Sorry, But I Don't Like Primer—15 Pore-Minimizing Alternatives I Use Instead

Like almost every other human, I have enlarged pores. It's always the ones around my nose and chin that give me the most trouble. Seeing their stretched-out appearance (complete with blackheads) drives me crazy. 

I hate to say it, but in the past, I would resort to pore strips, drying clay masks, and harsh scrubs to clear them out and minimize their appearance. While these things certainly worked, they never offered a long-term solution and ultimately did more harm than good to my sensitive skin. I also tried using pore-minimizing primers before applying makeup, but I was never impressed by the result. Sure, some offered a blurring effect, but it felt like I was putting a band-aid over the problem and not actually solving it. I wanted a long-term solution to my pore problem, and I found it in chemical exfoliants.

How to fix enlarged pores



As so many dermatologists and estheticians have taught me, the size of your pores is a predetermined thing. In other words, you can't actually shrink them, but you can minimize their appearance by keeping them clear. After all, it's pore-clogging materials like excess oil, dirt, makeup, and other debris that causes them to stretch. And when that pore-clogging material oxidizes, it becomes a blackhead. thanks. 

Pore-minimizing products



Chemical exfoliants, also known as exfoliating acids, cut through that cycle. They work by dissolving the bonds that hold pore-clogging material to the skin. Some of them, called beta-hydroxy acids or BHAs, can even penetrate the pore to clear them out and stop them from looking so perceptible. These chemical exfoliants are the long-term solution to my pore problem. When I use them about twice a week, I notice my pores look small and tight, and my blackheads disappear. Not only that, but my skin is smoother, brighter, and more even. It's like a win-win-win. Ahead, see 12 chemical exfoliants I love. 

Shop My Favorite Pore-Minimizing & Exfoliating Products

I love Peach & Lily products, and this exfoliating mask is no exception. With 10% AHAs and 0.5% BHA, plus blue agave, I swear it gives me professional-grade exfoliation. After using this, my skin looks brighter, feels smoother, and my pores look smaller and tighter. 

With AHAs, BHAs (glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids), and pineapple enzymes, this face mask has a triple-exfoliating action that sloughs away dead skin and removes pore-clogging debris. After I use it, the pores on my nose look better. The best part is that it's so effective you only have to use it for two to three minutes to see results. 

Another long-time favorite. This exfoliating mask works like a charm on my enlarged pores. It's all thanks to a blend of six AHAs, one PHA, and an azelaic acid derivative. It looks and smells like a compote because of a blend of berries that give your skin a kick of free-radical fighting antioxidants.

As the companion to the peel above, this scrub is gentle yet effective for minimizing everything from hyperpigmentation to rough texture and enlarged pores. It uses round jojoba beads instead of harsh salt or sugar crystals, so it won't irritate your skin. 

TikTok never steers me wrong. When I saw this viral liquid exfoliant on my timeline, I knew I needed to try it, and as a longtime fan of Paula's Choice products, I knew I'd like it. It visibly minimizes the appearance of enlarged pores after just a couple of uses. 

I just recently discovered this brand, and I've been low-key in love with it ever since. This effective glycolic acid toner is totally in line with its effortless French approach to skincare. With 8% glycolic acid, it minimizes enlarged pores and clears blackheads. 

This two-step peel from celebrity esthetician Shani Darden uses three exfoliating acids (glycolic, lactic, mandelic) to resurface the skin. There's also a kaolin clay neutralizing mask to instantly clean pores. 

Yet another exfoliating mask from a celebrity esthetician. This time it's Joanna Vargas. I swear this one smooths my skin, brightens my complexion, and minimizes the appearance of my pores like magic. Lactic acid and fruit enzymes exfoliate the skin, kaolin clay draws out impurities, and galactoarabinan and vitamin C reduce hyperpigmentation. 

As a beauty editor, I love turning to The Ordinary for effective and affordable skincare products. One of the serums I count on is this salicylic acid one. Salicylic acid is a BHA that can penetrate deep into the pores to clear out debris and prevent blackheads from forming. It can be a little drying, so I only use it where my pores look pronounced, so my nose and chin. 

This is an oldie but a goodie. I've been using these exfoliating pads since high school, and they never fail to clear out stubborn pores and keep blackheads in check. 

Inspired by traditional Scandinavian spas, this warming and cooling facial scrub includes glycolic acid, lactic acid, and volcanic sand to minimize and refine pores. 

This liquid exfoliant contains glycolic and salicylic acids, as well as an ingredient called gluconolactone, which exfoliates while moisturizing and conditioning the skin. In other words, it's a good ingredient for irritation-prone skin.