Google “make pores smaller” and you’ll get nearly 25 million hits... and they’re (almost) all BS. You cannot make your pores smaller, according to dermatologists, and really, you wouldn’t want to. Pores serve an important purpose, and shrinking them would only result in congestion, toxic buildup, and overheating.
Before diving into why pores are actually the unsung heroes of skincare, let’s get one thing straight: Their size, much like the size of your nose or the color of your hair, is a matter of genetics. “Pore size is genetically determined and there are no treatments — even the best creams, lasers, and peels — that can change the physical diameter of a pore,” Dr. Caroline Robinson, a board-certified dermatologist, tells The Zoe Report. “The important thing to realize is that having visible pores is normal and serves a purpose.”
A pore's main function is to release sweat and sebum. (That explains why those with oily skin tend to have larger pores). “Without pores, our skin would be congested and have no way of releasing toxins or protecting itself from dehydration and overheating,” Dr. Robinson says. Theoretically, any products that promise to “tighten” them up would backfire if they actually worked (which they don’t): Your poor, shrunken pores would struggle to release oil, end up getting clogged, and erupt into blemishes. “Once we understand this, we understand how it might make sense to keep our pores the way they are,” the dermatologist adds.
"Keeping pores the way they are” is the ultimate goal, because — get this — while pores can’t get any smaller, then can get bigger as you age. “Their structure is supported by a network of dermal collagen and elastin,” Dr. Neil Sadick, a board-certified dermatologist with Sadick Dermatology in Manhattan, tells TZR. “As we age, the collagen and elastin network is degraded, which leads to loss of support for the pore structure and widening of its opening.”
Longstanding acne and excess oil production can also make pores more likely to dilate and become larger over time, Dr. Robinson says, noting that smoking can negatively impact elasticity and contribute to pore stretching, too. Environmental factors are a concern, as well, since sun damage can slow collagen production, which, in turn, makes for enlarged pores. Luckily, this is preventable — just make sure to use SPF and antioxidant skincare daily. “Lasers and radio frequency-based microneedling are also excellent tools for more mature skin,” Dr. Sadick says. Products that stimulate collagen production, like vitamin C and retinol, can reverse age-related widening… although, again, your pores will never shrink past their genetically predisposed size, no matter how much extra collagen you produce.
All of that being said, there are ways to make your pores appear a little smaller, if that's your thing. “Your pores will look larger if they are clogged with dirt, sebum, or dead skin cells,” Dr. Devika Icecreamwala of Icecreamwala Dermatology in San Francisco tells The Zoe Report — so cleansing and exfoliating are key. It’s a delicate balance, though: Dr. Robinson says over-cleansing and over-exfoliating can lead to dryness, which can lead to excess oil production as the skin attempts to compensate, which can lead to larger-looking pores. Talk about a vicious cycle.
Of course, the most thorough (and relaxing) way to deep-clean your pores is by visiting a professional. “Getting monthly facials is essential,” Nousha Salimi, the registered nurse and aesthetician behind Rejuvenate With Nousha, tells The Zoe Report. She says extractions, IPL sessions, and TCA peels can also make pores less noticeable.
But perhaps the best course of action is a healthy dose of pore appreciation. They may not be as small as you'd like, but they do keep your skin from exploding — which is a fair tradeoff, if you ask me.