Pores: Can’t live with 'em, literally can’t live without ‘em. Even though I curse their existence, I understand they have an important role in keeping my skin naturally lubricated and moisturized blah blah blah—but am I so wrong in wishing that they could do their thing a little more discreetly? Am I stuck with these large pores forever?! I turned to dermatologist Shari Marchbein MD, to find out which pore minimizers work and if it’s even possible to achieve my dream of having small pores.
“Pores are the visible opening of the hair follicle and it's connected oil gland, and their size is genetically determined,” says Dr. Marchbein. Their size is wholly determined by genetics, but they can look larger if the collagen around them weakens (from, say, age, sun exposure, or skin trauma) or if they become clogged (hi, blackheads) with dirt, oil, and bacteria.
How to Get Small Pores Tip #1: Exfoliate Regularly
Exfoliating can help remove pore-clogging dead cells and excess oil from the skin’s surface. Look for a toner, serum, peel, or mask containing chemical exfoliants (they're gentler than scrubs), with AHAs (like glycolic, lactic, or mandelic acid) or BHAs like salicylic acid. But here's the catch: because your pores will eventually fill back up with dead skin cells, you've got to use your exfoliator of choice on a regular basis for the best pore minimizing results. "People with oily or combination skin can typically exfoliate up to three times weekly, where those with sensitive skin should aim for once weekly," says Dr. Marchbein.
How to Get Small Pores Tip #2: Use a Retinoid
As I mentioned before, when collagen weakens, so does the lining of your pores which ends up making them look annoyingly large. So to stimulate collagen production and strengthen the walls of the pores, Dr. Marchbein suggests using a retinoid serum or cream in your skincare routine. You can either get an Rx one from your derm (like Tretinoin, Tazorac, and Retin-A Micro) or trying an over-the-counter retinoid like Differin. But be warned: retinoids are pretty potent, so use them sparingly at first, increasing your frequency as your skin builds up tolerance.
How to Get Small Pores Tip #3: Mask Weekly
Good news! Your #SelfCareSunday masking sessions can actually be beneficial for minimizing your pores. Dr. Marchbein says that clay and charcoal masks help to draw out impurities, bacteria, and oil—basically, all the stuff that clogs pores and expands their size. Just like exfoliation, the effects of masking are only temporary though, so these treatments need to be repeated at least weekly to maintain results.
How to Get Small Pores Tip #4: Try A Professional Exfoliating Treatment
HydraFacials and standard microdermabrasion—two non-aggressive, in-office treatments done by dermatologists—can temporarily improve the appearance of pores by mechanically exfoliating away the top layers of the skin. "They also allow for deeper delivery of active ingredients, like glycolic and salicylic acid, post-treatment which can further contribute to glowing skin, a reduction in hyperpigmentation, and the appearance of smaller pores," Dr.Marchbein says.
How to Get Small Pores Tip #5: Wash Your Face Post-Workout
Your pores are surrounded by blood vessels and can dilate with heat and sweating, and therefore become more open and visible, says Dr. Marchbein. This makes it especially important to wash your face both before and after exercising so that makeup, dirt, and bacteria don't get trapped inside your dilated pores. There is an upside though: Once you've washed the loosened debris and oil from your face, your open pores will allow for slightly deeper delivery of the topical medications and skincare products you apply afterward.
How to Get Small Pores Tip #6: Try Microneedling
Microneedling is a treatment that involves rolling or pressing multiple tiny needles set to a specific depth over the skin. These needles create superficial wounds that stimulate collagen as the skin heals. And what did we learn about stimulating collagen? Yup, improved pore size and appearance. A word of advice though: For the best results and safest experience, only go to a certified derm for your microneedling treatment (that means no DIY devices).
How to Get Small Pores Tip #7: Prep with a Primer
Makeup has a way of settling into your pores and creases and making them hella visible. The fix? A silicone makeup primer. These velvety gel-like products work by filling in your large pores so that you can lay your foundation smoothly on top. Of course, this isn't a long-term fix, but if your main concern is how your pores affect your makeup, a good primer is all you really need.
How to Get Small Pores Tip #8: Try a Laser Treatment
Marchbein's favorite laser to improve the appearance of pores is the Clear and Brilliant fractionated laser (you can book this procedure at the Belo Medical Clinic), which stimulates collagen, improves skin texture and discoloration, and you guessed it, minimizes pore size too. The downtime is minimal (usually a day or two of mild redness) and you'll need to do four to six treatment space six weeks apart for the best results. If you want more dramatic results with fewer treatments, you can try Fraxel—but be warned, the downtime is a solid week of looking like you got a serious sunburn.
How to Get Small Pores Tip #9: Wear Sunscreen, Always
Dr. Marchbein says exposure to UV light can break down and damage collagen in the skin, including the collagen that surrounds the walls of pores. In other words, UV exposure can lead to larger pores—another reason why daily use of sunscreen with a broad spectrum SPF 30 or above is a necessary step in your skincare routine every single day.
How to Get Small Pores Tip #10: Consider Fillers
Fun fact: Studies show that fillers can stimulate collagen production and reduce the size of pores. "By injecting hyaluronic acid fillers somewhat frequently, you can gradually build collagen, leading to better structural support for the walls of the pores, and ultimately giving them a smaller appearance," Marchbein says. And since we're on the topic of injections…
How to Get Small Pores Tip #11: Get "Micro" Botox
Micro-Botox is a microneedling technique where dilute amounts of neurotoxin are introduced superficially into the skin. This doesn’t affect muscle movement they way injecting Botox would, but it does decrease sweat and oil produced by glands in the skin. The result? Smaller-looking pores and less oiliness.
And if you're into it, you could even get a combo of filler and Botox to reap the benefits of both. Dr. Marchbein says some pro microneedling devices, like Aquagold, can can “stamp” a combo of Botox and fillers superficially into the skin to improve texture and pores. Pretty cool, huh?
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.