"Shrinking" enlarged pores can be an uphill battle at times. The truth is you can't really change the shape of your pores with one specific product. Your pore size is determined by a bunch of different factors, such as genetics, age, sun exposure, and skin type. The good news is you can disguise or hide them if you use the right products.
Some ingredients to look for that are good for hiding pores are AHAs and BHAs, which can exfoliate, and retinoids, which can unclog the pores. Sunscreen will also protect your skin from sun damage, preventing your pores from seeming enlarged.
You also want to make sure you're in a good routine with cleaning your face and exfoliating, as unclogging the gunk and oil will make your pores appear smaller. But don't forget to go gentle here—you don't want to scrub so hard or wash your face so much that you cause inflammation and redness.
If you're looking for products that can make your pores seem smaller, we've compiled highly rated options below. Just remember that at the end of the day, we all have pores. Don't stress too much if you think your pores look huge—having them is completely natural!
What are pore-minimizing products, and how often should you use them?
Board-certified dermatologist Brendan Camp, MD, wants to reiterate that you're not necessarily changing your pore size with products like this. "Pore-minimizing products reduce the appearance of pores, but they do not actually shrink them," he says. "Exfoliants and ingredients that clear and prevent clogged pores can make pores less noticeable so that they appear smaller."
"Pore-minimizing products are available as masks, moisturizers, serums, and toners. They can be used after cleanser but before moisturizing. Apply pore-minimizing moisturizers as a last step before sunscreen in the morning. Most pore-minimizing products can be used twice daily, morning and night. The frequency of use can be adjusted for those with more sensitive skin or during times of the year when skin is prone to dryness, like winter," he adds.
What ingredients should your pore-minimizing product contain?
Camp says there are a few key ingredients you'll want to look for if you're trying to shrink the appearance of enlarged pores. "Alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic and lactic acid, act as gentle exfoliants. They can remove dead skin over pores that can otherwise cause them to be blocked or appear engorged and dilated," he explains. "Beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, penetrate deep into pores to remove excess oil, which can also make pores look enlarged. Retinoids can also help regulate cell turnover. They are helpful treatments for dilated pores, blackheads, and whiteheads."
Take a look at some of our favorite pore-minimizing products below.
1. Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner
Pros: Affordable, balances oily skin, provides extra hydration, minimizes enlarged pores
Cons: May not be suitable for dry skin
This toner contains niacinamide to minimize the appearance of pores, hyaluronic acid and ceramides to restore the moisture barrier, and chamomile and burdock-root extract to soothe sensitive skin.
Customer Review: "I've used this for years, and it's reliable and good quality. I like that it doesn't have any exfoliating ingredients, so I don't have to worry about it interacting with any of my other products."
2. SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5
Pros: Improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helps reduce and prevent breakouts
With 0.5% pure retinol, SkinCeuticals' nighttime treatment not only improves the appearance of pores, but it also promotes cell turnover and targets fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, and blemishes. If you're normally sensitive to retinol, you'll be happy to know that this one is formulated to minimize irritation.
Customer Review: "All their products are remarkable, and this is no exception. Results are apparent—firmer, smoother, less lined, and [rested] looking skin."
3. Bioderma Sébium Pore Refiner Cream
Pros: Great for oily skin, helps minimize enlarged pores, contains salicylic acid to clear clogged pores
Cons: May not be suitable for dry skin
This pore-refining cream is especially helpful for those with oily and combination skin. It contains salicylic acid to exfoliate and silica powder and anti-reflection particles to mattify.
Customer Review: "I have HUGE pores on my nose and have tried lots of products, but this is the only one that works. I could see a difference immediately and it keeps looking better every day! I've only been using it for a week and am well pleased. Can't wait to see what happens after a month!"
4. Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner
Pros: Hydrates while gently exfoliating, minimizes the appearance of pores
Cons: May be too strong for sensitive skin
The watermelon extract in Glow Recipe's toner hydrates and soothes the skin, while hyaluronic acid and cactus water seal in moisture, and PHA and BHA exfoliate and clean pores.
Customer Review: "I love this product! It's so great, my skin has been amazing since I got this product. And the smell is amazing. Definitely would recommend."
5. The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution
Pros: Affordable, contains a trio of exfoliating acids, helps clear blemishes, improves skin texture
Cons: May be too strong for sensitive skin
The Ordinary's liquid exfoliant is a blend of acids: glycolic and lactic to exfoliate the outer layers of the skin and salicylic to unclog the pores.
Customer Review: "I have started using this one to two times a week. And I'm loving it! It helps the texture and dryness. This is one of my holy-grail products. Will be re-buying!"
6. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel
Pros: Pre-dosed with seven acids and 12 antioxidants to clear acne, reduce fine lines, and improve skin texture
Dr. Dennis Gross's two-step peel is so iconic. (Seriously, it's got so many fans.) It improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars, pores, and shine.
Customer Review: "I've only used this product three times, and I'm already blown away. I have very dry, acne-prone skin. Buying products has always been hard for me. I wanted to try this for so long, so during the sale, I went ahead and got it. This product has easily become one of my holy grails in a very short amount of time. As said, I've always had acne-prone skin. This is accompanied with texture, enlarged pores, and redness. Within the first three days, almost all are practically gone. And the best part, this doesn't cause my skin to become overly dry or flaky. In fact, the opposite. My skin has never felt softer and hydrated. I can not recommend this product enough, it is truly worth the price tag."
7. Biossance Squalane + BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner
Pros: Alcohol-free, contains naturally derived AHAs and BHAs to tighten pores, hydrates skin, gentle
Biossance's toner is alcohol-free, so you know it will be gentle on the skin. It's formulated with white willow bark extract, which is similar to salicylic acid, unclogs pores, minimizes excess oil, and exfoliates. Plus, it has caviar lime extract to clear away dead skin cells and sugarcane-derived squalane to moisturize and soothe.
Customer Review: "I have sensitive/combination skin, this product is light and fresh, doesn't sting or cause my skin to react, in fact, it's extremely moisturizing and has helped those pesky period chin pimples to diminish. I will be using this product forever! I've been looking for a replacement for Son & Park's Beauty Water for YEARS, and tried at least six other toners/beauty waters, none felt as good. A Sephora employee recommended this product, and it is the perfect dupe for that super-expensive product! I'm sooo happy I found it."
8. Perricone MD No Rinse Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner
Pros: Contains salicylic acid to purify pores and vitamin C to brighten, smooths skin texture, reduces fine lines
Perricone MD's toner has so many benefits. Not only is it a pore minimizer, but it also lifts the skin and improves firmness and elasticity.
Customer Review: "I love this toner. It's not irritating or drying, but it feels like it gets your face squeaky clean. After using it, your face feels ready to absorb whatever your next step is. Perfect for oily skin."
9. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Serum
Pros: Provides mild exfoliation with glycolic acid and salicylic acid, helps reduce the appearance of pores and fine lines
Cons: Not fragrance-free
This serum mildly exfoliates to clear and smooth the skin. It contains LHA and AHA glycolic acids to tighten enlarged pores, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, clear blemishes, and promote glowy skin.
Customer Review: "If you have oily, acne-prone skin this product will work, it's very lightweight and dries quick, with consistent use, and don't forget to protect your moisture barrier, or you may feel irritation and burning, but the SA, glycolic acid, and niacinamide will make you less oily, unclog pores, and even skin tone. There is fragrance in this product like all their serums, which is my only beef with this product. 9/10."
10. PCA Skin Pore Refining Treatment
Pros: Contains gentle exfoliating ingredients and clays to draw out impurities and clear pores, soothes irritation and redness
This pore-refining treatment is formulated with exfoliating ingredients like mandelic acid, papain, rice powder, and pumice, plus kaolin and bentonite clays to draw out impurities and clear pores and bisabolol to calm the skin.
Customer Review: "This is my favorite exfoliator ever! I wake up with baby-smooth skin and a clearer complexion."
11. Caudalie Instant Detox Mask
Pros: Cleanses impurities and tightens pores with pink clay, caffeine smooths and brightens the skin
Cons: Can be drying on the skin
Leave this mask on for 10 minutes and you'll get tighter pores and clearer skin. It's infused with grape-seed polyphenols for antioxidant benefits, sustainably sourced clay to clear impurities and excess sebum, and natural caffeine to illuminate the skin.
Customer Review: "After one application of this product, my skin cleared right up. I now use once a week, and it leaves my skin smooth and glowy."
12. Kiehl's Rare Earth Deep Pore Minimizing Cleansing Clay Mask
Pros: Minimizes pores and clears blackheads, absorbs excess oil in the skin, aloe soothes redness and irritation
Cons: Can be drying on the skin
The Amazonian white clay in this mask absorbs excess oil and detoxifies. It also won't leave your skin dry or irritated since the formula contains aloe to soothe.
Customer Review: "Wow! This has quickly become one of my favorite products. I just purchased this last week, and already, I can see improvements in my pores. Due to stress, my pores had started to become very visible when they never used to be, and my skin looked dull. After using this product less than three times, I can already see the difference! My skin looks smooth and vibrant again, and I love how soft and silky the mask is—I feel like I'm at the spa. I just love Kiehl's products—their mixtures really resonate with my skin!"
13. Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Pore Exfoliating Treatment
Pros: Fruit enzymes and exfoliating acids provide deep exfoliation of the skin, and aloe vera and honey smooth and soften
Cons: Expensive, may be too strong for sensitive skin types
This scrub has both chemical and mechanical exfoliants: lactic acid, salicylic acid, and silica. Other ingredients include papaya, pineapple, and pumpkin enzymes to enhance skin exfoliation, plus aloe vera, honey, and vitamin E to smooth and soften.
Customer Review: "Sometimes [your] skin needs a little restart. I received this as a sample, and it was just fabulous! My pores felt cleared, my skin felt even and left feeling soft like a [baby's] butt. Definitely will be purchasing the full size."
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.