis," says dermatologist Dr Meghan Feely. "They protect you from overheating."
Still, there are certain things-like sun damage and acne-that can make pores bigger, and even though you can’t shrink pores for real, you can make them appear smaller with skin care practices that keep them as healthy (and tiny) as possible. Here, dermatologists share how to shrink pores for smooth, even skin.
Prevent pore expansion
"The sun compromises your skin’s collagen, which keeps skin firm and tight," Dr Gohara says. With less collagen to keep skin taut it starts to sag, tugging on your pores and forcing them to expand. (Kind of like how holes in your stockings become bigger when you pull on the material around them.) Not to mention, sweat from the sun forces your glands to produce more oil, which can clog pores and make them look larger in the short term. It’s a lose-lose.
Use a day-cream with at least SPF 30 every day. Try one that is free of pore-clogging oils, so it will feel nothing like the greasy stuff you apply at the beach.
Keep pores healthy
Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, is the golden child of the skincare world: it slows signs of ageing, prevents breakouts, and keeps your pores open and healthy. "Retinoids clear clogged oil and dead skin cells to make pores appear smaller," Dr Feely says. That explains why women noted improvements in their pore size when they applied a retinol every night for three months, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.
Find a facial pore cleanser
Apply a facial pore cleanser with salicylic acid nightly. "It’s a beta hydroxy acid that has increased solubility in oil and can travel deep within pores," Dr Feely says. You can also talk to your dermatologist about a stronger in-office chemical peel to further clear out pores.
Create an optical illusion
"Anything that plumps up the skin can make pores appear smaller," Dr Gohara says. And microdermabrasion-an in-office procedure that exfoliates the top layer of skin-does just that. "The skin plumps up in response to trauma, which makes it look like you have smaller pores." (Don’t worry, you’ll just look a little pink for a couple of days.) Bonus: Since you’re sloughing away dead skin cells, all the collagen-boosting ingredients in your serums and night cream have an easier time penetrating the skin.
Avoid heavy foundation
Dr Feely says to skip makeup containing emulsifiers (a substance used in creams and lotions to mix water with oils) like lanolin, cetyl acetate, myristyl myristate, isopropyl linoleate, and lauric acid, all of which clog pores and make them look bigger. Another downside? "It’s difficult to conceal large pores, so heavy makeup can settle around them and make pores look more pronounced," Dr Gohara says.