This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
As much as we all love high-definition TV for watching arty foreign films in never-before-seen detail (or, alternatively, old Vine compilations and The Great British Bake Off reruns), the scrutiny it puts us under is another story entirely. Those cameras are utterly ruthless when it comes to any blemish, bump, or uneven bit of skin. Even gyms these days come complete with ultra-magnifying mirrors that light you up to surgical standards so you can examine your face in excruciating detail. It’s not surprising that we’ve all started to feel really, really bad about our pores — in a world where even the morning news seems to be shot through a magnifying glass.
In normal daylight and day-to-day life, however, your pores have very little relevance. So you shouldn’t feel too bad about them, especially because there’s not much you can do to minimize them. The things you can do will only work if your pores have become dilated by environmental factors, rather than by genetics; if you’ve pulled the chromosomal short straw in that sense, you’re better off simply masking your pores, not wasting your money trying to correct them.
“Your pores have a lot to do with genetics, but ongoing sun damage can also change pore size and appearance for the worse, as well as gravity pulling on the skin, making the pore look enlarged,” explains Paula Begoun, skin-care expert and founder of Beautypedia. “Plus, if your pores are chronically clogged, this will lead to them becoming enlarged. Some of this is beyond your control, but some of it can absolutely be improved with skincare. Pores are larger where there’s higher production of oil, which is why they often spring up on the nose and cheeks.”
If your skin is overall oily, some of your pore woes may indeed be down to nurture rather than nature. “Sun damage destroys the support structures below the skin’s surface, causing pores to stretch and enlarge,” Begoun says. “The other factor is not taking care of clogged pores as soon as possible. The excess oil production and debris will stretch the size of the pore if not treated.” For keeping pores clear, Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is truly the gold standard, and worthy of every accolade (and that’s coming from us, not from Paula).
“You can’t stop the oil glands from producing oil, but you can use a beta-hydroxy acid exfoliant to ensure the flow of oil to the skin’s surface isn’t blocked,” Begoun says. There’s also evidence to suggest that niacinamide, or vitamin B3, might help, which you can find in SkinCeuticals Metacell Renewal. Aside from that, a biweekly clay mask will help mop up excess oil to keep pores as squeaky clean as possible.
In terms of things to avoid, Begoun says to steer clear of anything with fragrance, including essential oils, as well as witch hazel, citrus, and mint. “The irritation these ingredients cause can trigger more oil production at the base of your pores, which is obviously counterintuitive,” she explains. Also in the expert’s crosshairs: “Rich lotions, creams and balm textures,” she says. “They typically contain things too heavy for oily skin types, or skin with large pores. Layering sheer fluids and gels can deliver brilliant hydration and essential ingredients without making enlarged pores worse.”
There’s certainly no shortage of products that claim to “blur” and “smooth” the skin by “filling in” the pore, which is a good, albeit temporary, fix. You might find that a foundation on the more matte side, applied with a brush rather than fingers, gives you a better, smoother finish. And don’t skip powder — a light dusting of translucent powder over the top will lock it all in place. Generally, avoiding anything too shimmery or light-reflecting on larger-pored areas is wise when you’re trying to minimize their appearance; shininess will only make them more pronounced.
The upshot? Keep your pores scrupulously clean, and you should stand a better chance of shrinking them somewhat. “The truth in beauty is there are things you can do to shrink pores, but no matter how oily your skin is, if you have a lot of sun exposure without protection, you can expect your pores to become enlarged as you get older due to the underlying damage that literally causes the pore lining to sink and stretch,” Begoun cautions. Yet another reason to slather on that SPF with abandon every day.
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