For most of us, pores have been the bane of our existence since we first looked in the mirror and saw them (and the requisite blackheads) staring back at us. But unlike cringeworthy class pictures and braces, it’s pretty much impossible to grow out of big pores. What you can do is make sure they’re clean and free of the debris that makes them more visible. Before you start loading up on all the pore-hiding primers that money can buy, read this.
So, You Want to Know How to Minimize Your Pores
It’s not just you. As if we weren’t already concerned about fine lines, aging also causes pores to look bigger. “Collagen and elastin fibers, and GAGs—glycosaminoglycans, which are basically the packing material in our skin—become depleted,” says esthetician and skin care educator Annet King. “This diminishes the strength of skin and the support around the follicles.” So the skin around your pores starts to sag, which in turn makes your pores look rounder and more obvious. On top of this, a nasty combination of dead skin cells, sebum, and dirt builds up in pores over time. If you don’t regularly exfoliate your face, this mixture will just stay inside those pores (which then stretch out to fit it) and clog them, causing blackheads and breakouts.
Why Your Pores Aren’t Clear
Back away from the mirror and put your hands down! The worst way to deal with a blackhead that won’t budge is to DIY it, tempting as it is to get your fingers in there and squeeze it out. “Trying to extract them at home can lead to hyperpigmentation, permanent scarring, and additional breakouts,” warns King. Also, while facial scrubs can seem like the perfect way to get into and subsequently buff grime out of pores, they can do more harm than good. “Mechanical exfoliation—like ‘crushed’ shells—can be sharp and may irritate skin,” says Neal Schultz, M.D., NYC dermatologist and founder of skin care line BeautyRx. If you prefer a physical exfoliator over a chemical solution, look for one with fine, round granules (keep reading for our recommendation).
How to Clean Pores the Right Way
If you have oversized pores, you have to tackle them in every step of your skin care routine. King is a fan of double cleansing, since the first cleanser clears makeup out of the way so the second can penetrate better for a deeper, more thorough cleaning than either can achieve alone. Then, exfoliate. “You can refine the appearance of pores through exfoliation, along with ingredients that slow sebum secretions and draw out impurities,” says King. Look for ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, charcoal, and kaolin (a kind of white clay). You can use pore strips too, but they’re not really a long-term solution. “They’re fine, but they’re temporary. Pores get reclogged and reenlarged,” says Schultz. “You can’t do that on a daily basis.” If clogged pores are your biggest skin complaint, you may want to consider visiting your dermatologist, who can administer more intensive treatments like chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or even LED light therapy (which targets oil glands). If not, try taking them on with pore-cleaning products first.
Your Pore-Cleaning Dream Team
Traditional pore strips pull the tops of blackheads out of your skin, whereas the ones below absorb the gunk in your pores like a pimple patch—which shows up as very satisfying white oil spots on the strip. Then the strips deposit a small dose of vitamin A to help smooth the appearance of your skin.