Hate to break it to you, but mom was wrong when she told you that you could shrink your pores with a cold water face rinse. Whether your pores are teeny tiny or they’re dotting your face like chocolate chips, their size is predetermined by genetics. Worse yet, while you can’t actually make them smaller with any over-the-counter product or home practice, some things you may be doing (or not doing) can actually make them bigger.
“Pores, like any hole, can fill up and stretch if overfilled or if they’re filled for too long and, most importantly, like the rest of skin, can sag and bag with too much sun,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian. Popping pimples by hand can also damage pores and enlarge them.
Over-the-Counter and Prescription Products
That doesn’t mean the best you can do is hope you’re not damaging your pores; there are effective ways to mitigate their appearance. “Products containing retinol, vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acid and glycolic acid are excellent if you’re unhappy with your pore size,” says RealSelf contributor Dr. Michele Green. “These ingredients unclog the pores and make skin brighter, reducing the appearance of pore size. There are also prescription variations, such as oral isotretinoin (Accutane) and topical tretinoin (Retin A).” Nazarian also singles out Floralux, which boosts collagen production, something that helps minimize the appearance of pores.
If you’re opting for over-the-counter products, it’s important to remember that their effects are temporary and once you stop using them, the pore returns to its original size. For something actually permanent, you’ll have to go to the dermatologist.
“Lasers like Fraxel smooth out the top layer of the skin like a gentle sandblaster while stimulating an increase in collagen to plump up from inside. Laser Genesis is a milder way to do the same thing,” says Nazarian. Note that because Laser Genesis is much milder, it requires more treatments.
A Good Cleaning
“Some pores are really clogged with blackheads and need to be extracted by a professional,” says Nazarian. “Don’t try to squeeze them out or clean them yourself — you could really do major damage to your skin. After cleaning out the pore, typically patients will see the skin shrink down and become smaller.”
Between office visits, you’ll want to exfoliate your skin to prevent dead cells from clogging your pores. Daily chemical exfoliation pads like these from BeautyRx or an exfoliating moisturizer like this one from Peter Thomas Roth are effective options. And don’t underestimate the importance of washing your face morning and night! Dr. Patti Flint recommends using an acid pH-based cleanser to boost skin health and prevent makeup and sunscreens from clogging pores. First Aid Beauty makes a great one.
Sun can not only lead to skin cancer and premature aging, it can enlarge your pores. “In every way that collagen helps to support smaller pores and gives plumpness to your skin, the sun breaks it down and can make pores larger as it causes elasticity of the skin to decrease and pores to loosen and sag,” says Nazarian.