Can I reduce the size of my pores?

The really important takeaway here is that you cannot change pore size.

Pores are the openings to hair follicles, and they’re all over the body except for the palms and soles of our feet. Pores contain hair follicles and sebaceous—oil-producing—glands. The size of our pores varies across the body, which is why you might notice the pores on your nose and chin more than the pores on your forearms. Pore size is genetic, and despite what tons of skincare products would have you assume, it’s impossible to shrink pores.1 “The really important takeaway here is that you cannot change pore size,” says Dr. Tiffany Jow Libby, a board-certified dermatologist and the Director of Mohs Micrographic and Dermatologic Surgery at Brown Dermatology—it’s something she has to repeatedly convey to patients who ask about minimizing their pores. You can reduce the appearance of pores, though, by cleansing and using oil-clearing and skin-tightening products. But the only real 100 percent pore eliminator is a good camera filter.

So, in short: no, you cannot reduce the size of your pores. A splash of ice water might make your face feel extra clean, tightened up, and reduce the appearance of pores, but it’s temporary. And hey, maybe that’s all you need. Pores can expand when they’re filling up with sebum, dead skin, and bacteria; they also may expand with age, as the skin loses elasticity.2 Cleansing and using products that dissolve some of  the oil in the pores, like salicylic acid, can return the pore to what seems like its “normal size.”

Remember, Dr. Libby says, “Pores are normal. I think that people start focusing on them because all of these filters give us a poreless look, but pores are completely normal. Everyone has pores and everyone is going to have to do the same things to minimize the way they appear. Some people will genetically have more oily skin than others, and larger pores, and they might need to do more to minimize their appearance than others.” One of the easiest ways to minimize the appearance of pores might be to step further away from the mirror—and don’t let them get to you.

1Facial skin pores: a multiethnic study by Frederic Flament, Ghislain Francois, Huixia Qiu, Chengda Ye, Tomoo Hanaya, et al. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol.
2Facial Pores: Definition, Causes, and Treatment Options by Sang Ju Lee, Joon Seok, Se Yeong Jeong, Kui Young Park, Kapsok Li, and Seong Jun Seo. Dermatol Surg.

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Clogged Pores

Pores are filled with a buildup of sebum, dead skin cells, bacteria, and other minuscule debris.

Also Called

Whiteheads, blackheads, acne, pimples

Looks Like

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Frequently Found On

Back, chest, arms

Learn More: Clogged Pores