12 Ways To Shrink Your Pores — Fast

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woman doing skincare

When looking in a magnifying mirror, it sometimes seems like our pores appear larger. But is that possible?

Pores are part of our skin, yes, but can they really grow or shrink? And, if they are, is that even a thing we need to care about? What do pores even do, anyway?

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Pores are an important part of our skin's health because they let our skin breathe and absorb products. If they can't breathe and become clogged, that's how we get breakouts or acne.

Why are my pores so big?

Pores don't exactly "open" and "close"; rather, like all living tissue, they expand and contract.

“Typically, warm moisture (like hot, humid weather, or a steam room or hot shower) causes pores to expand, and cold/dry (overly air-conditioned indoor spaces, cold winter air) causes pores to contract,” says Rachael Pontillo, M.Msc, CIHC, CNAP, LE.

For this reason, it's natural for pores (for those who have visible pores due to genetic reasons) to appear larger in tropical climates, and during the warm months of the year.

Some additional reasons for your large-looking pores include:

  • Genetics
  • Gender/sex
  • Skin type (oily skin, in particular)
  • Sun damage
  • Aging
  • Hormonal changes

How To Shrink Pores Fast

1. Exfoliate your skin regularly.

Exfoliating is an important part of any salon or spa facial for a reason. It helps get rid of dead skin cells and leaves younger, fresher, healthier skin below. That includes pores!

Luckily, the same can be done at home with a good skincare routine.

“More complex treatments are always best left to the professionals, but there are things you can do at home that will make a noticeable difference in the appearance of pores. The first is exfoliating,” explains Rachel Liverman, esthetician and founder of Glowbar.

Acids such as glycolic acid or lactic acid are great to reduce the appearance of pores as they dissolve dead skin cells. But it's also very important to not over-exfoliate. Liverman recommends exfoliating only once or twice a week to protect your skin barrier.

Add a good scrub product to your daily routine and watch your pores shrink each week.

Pro tip: Throw out the magnifying mirrors. They will only hurt your mentality. Also, avoid oil-based creams.

2. Add vitamin A to your diet.

Vitamins are an important part of our diet. The same can be said for our skin's diet. Try to add Vitamin A into your daily routine, whether that's through a moisturizer or retinol cream.

“It's always a winner for any and all skin concerns, as it helps clear clogged pores and promotes cell turnover consistently throughout the day,” adds Liverman. What better reason do you need?

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3. Use retinol.

Retinol is science's best gift to aging skin, and as much as it helps fine lines and wrinkles, it can shrink your pores.

“The best results come from using retinol as well as AHAs and BHAs at home,” advises Karen Fernandez, head of aesthetics at SkinSpirit. “AHAs and BHAs are acids that exfoliate the skin, and retinol stimulates collagen production and skin turnover. Combined, this shrink spore size, and smoothes fine lines and wrinkles.”

4. Get out into nature.

Certain plants have natural astringent properties. This, too, can help to minimize pores when done regularly.

“Astringent substances cause tissue to gently tighten and contract, which can cause the pores to temporarily contract and, therefore, appear smaller. So, choosing skincare products containing them is a great way to help pores shrink,” Pontillo advises.

Pontillo adds that using topical skincare products containing ingredients with naturally cooling properties — such as cucumber and aloe vera gel — helps reduce the appearance of large pores.

Additionally, rose, witch hazel, green tea, and yarrow are examples of plants with naturally occurring astringent properties, commonly found in topical skincare products like toners.

5. Stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated keeps us healthier from the inside out. Although you can’t physically shrink your pores, they will appear smaller when your skin is hydrated.

Drinking plenty of water and applying hydrating skin care products will plump your skin, making pores look smaller,” recommends aesthetician and dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar of N4Skincare. “When you're dehydrated, your pores look enlarged because they start to secrete sebum (our skin’s protective oil).”

It's extremely important to keep pores hydrated and lubricated with a proper balance of water and oil so they can expand and contract as needed to help them stay clear.

“One of the skin's main functions is detoxification, and if the pores are dehydrated or there is a lack of oil (either due to naturally dry skin or because there are not enough lipids in the skincare regimen), accumulated dead skin cells and debris can get 'stuck' in the pores and oxidize, which causes the pores to distend and appear larger,” Pontillo adds.

Using skincare products that contain both hydrating ingredients (such as rose water, glycerine, honey, and aloe) and emollient ingredients (such as jojoba oil, hemp seed oil, and shea butter) will keep the follicles supple and lubricated, so they can stay clear of debris.

6. Try a face mask.

Use an absorbing clay mask once a week to also help keep pores clear.

“Clays such as bentonite clay, French green clay, or rhassoul clay have strong absorbing properties, as well as firming and tightening properties. A weekly clay mask can absorb accumulated debris from the pores, and also gently tighten the skin, which helps the pores appear smaller,” Pontillo recommends.

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7. Wear less makeup.

With makeup, less is more. In fact, wearing makeup on a daily basis just isn't good for your skin.

According to makeup artist and founder of Adelyn's Canvas, Jaclyn Accetta, “Large pores usually mean more oil production. It’s best to combat the underlying oil production and not try to hide under copious amounts of makeup."

Pro tip: Avoid shimmery makeup and look for products labeled as non-comedogenic, as these don't have any added oil in them.

8. Don't touch your face.

Your hands have bacteria on them that can transfer to your face when you touch it and make their way to your pores. It's best to not touch your face at all and, if you absolutely must, be sure to wash your hands before and after.

Along with touching your face, don't pop your pimples either. Advises Liverman, “Picking at clogged pores will only do more harm than good, irritating your skin further, and can even result in scarring.”

9. Wear sunscreen.

You should be doing this anyway, but use sun protection whenever you go outside. Avoiding any damage from the sun will allow you to maintain your skin's collagen and elastin.

Use broad-spectrum sunscreen for the best protection against the sun's strength. You can also use hats and other physical blockers.

10. Ask your doctor about prescribed medications.

If none of the DIY methods are working, you may want to consider seeing a dermatologist and taking prescription medications to reduce the size of your pores.

If over-the-counter medications aren't helping, your doctor may prescribe Retin-A® (tretinoin), which is a stronger retinol product. These types of medications reduce the production of oil which allows for your pores to shrink.

11. Try microneedling.

Microneedling is when a doctor uses a device that makes tiny punctures in the skin. It creates micro-trauma in the skin, which stimulates a wound-healing response, triggering collagen production.

This procedure should be performed by a licensed dermatologist, so steer clear of at-home kits. The whole process strengthens the supportive structure around pores, making them look smaller.

12. Do a laser treatment.

Laser therapy treatment is another method that can reduce the size of your pores. Again, this should only be done by a professional dermatologist.

The laser exfoliates the top layer of your skin and encourages collagen to form beneath it. However, this isn't a one-time thing and can become costly, as you need several rounds and a series of treatments, usually every 4-8 weeks.

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly.