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The 8 Best Pore Minimizers For Silky-Smooth Skin, Backed By Experts

Jamie Schneider
Author:
November 29, 2022
Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
By Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
November 29, 2022
Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

Let's just get this out of the way: Pores are not the enemy. Your skin is alive, after all. It's meant to have texture! Those divots are necessary for proper skin function! There is no such thing as "poreless" skin, period and full stop.

Now that we've addressed the unnecessary war on pores, we should note that there's a difference between encouraging healthy pores and erasing them entirely. You see, pores can appear larger for a variety of reasons (we'll explain in a moment), and when your pores expand, breakouts and irritation often aren't too far behind. So, yes, those "pore minimizing" products do serve a purpose—and below, we've rounded up the ones that actually work.

How we picked:

Ingredients

From clays to AHAs and BHAs to naturally derived astringents, you'll find a variety of effective ingredients throughout this list. 

Gentle formulas

You can't expect to attack your pores with actives and expect clear, glowing skin. Stripped skin leads to more oil production (and larger pores), so each product listed is equally hydrating. 

Testing & testimonials

Each product on this list comes vetted by editors, experts, and real customer reviews. I've personally tested the majority of options and can vouch for their efficacy. 

Variety

Pore minimizers run the gamut, including masks, serums, cleansers, and even makeup products. We made sure to include every option. 

Our picks for the best pore minimizers of 2023:

Best treatment: Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Pros

  • Works quickly
  • Gentle & lightweight

Cons

  • Contains butylene glycol
Price: $34
Size: 4 oz

I am such a Paula’s Choice stan, but their toner is by far their most beloved formula (it’s their No. 1 product worldwide!). The hero ingredient is salicylic acid, which breaks through oil buildup to unclog pores and help balance the skin's sebum levels, but it also includes anti-inflammatory green tea to soothe and balance skin tone. It’s a leave-on treatment, meaning you apply post-cleanser with your fingers or a reusable cotton pad, and it dries so quickly, you’ll barely even notice it’s there—well, until you wake up with a fresh, clarified glow.  

What customers say: 

Multiple users use the words “holy grail” and “magic in a bottle” to describe this Paula’s Choice formula. Just take this rave review: “It really is like magic. I've been using this every evening for just over a week...my skin looks so much younger already…helped my pores so much, skin tone is a lot better.” mbg’s deputy commerce editor, Braelyn Wood, even swears it’s the secret to her smooth, blemish-free skin: “I feel like my skin absorbs other products better, likely due to the reduction in excess oil. My tinted moisturizer also glides on easier, and I don't have to powder away the appearance of my pores,” she notes.

Best face wash: Three Ships Purify Aloe + Amino Acid Cleanser

Pros

  • Extremely hydrating
  • Great for morning & night

Cons

  • Small size for a cleanser
Price: $20
Size: 2 oz

To minimize pores, you want a cleanser that effectively removes excess dirt and grime without stripping the skin dry—otherwise, your pores will produce even more oily to compensate, which can result in a larger appearance. Choose an alcohol-free gel cleanser that won’t strip the skin of precious moisture, like this purifying formula from Three Ships Beauty. It’s formulated with 26% pure aloe vera extract, so you know it’s ultra-nourishing. 

What customers say: 

Despite its purifying properties, this gel-cleanser remains gentle on the skin, and users agree. “My skin is extremely dry, and this cleanser did not dry my skin out at all. It left it soft and hydrated. I am hooked!” one shopper notes, and another specifically notes a reduction in clogged pores. “This is a gentle cleanser that doesn't strip. I also noticed a reduction in sebaceous filaments!” they write. 

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Best primer: Exa Splash Zone Oil-Free Hydrating Primer

Pros

  • Versatile & easy to use
  • Layers great under & on top of makeup

Cons

  • Not the best option for a dewy look
Price: $34
Size: 1.1 oz

Don’t let the term “oil-free” confuse you: This pore-blurring primer is ultra-hydrating, even without the help of occlusive oils. It features a base of aloe vera, so it makes your skin feel bouncy and juicy, along with prickly pear extract and blue spirulina to comfort and soothe your complexion. Finally, there’s niacinamide to simultaneously balance oil production. It’s so mattifying, in fact, that it even doubles as a setting powder: Simply layer it on top of makeup to nix excess shine without drying out your skin.

What customers say: 

Reviewers love the weightless texture and how it seamlessly blends with their makeup. “Feels great under the foundation, no creasing. Feels great on my sensitive skin,” one customer writes, and another comments on the hydrating and lightweight jelly texture. Prepare for a “sheer-like glow,” another user mentions. 

Best foundation: Kosas Revealer Skin-Improving Foundation

Pros

  • 36 shades
  • Lightweight & long-wear

Cons

  • Not for those looking for fuller coverage
Price: $42
Size: 1 oz

I cannot say enough good things about this foundation (the your skin is glowing! compliments alone make me want to snag another bottle). With niacinamide, peptides, and vitamin B5, this foundation balances oil and minimizes texture while you wear it. It has a skin-like finish—not dewy, not matte, but the perfect natural payoff that truly smoothes over pores and fuses to your complexion. 

What customers say: 

I’m certainly not alone in my Kosas obsession. After all, customers practically begged for this product after so many used their cult-favorite Revealer Concealer as their base. And the foundation version does not disappoint: “This is the most beautiful, dewy, skin-like foundation I have ever used,” one reviewer writes. “I have dry, sensitive skin and I don't think I will ever go back to a different foundation for everyday wear. Not only is this beautiful [but] it is one of the most consistent products I've used—even if you don't prep your skin perfectly (although it helps if you do), this foundation will still look so beautiful and effortless.” 

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Best serum : Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One AHA Lactic Acid Treatment

Pros

  • Quick results
  • Effective without irritation

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Some reviewers note a strong scent
Price: $122
Size: 1.7 oz

In addition to clearing pores, lactic acid has been shown to help thicken and tighten the skin, making it a wonderful ingredient for a smoother skin texture. In this cult-favorite serum, you’ll also find licorice and lemongrass extracts to brighten tone and fade hyperpigmentation, plus prickly pear extract to soothe any inflammation. And the brand has the clinical results to back up their claims: 100% of women said their skin looked and felt significantly smoother and more radiant after application. 

What customers say: 

Over 5,000 reviewers sing the praises of this beloved Sunday Riley Serum—and the majority agree that the hype is very much real. “I got a sample of this months ago and at first, I was very skeptical about the product,” one reviewer writes. “I thought it was over-hyped and too pricey for what it was, but when I finally tried it, I was in awe. I have combo skin with very large, clogged pores. This instantly plumped my skin and gave it a beautiful radiance. I use it at night so that when I wake up in the morning, my pores look clean and visibly smaller because they aren't as clogged.” How’s that for a glowing review? 

Best mask: Caudalie Pore Minimizing Instant Detox Mask

Pros

  • Super quick results

Cons

  • Clays can be drying
Price: $42
Size: 2.5 oz

There’s a reason this formula went viral on TikTok: Like its name suggests, it works pretty much instantly. You can even see the mask at work as it sucks up all the gunk from your pores (a slightly gross but satisfying image), and it promises tighter pores in as little as 10 minutes. We can thank kaolin and bentonite clays for their oil-absorbing properties, as well as grape seed polyphenols and caffeine to encourage a brighter glow. 

What customers say: 

This rave review says it all, so I’ll just leave it here: “The results after washing this clay mask off was certainly shocking. First of all, the fragrance is minimal, expected of a face mask, and the texture is smooth and thick, which makes for an easy spread. After 10 to 15 minutes when it dries, it turns from an orange shade to a milky sage color and becomes hard to the touch. It's easy to take off, and when the face is pat dry, the smoothness of the skin and lack of noticeable porous texture is pretty stunning. Now, this isn't going to take away texture, but what I found was that on my cheeks where the pore is quite visible, had looked to be cleaned and therefore not as noticeable.”

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Best toner: Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner

Pros

  • Hydrating & purifying
  • Fun consumer experience

Cons

  • Strong watermelon scent, if you prefer fragrance-free products
Price: $34
Size: 5.07 oz

Toners come in many different forms. Some are meant to balance pH, others add another layer of hydration, and some are designed to further purify the skin post-cleanse. If you want to tighten pores, look for the latter. This Glow Recipe toner purifies and hydrates (a double whammy!), with a blend of willow bark and a naturally derived PHA (or polyhydroxy acid) to gently exfoliate and cactus water, watermelon extract, and hyaluronic acid to infuse the skin with moisture.

What customers say: 

While some reviewers are not a fan of the scent (if you don’t like watermelon, this is not the product for you), countless customers appreciate the toner’s glow-inducing properties. “I just purchased my third bottle of this,” one shopper says. “It really does a great job of moisturizing but very gently exfoliating and keeping your pores clear. It does help add a glow to your skin.” 

Best for mature skin: Renée Rouleau Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum

Pros

  • Targets wrinkles & large pores

Cons

  • Not the best for super sensitive skin
Price: $49.50
Size: 0.5 oz

Since pores do tend to get larger as you age, you might want to find a treatment targeted for breakout-prone and aging skin, like this acid-infused serum from celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. With lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide, and allantoin, the formula smooths skin texture, softens fine lines, clears clogged pores, lifts hyperpigmentation, and soothes the skin barrier in one fell swoop. 

What customers say: 

Rouleau is known for her potent, high-quality formulas that work almost instantly, and this perfecting serum certainly fits the bill. Comb through the pages of reviews, and you’ll be sure to find numerous love notes, like this blurb: “This changed my skin for the better. I can definitely say this has helped my skin more than anything. My pores are cleared up and my texture is almost not existent. I definitely make sure I always have a backup of this.”

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Do pore minimizers really work?

Here's the thing about pores: You can't really change their size. "Pore size is genetic," board-certified dermatologist Cybele Fishman, M.D., once shared with mbg, and holistic esthetician Britta Plug agrees: "Your pore size is genetically determined by the size of your pore glands," she says. That said, some people are just born with larger pores than others.

While you can't exactly change the pores you were born with, a few factors can influence their size over time—weather, humidity, and air pollution, as well as lifestyle choices like diet can all affect their appearance. Not to mention, some people notice them enlarge as they age, too. That's where pore minimizers come into play, as certain ingredients can purify pores and "shrink" them down to their baseline size.

"There are certain ingredients that can minimize the look of pores—namely my good friends tretinoin or retinol, and acids (alpha-, beta-, and polyhydroxy)—by helping the pore shed itself of excess sebum and keratin," Fishman adds.

Clays, too, can help draw out excess oil and grime clogging up the pores, which can make them appear smaller. Just make sure you don't dry out your skin too much, which will only trigger more oil production—the opposite of what you want when trying to minimize pores.

If you're looking to shrink pores fast, you can also rely on makeup to create a film over your skin and "blur" the look of enlarged pores. Think mattifying primers and cushiony foundations that work to smooth skin texture and create a featherlight, satin finish. Some makeup formulas even play double duty, featuring pore-minimizing ingredients (like niacinamide) to simultaneously tighten enlarged pores and cover up their appearance.

At the end of the day, though, your pore size is permanent, and you can't change their appearance forever. Nor should you want to! Skin is meant to have texture, contrary to what Photoshopped ads and editing tools may have you believe. Brands themselves are even starting to move away from "poreless" or "flawless" skin marketing (and we believe that's a very good thing), but if you want to achieve a smoother surface, these picks are a great start.

How to choose. 

Plenty of purifying ingredients can help minimize the appearance of pores—it just depends on which ones you prefer. Just make sure you don't do too much; excessive cleansing and scrubbing can irritate the skin and lead to even more oil production, which "will stretch the pores and lead to their enlarged appearance," says celebrity dermatologist Tina Alster, M.D., FAAD, and the creator and co-founder of The A Method.

That said, stick to one class of ingredients below when you make your decision:

  • AHAs & BHAs: A buildup of dead skin can clog pores and enlarge them, which is why chemical exfoliants are key. "Most OTC products use alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs—salicylic acid)," says Nashville-based dermatologist and dermatological surgeon Natalie M. Curcio, M.D., MPH, founder of Curcio Dermatology. These work to break down dead skin cells (as is the case with AHAs) or oils (BHAs) in order to clear out your pores. Just make sure you don't go overboard. 
  • Retinol: Yes, retinol can help shrink your pores. According to Paul Nassif, M.D., a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and the founder of NassifMD Dermaceuticals, "Regular use of a retinol can help increase cell turnover, improving skin texture and reducing the appearance of pores." You can find our favorite retinol serums here
  • Clays: Clays (kaolin, bentonite, rhassoul) help lift oil and gunk from pores, which, in turn, can make them appear smaller. Find our favorite clay masks here
  • Astringents: Some naturally derived astringents can help clarify the skin and tighten pores. Think witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, rosewater, and the like. Many of these can be found in purifying toners—check out our list of favorites here

From there, you can choose a treatment based on the experience. Do you prefer a cleanser? A leave-on serum? A mask? The world is your oyster.

FAQ

Do pore minimizers really work?

Pore size is ultimately genetic, but they can enlarge due to environmental aggressors, increased oil production, and age. You can use purifying and astringent ingredients (clays, acids, witch hazel, etc.) to bring them back to their baseline size, which is where pore minimizers come into play: Various treatments, masks, cleansers, and makeup products can smooth skin texture and "tighten" the look of pores. 

What about pore strips & pore vacuums?

Sure, these may look satisfying, but they generally do way more harm than good. Pore strips can cause irritation if you're not super careful. "The adhesive can traumatize the skin, board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., previously told mbg. Plus, they don't actually target the root of the issue. "Pore strips can temporarily remove top layers of dead skin cells, but they won't do anything to prevent the buildup of blackheads," King adds. 


Pore vacuums, on the other hand, are a major no in at-home skin care. These tools promise to suction all the gunk from your skin, but they can seriously traumatize the skin if you’re not careful. Best to steer clear. 

Can you get rid of large pores permanently?

Some people are simply born with larger pores—in that case, you can't really do anything to permanently minimize your pore size. However, pores can enlarge due to a variety of factors—humidity, age, diet, etc.—and you can help them shrink back to their baseline size. Try incorporating one of the above pore minimizers into your routine, or if you're looking for more of a quick fix, try a mattifying foundation or setting powder.  

The takeaway. 

Pore size is ultimately up to your genes, but there's plenty you can do to optimize their appearance. Try these pore minimizers if you don't know where to start (or check out our other pore-shrinking tips), and don't forget about wearing SPF. Venturing out without a good UV protectant can lead to bigger pores—in addition to other more serious skin concerns.

Meet The Experts

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.