The age-old idea that you can shrink your pores—with a splash of ice-cold water —is a fantastic one. Sadly, it’s also a fantasy: “Pore size is often genetically determined,” says one dermatologist in New York City, and you can’t make pores physically smaller. So to a certain extent, you have to accept what you were given. But there are things you can do to minimize the appearance of your pores.
Those tiny dots you see on the surface of your skin are actually the openings of hair follicles. Each one contains a sebaceous gland, which produces your skin’s oils. (Pores are more noticeable on parts of the face, like the forehead and the nose, where the sebaceous glands are bigger.) The size of your pores depends primarily on your genes. Typically, fair-skinned people have pores on the small side; those with olive or darker skin have larger pores. Your skin type, too, can play a role. Naturally dry skin tends to appear poreless, while oily skin often has more-visible pores.
Several other factors can affect pore size. Dead skin cells and trapped sebum—which, put together, form a pimple—can stretch out pores. UV rays weaken the collagen that supports pores and keeps them tight, so they can also make pores look bigger. Similarly, the collagen loss that comes naturally with aging can increase the appearance of pore size. And picking at or squeezing a pimple can cause trauma to the skin, which may permanently widen the pore.
The key to making pores appear smaller is to keep them clear. During the day, stick with noncomedogenic moisturizers and makeup; avoid products that contain heavy ingredients, like petrolatum and mineral oil, both of which may irritate pores and make them look bigger. Always wash your face with a gentle cleanser before bed to prevent the day’s dirt and makeup from clogging pores. Cleanse before and after working out, since sweat can carry cosmetics and debris to pore openings, where they’ll settle in and stretch the skin. When you cleanse, consider doing it with a power brush. Research shows that its more than twice as effective as using your hands to wash your skin.
Exfoliating is also crucial, since it removes pore-enlarging dead cells from the skin’s surface. Exfoliate daily if your skin is hardy and doesn’t get red, one to three times a week if your skin is sensitive. Choose an over-the-counter gel, mask, or lotion that contains a proven sloughing ingredient, such as alpha hydroxy acids, retinol, or fruit enzymes. If in addition to having large pores, you tend to break out, choose a lotion with salicylic acid instead. Try Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Daily Moisturizing Lotion. It will exfoliate while treating blemishes. And remember: When you exfoliate, you need to use an SPF 15 product daily, since removing dead cells can make skin more sensitive to UV light.
There are several masks and scrubs that you can use to minimize skin pores and make your skin appear fresh and supple.
Ground Oatmeal: Mix 2 tablespoons of this with yogurt and place it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Then apply this paste to your skin for 30 minutes and wash off with lukewarm water. You can also make a paste of ground oatmeal, lemon juice, gram flower and rose water. Apply the paste on your face and rinse off when dry.
Egg-White: Prepare a mask with the egg-whites of 2 eggs and a few drops of lemon juice. Leave it on the face for a few minutes and then wash it off. This remedy tightens the skin and clears excess oil and dead cells.
The Fruity-Way: Tomatoes can be used in a number of ways to reduce oil content, sizes of pores and their appearance. Add the juice of a tomato to sandalwood or calamine powder and apply on the face. Alternately, dip cotton in tomato juice and apply. Leave it on for about 15 minutes before washing it off. Mashed papaya, when applied on the face is also helpful in toning the skin. Similarly useful is a paste of honey, lemon juice and sugar. Gently massage with it on the skin and finally wash off with lukewarm water.
For stubborn pores, you’ll need to take your treatment to the next level. A dermatologist can prescribe a more powerful exfoliant, such as Retin-A Micro. In-office glycolic or salicylic acid peels are also a good way to keep pores clear, says Waldorf. You’ll probably need at least three treatments, at a cost of about $100 each. For even more dramatic results, Jaliman likes to use a nonablative laser. The procedure is quick, taking about 20 minutes, and is designed to increase collagen, which tightens pores. Although you’ll see results in a single treatment, most patients need two to three, at a cost of about $500 each.