How can I make my pores look smaller?

Reducing the Appearance of Oversized Pores

What makes your pores look especially huge? Dirt, makeup, sebum (oil) and dead skin cells can build up in the little holes, forming plugs that enlarge them. (Besides widening the pores, these clogs can also lead to blackheads, whiteheads and pimples when bacteria are present.) So the key to making pores appear smaller is keeping them as clear as possible. Here's how:

  • Keep your face clean. Most importantly, never go to bed with a day's worth of grime and cosmetics coating your skin and settling into your pores. You'll also want to scrub up after workouts, since sweat can carry debris into the pore openings [source: Whitmore]. If your skin tends to be on the greasy side, choose an oil-free foaming cleanser with salicylic acid, which helps dissolve and loosen sebum [source: Taylor].
  • Exfoliate regularly. To dislodge blockages and slough off dead skin cells, use an exfoliating scrub or a treatment containing chemical exfoliants such as glycolic or lactic acids [source: Taylor]. Electric face cleansing brushes can also be extremely effective [source: Jones].
  • Use a retinoid. Incorporate an over-the-counter retinol product or a prescription retinoid, such as tretinoin, into your skin-care routine. These treatments decrease oil production and accelerate skin cell turnover, helping prevent clogs from forming [source: Baumann].
  • Try a clay mask. Clay is thought to absorb oil and water, drawing debris out of the pores. Don't use clay masks too frequently, however, since they can dry and irritate the skin [source: Bailey].
  • Consider an in-office treatment. Talk to a dermatologist about professional procedures that can unclog pores, such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, light therapy, laser treatments and Isolaz, a procedure that uses a vacuum to loosen dirt and oil from pores and then zaps them with a broadband light to destroy the bacteria [source: Litke].
  • Choose the right makeup. Applying primer and foundation can help camouflage enlarged pores, but you don't want to clog them in the process. Look for oil-free and noncomedogenic products, and opt for a matte finish over shimmery powders that reflect light [source: Taylor].