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Can you shrink your pores? Here's what skincare experts say.

By Kathleen Felton
October 16, 2019

Large pores are a common skincare complaint. But unfortunately, making them smaller isn't as simple as just taking a cold shower. "Contrary to popular believe, there are no muscles within your pores, so treatments with cold water will not shrink them," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

What causes large pores?

First, the bad news. "The size of your pores depends primarily on your genes," says New York City dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD. As a result, no single lotion or potion will make pores magically shrink in size, at least not right away.

"Treating pore size is definitely a lifelong process," adds Arash Akhavan, MD, a dermatologist at the Dermatology and Laser Group in New York City. "You're fighting genetics and aging."

But don't despair: Over-the-counter products can temporarily minimize the appearance of pores, and there are also treatments that unclog large pores so they're a lot less noticeable.

The best pore-minimizing products

Pores are hair follicles. And no matter their size, they can appear more prominent if you have blackheads, an accumulation of oil and dead skin cells that makes follicles look darker. So some of the best pore-minimizing products are actually pore-unclogging products like physical and chemical exfoliators and pore strips.

"Dead cells around the opening of the pores interfere with light reflection and make them look larger," explains Dr. Zeichner. "By removing excess oil within the pore, you can make them look smaller."

Ingredients like retinol, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, kaolin clay, and benzoyl peroxide can also make pores appear cleaner and therefore smaller, experts say.

If home remedies aren't working, consider booking an appointment with your dermatologist for in-office extractions, which physically de-gunk pores so they look smaller. "Microdermabrasion [at your dermatologist's office] is helpful for the same reason," adds Dr. Jaliman, "since it gets rid of dead surface skin."

Other options include laser resurfacing treatments and chemical peels. "[These treatments] are effective for building collagen," says Dr. Akhavan, explaining that boosting collagen production is essential since it can help strengthen skin around pores.

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