If I had a dime for every conversation I’ve had about pores, I wouldn’t be writing this post.

I would be living my “Real Housewives” dream life: lunching, shopping and fighting about sprinkle cookies, puppies or whether or not someone ate the bow off of the cake at my name-change party — aka way too rich.

Pores are a huge skin care concern across age and gender, specifically how to make them smaller and clearer. The hard truth to face is that we can’t change the size of our pores. Unfortunately and unfairly, it’s determined by genetics and time. (As we age, skin loses elasticity, which causes our pores to dilate.) You can, however, make them appear smaller using a few different tactics.


Before we address how to care for our pores, let’s set the record straight on one of skin care’s biggest myths: Pores don’t open and close.


When your skin is exposed to steam, the steam loosens what’s inside of them, which makes our pores dilate and appear larger. The “pore-tightening” peel-off masks and strips aren’t actually shrinking your pores, they’re just ripping out some debris. They’re also pumped with alcohol, which makes your skin and pores feel “tighter” when, in reality, all it did was dry out your skin. These are quick fixes with temporary results, but there are ways to keep pores looking smaller and clearer over time.

Proper cleansing sets the stage.

Pores look bigger when filled with face gunk (sebum, dirt, makeup, etc.). Keep your pores clear by cleansing. Double-cleansing is a great way to ensure you get everything out. Like attracts like, so an oil-based cleanser (such as Farmacy Green Clean Cleansing Balm) or micellar water (Simple Kind to Skin Cleansing Micellar Water) will remove that top layer of oil-based products.

A gel or cream cleanser (try Summer Fridays Super Amino Gel Cleanser) gets deeper into pores and cleanses your skin. Also, using a cleansing brush a few times a week will help, too. Even if your whole face is too sensitive for a cleansing brush, it’s great for thicker and more oily spots like your nose and chin.

Exfoliation keeps pores clear.

Exfoliating your skin two to three times a week sloughs away dead skin cells and oil, which would otherwise clog your pores. A treatment such as Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment contains a blend of AHAs to exfoliate and BHA to dissolve oil in the pore and unclog it.

Retinoids are your best friend.

Since they promote exfoliation, which keeps dead skin from clogging pores, retinoids are a great option, too. They also boost collagen production to keep pore walls firm. The best ones are prescription-strength creams you can get from a dermatologist, but most people need to build a tolerance to retinoids since initial side effects include burning, redness and some peeling. Start with something gentler, such as Differin Gel, once a week and then very gradually build it up over time.

Consult the pros.

If these tricks aren’t enough, it’s time to make an appointment. Dermatologists and derm physician assistants have access to the best topical products as well as laser treatments that can improve the look of skin and pores. Estheticians can assess what’s going on with your skin as well as perform facials, extractions and other techniques that are way safer than you in your bathroom squeezing away. Most salons and spas that offer skin care services have a licensed esthetician on staff. You can ask for credentials to make sure.

Cover it up.

Addressing the root of the problem is always the way to go, but in the meantime, there’s always makeup. A primer lays a base and keeps makeup from setting into pores. (I love Tatcha The Silk Canvas because of its silky consistency and smooth application.)

Application also is key when it comes to makeup. Using a round brush to buff in makeup can create texture and draw more attention to pores. Apply primer and foundation with a Beautyblender, which blurs the look of pores and helps product melt into skin.