Is It Actually Possible to Shrink Large Pores? Experts Weigh In

It’s one of the most common complaints that beauty industry pros hear. Below, what you can do about large pores.

The #flawless nature of social-media filters has left many desiring a skin texture that’s completely smooth and pore free—impossible IRL. But Elizabeth Layton, regional education trainer at M.A.C Cosmetics, says that large pore size has actually long been a concern in the makeup chair. People commonly complain that they see their pores as large and have been unable to diminish their appearance with skin care and makeup, says Layton. “They often fixate on these perceived ‘flaws’ rather than celebrating their beautiful features.” She adds that all of this constant exposure—both to highly edited images and ads for products that falsely claim to completely erase pores—doesn’t help. The images set “an unrealistic expectation for the consumer who now expects near-instant results.”

(Related: How’s Your Skin Barrier Doing? (Here’s How to Know)

It’s important to remember that our pores do in fact serve a very important function. Dr. Geeta Yadav, board-certified dermatologist, and founder of FACET Dermatology in Toronto, explains that these tiny openings on the skin’s surface are connected to the sebaceous glands (the organ that secretes sebum) beneath, and function as release valves to allow sebum to flow to the skin’s surface, keeping it balanced and nourished. Unfortunately, pores can expand over time. “As skin becomes more lax with age, so do the pores on your skin,” Yadav says, adding that pores can also become larger when they are congested with sebum.

But, there are some strategies for maintaining or temporarily reducing pore size and a glut of new pore-minimizing products to choose from. “Skin-care formulas can reduce the appearance of pores, but not necessarily shrink them permanently once they have been dilated,” Yadav says. She recommends using products with salicylic acid, also known as beta-hydroxy acid, an oil-soluble ingredient that can go within the pore where it breaks down excess sebum that may be causing congestion. “By doing this, sebum can effectively and smoothly flow through the pore rather than worsen any blockages,” she says. Retinoids can also help, particularly when large pores are caused by weaker and oily skin. They regulate oil production while helping to strengthen the skin and promote collagen production, says Yadav.

At dermatologist offices, professional treatments like laser skin resurfacing and microneedling are the most popular in reducing pores. Yadav says they work by causing intentional, controlled damage to skin that stimulates collagen production. “When the laser damages the skin, your skin goes into overdrive with its natural healing response, generating new collagen which will help firm up the look of pores.”

Makeup can also diminish the look of pores through light-refracting and blurring effects. M.A.C’s Layton suggests following a hydrating skin-care routine, as makeup wears better on moisturized skin, and applying a primer before foundation. “When seeking a foundation to minimize texture, I suggest products that blur and trick the light—almost mimicking a filter,” she says. “Use it all over the face to even tone or spot-cover to address the areas where you want more blurring.”

One of Layton’s pro tips to soften the appearance of large pores is to apply powder, which she points out is also a great choice for those who don’t want to wear foundation. “The new generation of powders are refined, gentle and non-drying, leaving skin with a weightless blur,” she says. Her top pick? M.A.C’s new Studio Fix Pro Set + Blur Weightless Loose Powder, a light-reflecting setting powder with a matte finish. “It’s so soft, blurs and smooths the look of pores and creates a breathable veil,” Layton says. “It’s like your skin but better.”

Our top skin care and makeup picks for minimizing large pores:

0t7f01 Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask 2000x2000 300.jpg

Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores, $39.50,

Dermalogica Porescreen Large Pores

Dermalogica Porescreen SPF 40, $77,

Skinceuticals Silymarin Large Pores

Skinceuticals Silymarin CF Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment, $182,

Mac Loose Powder Large Pores

M.A.C Studio Fix Pro Set + Blur Weightless Loose Powder, $44,

Next: The Best Skin Care Routine for Your Age, According to Dermatologists