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I’ve Tested Countless Pore Minimizers — These 8 Actually Shrink Their Size

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November 29, 2022

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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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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