Trying to refine and minimize the appearance of pesky pores can be one of the most frustrating parts of skin care. Celebrity aesthetician Shani Darden points out that it’s a common myth that you can shrink your pores, but unfortunately, you can’t. However, with the right steps, you can shrink the look of your pores.
We’re born with the pores we have, but they can change over time for a few reasons. “If skin is oily with lots of congestion, our pores are more noticeable because of the comedones (aka blackheads),” explains celebrity aesthetician Joanna Czech. Additionally, as we get older, they can become larger due to a loss of elasticity.
“Pore size is largely genetic, but they stretch and expand when they become clogged with excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells,” says Kerry Benjamin, aesthetician and founder and CEO of StackedSkincare. “No single skin-care step can solve enlarged pores on their own, but combining healthy skin habits to balance facial oil, dislodge clogged pores, stimulate cell turnover and smooth your texture over time, works.” Here are some of the best suggestions for refining your pores from top skin experts.
Retinol is an excellent addition to a skin-care regimen for many reasons, one being that it helps speed up cell turnover, ultimately helping keep your pores clear, says aesthetician Brit Lanier. “It helps to speed up cellular turnover, which is the process of replacing old cells with new cells, removing the dead skin cells on the surface as well as inside pores,” explains Darden. “Dead skin cells can build up inside of your pores which can lead to congestion and blemishes, but will also make your pores appear larger as well.” Using retinol regularly, like Darden’s Retinol Reform ($88), can help offset buildup.
Exfoliating can help clear your pores and make them appear smaller. The experts recommend exfoliating one to three times a week, depending on your skin and the strength of the exfoliator. Lanier says exfoliating “will help clear dead skin cells and dislodge clogged pores and blackheads.” She suggests looking for products containing chemical exfoliants such as lactic acid, glycolic acid or salicylic acid to add to your nighttime regimen.
Darden recommends using a chemical exfoliant like Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads (88), which contain AHAs and BHAs like lactic acid and salicylic acid. Benjamin prefers peels as they’re less abrasive than scrubs. She suggests trying StackedSkincare TCA Multi-Acid Face Peel ($122), which “is formulated with salicylic acid to help dislodge pore clogs and retinol to reveal fresh skin and smooth the look of uneven texture.”
Use a microneedling tool
Microneedling has a wealth of benefits, and Benjamin suggests incorporating a microneedling tool, like StackedSkincare Microneedling Tool ($89), into your daily routine “to micro-exfoliate and further activate your skin’s healing response.” Microneedling can help refine skin and texture, including blackheads, which make your pores look larger. Additionally, Czech notes that it helps speed up the penetration of skin-care products.
“Double cleansing is crucial for skin health because your first cleanse (typically a balm or oil) removes the makeup, sunscreen and AM products from your skin. Doing so actually allows the second cleanse to solely cleanse your face and prepare it for proper absorption of your skin-care products,” explains Lanier. The double cleanse will ensure that your pores are getting the daily refresh they need.
For a double cleanse, Czech says she’s a “big fan of Environ’s Pre-Cleansing Oil to soften the debris followed by their Hydrating Clay Mask which detaches everything the oil has softened.”
Incorporate vitamins A and C
“To minimize pores that are enlarged because of loss of elasticity, it’s important to make sure that starting as early as 25 years old, you incorporate vitamins A and C into your skin-care regimen,” advises Czech. “Vitamin A speeds up cellular turnover, and vitamin C is a great collagen-builder.
Keep your skin hydrated
“When skin is dehydrated, your oil glands can start to over-compensate by producing an excess of pore-clogging oil,” warns Benjamin. Additionally, Czech notes that pores can become more noticeable when your skin is dry and dehydrated. She advises keeping your skin “plump and hydrated as that will decrease pore appearance.”
Use an oil-free moisturizer
While keeping your skin hydrated is important, overdoing it with oily moisturizers can make the issue worse if your skin is prone to congestion. Darden recommends using an oil-free moisturizer to avoid clogging pores while still keeping your skin hydrated.
Use a purifying clay mask
Lanier recommends a purifying clay mask “to aid in decongesting clogged pores and pulling impurities up and out of the skin.” She says it can be used one to two times a week, followed by plenty of moisture.
Darden says it’s essential to wear sunscreen every day. “UV exposure depletes collagen levels in your skin which can cause the skin to appear looser and less firm, making your pores appear larger,” she explains. Darden says she loves Supergoop’s Play Everyday Lotion with SPF 50 ($22).
Try a rebalancing serum
Czech recommends trying Biologique Recherche Serum Dermopore, which slows down sebum production. The product is said to dilate and visibly reduce the appearance of pores.