Pores are essential for healthy skin function, yet the appearance of enlarged pores is a perennial concern for many. While you can’t make pores disappear, the good news is that you can make them look significantly smaller. “Pores can look dramatically reduced when using effective ingredients to help shed dead skin cells that can clog and enlarge pores further,” says renowned skincare expert Paula Begoun – founder of Paula’s Choice. So, what are the best products and treatments? Our go-to skincare experts share their advice and recommendations…
Don’t use harsh exfoliators
“Avoid harsh scrubs and cleansing brushes with stiff bristles,” says Begoun. “They can make skin dry and flaky, creating more dead skin that can block pores – and this irritation can trigger oil production.” Her preference is to use a leave-on exfoliant. “The absolute essential ingredients for pores are AHAs, such as glycolic or lactic acid, and BHAs, such as salicylic acid.” Alpha-hydroxy acids exfoliate and resurface the skin, which helps to refine the appearance of pores; beta-hydroxy acids work deeper and deep-clean pores thanks to their anti-bacterial properties. When first introducing an AHA or BHA, expect a mild tingle – opt for a gentler product and limit use to two to three times a week, until your skin becomes more tolerant. Remember, stronger isn’t necessarily better.
Do thoroughly cleanse
“Not cleansing properly can definitely increase the risk of clogged pores,” says Begoun, who advises paying more attention at night, making sure to remove all makeup, sunscreen and excess sebum. “If they build up, it can make clogged, enlarged pores worse.” Begoun advises using a gentle, water-soluble cleanser that isn’t drying or strips the skin of too much oil. “Surprisingly, these can make oiliness worse and cause supporting elements in the skin to break down, leading to loss of elasticity and stretched pores.” The goal is never to have squeaky-clean skin, but using a soft washcloth or very gentle scrub can help to remove all of the day’s dirt and grime, allowing active ingredients to work more efficiently.
Do add niacinamide and retinol
“Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, is a brilliant ingredient for pore size,” says Begoun. The hero ingredient has been shown to help visibly minimize enlarged pores, improve uneven skin tone, soften fine lines and wrinkles, diminish dullness and strengthen a weakened surface. Begoun also advises using retinol, which tackles multiple concerns. “It not only stimulates cell rejuvenation but also helps pores function normally.” The dynamic duo pair very well together, as niacinamide can help mitigate any irritation from the retinol. If layering two different products, apply in the order of lighter formulation to heavier, for optimum absorption.
Don’t ignore your daytime routine
For a quick fix, pore-minimizing primers will instantly blur the appearance of pores for a smooth base. Avoid using base products with too much shimmer or glow where large pores are a problem, as it can make pores more noticeable. SPF is also non-negotiable. “Sun damage destroys skin’s elasticity, which stretches out the pores, leading to what some describe as a rough, orange peel-like texture,” says Begoun. UVA and UVB rays damage skin cells so they don’t function optimally, which distorts the shape of pores. Use an SPF30 or higher and make sure to use textures that best suit your skin. “If the condition of your pores is an issue, then how to handle it depends on your skin type,” says Begoun. “If you have oily or combination skin, use lightweight fluids or gels. For dry skin, creamier, more emollient-textured products are better.”
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