How To Minimize Pores: 10 Gentle, Natural Tips For Clear Complexions
In a perfect world, you'd wake up fully refreshed and prepared to face the day. While getting ready for whatever's on your agenda, you wouldn't have to worry about minimizing the appearance of things like dark circles, under-eye bags, or worse still…very visible pores.
Thankfully—or not depending on how you view the world—there are plenty of products that promise to clear your pores, shrink them, and make them less obvious on your face. But how many of them actually do the work, and are there any items you should be avoiding? Here, we dug into what skin care pros actually want you to do in order to take care of your skin and pores.
But why do pores clog anyway?
It turns out that you might have to thank your parents or grandparents for your pores—even if they always seem a bit larger than you'd care for them to be. According to experts like Cybele Fishman, M.D., an integrative dermatologist, "Pore size is genetic."
And some people might even notice them enlarge as they age. Unfortunately, this means you might be more prone to clogged pores too. As if that's not enough, environmental factors like weather and humidity, as well as lifestyle choices like diet can also affect how your pores look over time.
10 tips to minimize pore size.
Before you resign yourself to a life with a less than ideal complexion, know that there are safe and natural ways to minimize your pores naturally. Just remember to not get carried away with treatments; Avoid mixing too many active ingredients or abrasive treatments that could aggravate your skin and create a new crop of problems, like a weakened skin barrier:
Wash your skin every night.
Washing your face at night isn't just part of a soothing self-care ritual. It also helps to remove dirt, grime, and, of course, makeup if you wear it. Additionally, working with clean skin can ensure that any nighttime products you use as part of a facial routine will be more effective.
Victoria Stiles, a celebrity makeup artist and creative director at ShikSona Beauty recommends "choosing a gel or water-based cleanser instead of a product that contains alcohol, [because it] is gentler on the skin and won't strip the skin of its natural oils." Keep in mind that if the skin is left too dry, it'll trigger more oil production—the opposite of what you want when trying to minimize pores.
Incorporate chemical exfoliants.
Sometimes simply washing your face isn't enough to remove dead skin, which can clog pores and enlarge them. Natalie M. Curcio, M.D., MPH, is a Nashville dermatologist and dermatological surgeon and founder of Curcio Dermatology.
She notes that many safe chemical exfoliants are effective at removing dead skin: "Most OTC products use alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs—salicylic acid)," she notes about pore-minimizing topicals. These work to break down dead skin cells (as is the case with AHAs) or oils (BHAs) in order to clear out your pores. As is true with any amount of exfoliation, the key is finding your balance. Many derms recommend around one to three times a week, but you can adjust that frequency as needed.
Add retinol to your routine.
Retinol is a fan favorite among dermatologists because it's incredibly effective at boosting cell turnover. Paul Nassif, M.D., a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and the founder of NassifMD Dermaceuticals notes that "regular use of a retinol can help increase cell turnover, improving skin texture and reducing the appearance of pores."
Note that retinol can increase the skin's photosensitivity, and some people don't react well to it. Consider incorporating bakuchiol, which has been shown to offer similar efficacy as retinol and is usually well tolerated even by people with sensitive skin.
Don't skip the SPF.
In news that should shock no one, sun damage can manifest itself in more ways than one. And one nasty side effect of going out into the world without a good UV protectant is bigger pores. With enough sustained exposure to free radicals, your skin may lose elasticity and the ability to repair itself. And one sign of this is larger pores. See, elasticity helps your pores remain tight, and without it they start to sag and become loose—and therefore, wider.
The moral of the story? Don't skip the SPF step. Whether you use it as a stand-alone product or as an SPF-infused moisturizer or foundation, never leave home without it.
Don't pick at your pores.
We all know that the last thing you want to do is introduce dirt and bacteria to your pores—which can make a bad situation worse. But if you start picking at your pores (even with professional tools), that's exactly what can happen.
Long story short, you're not a trained aesthetician who knows exactly which extraction tools to use and the proper techniques to avoid damaging your skin. At best, these tools won't be effective. But in extreme cases, you can end up scratching your skin or causing scars and wounds.
Get to masking.
You might be surprised to find that incorporating a clay mask can do wonders for immediately minimizing the look of your pores—should you need a quick fix for the night. Suneel Chilukuri, M.D., FAAD, FACMS, and the director of cosmetic surgery at Refresh Dermatology shares that he always tells his patients to use an at-home clay mask for immediate results.
Specifically, he recommends masks that contain "kaolin and bentonite earth clays to absorb excess oil." This is because the clay works to draw toxins out of your pores, which gently cleans them.
Opt for noncomedogenic hydration.
Dry skin can make any complexion woes you have look significantly worse. Celebrity makeup artist Victoria Stiles always tells her clients to "moisturize both morning and night. Though your skin may be oily, keeping it hydrated will, in turn, aid in excess oil secretion to prevent pores from becoming clogged, reducing their appearance."
Incorporate a (gentle) toner.
Toners have come a long way from the harsh stinging alcohol-rich options that dominated shelves in the '80s and '90s. A good "toner is used to astringe the skin and therefore minimize the appearance of pore size," notes Marius Morariu the co-founder of skin care brand Tracie Martyn. Check out our favorite toners here, if you're in the market.
Don't overdo it.
Probably one of the best tips to minimize the appearance of pores is to not go overboard with a pore-specific skin care routine. Celebrity dermatologist Tina Alster, M.D., FAAD, and the creator and co-founder of The A Method, notes that "scrubbing, excessive exfoliation, or overuse of alcohol or acid-containing toners is not recommended…" Not only do they irritate the skin but can encourage oil production, which "will stretch the pores and lead to their enlarged appearance."
Skip the pore strips.
While they might give you the feeling that you're getting all that gunk out of the pores on your nose, pore strips are considered a big no-no by dermatologists. Hadley King, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, reminds people that "the adhesive can traumatize skin." What's more, often the strips remove the top layer of dead skin but don't serve as a preventive treatment.
You can't completely control the size of your pores, as that has more to do with genetics than previously thought. However, lifestyle choices and your skin care routine can go a long way toward improving the appearance of your pores. While we can't stress enough that you shouldn't attempt too many of these tips at once, these are great first steps toward correcting your complexion.
If you're concerned about large pores or feel that at-home treatments aren't working, consider speaking with a licensed dermatologist to determine whether an in-office approach might be better.
Dorian Smith-Garcia is a diverse writer across beauty, fashion, travel, parenting, consumer goods, and tech. She has written for Inverse, Healthline Parenthood, The Confused Millennial, XONecole, Glowsly, and The Drive along with a variety of other publications. She is a bridal and beauty expert/influencer and the creative director behind The Anti Bridezilla. When Dorian's not writing she's collecting stamps in her passport, learning new languages, or spending time with her husband and daughter.