How to Shrink the Appearance of Large Pores

how to shrink poresWe all want satiny smooth skin, and big pores often stand in the way of having that.  Well, there’s good news and bad news when it comes to shrinking large pores.

First the good news:  You CAN make your large pores appear smaller.

Pore appearance changes based on how plump the skin is between the pores!

Think of your pores like buttons in a tufted pillow.  The plusher and puffier the pillow the deeper the button looks.  The same is true with your skin. If you de-plump the top layers of your skin (both the living layer, called the epidermis, and its dead skin cell layer, called the stratum corneum), it’s like making the “pillow” flatter … and your pores will appear finer and smaller.

You can temporarily de-plump your skin and  refine your pore size with:

  1. clay masks
  2. the Clarisonic Sonic Skin Cleansing System
  3. skin toners and astringents
  4. exfoliation

The effects are temporary, but effective!  This is how they work:

Dermatologist’s Tricks to Shrink Large Pores

Clay masks

Clay draws out water and oil from your skin, temporarily giving your skin a nice, tightening sensation and refined texture, which means that your pores will appear smaller.  Clay masks pull oil and water out of your pores (and possibly anything bound to them which is why some people claim they are detoxifying).

You can apply your own clay mask treatment at home by buying one of the many available clay mask products.  One popular product that has been around for years is Borghese Fango Active Mask.  There are other clay masks in natural skin care lines too.  Look for a clay mask product that matches your skin’s tolerance and fits your budget.

Clay masks are usually a combination of bentonite and kaolin clay.  When added to a professional facial they’re great for refining skin tone and texture, and our aestheticians often do this. I personally love the results of a clay mask on my sensitive skin.  It is important to know, however, that clay masks can over-dry and irritate your skin if you use them too frequently.  Find that “sweet spot” where you get refined texture without over-drying.

The Clarisonic Brush Sonic Skin Cleansing

The Clarisonic Plus or Pro System uses sonic energy and the vibrations of a brush to pulse your cleanser down into your pores.  Oil and clogged pore debris can then be lifted out of the pores.  Empty pores look cleaner and smaller because the black appearance of clogged pores make the pores look bigger.  I sell a lot of Clarisonic systems in my dermatology office and everyone loves them.  I use my Clarisonic Brush every night to cleanse my facial skin and it’s honestly one of the best appliances I’ve every purchased!

Click here to learn more about the Clarisonic Plus Sonic Skin Cleansing System.

Skin Toners and Astringents:

Toners work using alcohol or acetone (yes it’s true) to remove oil and fluid from the pores and top skin layers to refine and tone skin texture.  Again, the results are temporary but the pores will appear smaller.  Many acne cleansing pads contain alcohol or acetone including my OTB Skin Pore Cleansing Padsacne products for clogged pores Alcohol or acetone-based products are really only suitable for tolerant, oily skin; they’re just too irritating for sensitive or dry skin.  If you can’t tolerate alcohol or acetone toners, you may be able to use witch hazel, which is milder but accomplishes some of the same goals.

Skin Exfoliation

Exfoliation means the removal of dead skin cells from the upper skin layer to brighten skin texture and de-plump the skin. It’s one of my favorite steps in any skin-care regimen because of its instant gratification. Removing the dull layer of dead skin cells on top of your living skin layer gives you brighter, smoother, more radiant looking skin with a velvety soft texture.  The trick is to know your skin and only exfoliate as much as your skin can handle.

You can use simple physical methods to exfoliate, using the pressure with which you rub the product onto your skin to determine the amount of exfoliation.  You can, alternatively use chemical methods such as alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, other skin peeling acids or retinoids.

You can use exfoliation products at home or you can have microdermabrasion or acid peels done by a professional. (My aestheticians perform the new Obagi Blue Peel Radiance in the office and it’s obvious when someone has just had it done because their skin looks amazing!)  The trick is to find the product or procedure that suits your skin because chemical exfoliation is always a little irritating.

You have a lot of options for exfoliation and it’s important to find the right method for your particular skin and budget.

Types of Exfoliation Used In My Dermatology Practice:

Physical Skin Exfoliation:

  1. Facial Buf Puf Sponge, which is a simple and inexpensive way to exfoliate.  You can use it with your favorite skin cleanser. Facial Buf Puf Sponge
  2. A gritty scrub can be used twice a week to exfoliate.  I like products with rounded grains instead of angular crystals that can create micro-scratches on the skin surface.  A great option is Replenix Scrub with rolled bamboo granules.  Click here to see more about Replenix Scrub. Neutrogena’s Deep Clean Relaxing Daily Scrub is another product that my patients like.
  3. Microdermabrasion treatments done professionally by aestheticians are another option for exfoliation. I instruct my patients to have these at 6-to-8-week intervals to keep their skin tone and texture in top shape.  It’s a simple, controlled, superficial sanding of the dead skin cells to create radiant, smooth skin texture and a smaller pore appearance, especially when followed by a facial.  To learn more about the benefits of Microdermabrasion Facials click here for my aesthetician’s description of the procedure.

Chemical Skin Exfoliation:

  1. Tretinoin is my favorite treatment to maintain exfoliated skin.  It’s a prescription.  Non-prescription retinoids are good exfoliants too but they don’t have the other benefits that tretinoin has (anti-cancer, molecularly turning down pigment production and turning on collagen production).
  2. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) can be used in your at-home skin care products or can be done as peels by aestheticians, nurses or physicians.  Glycolic acid is the best AHA for exfoliation and I love the results that it has on skin.  I have a full collection of the strongest professional glycolic acid products available and have used them on myself and my patients for over 20 years. They allow you to slowly step up to the stronger levels as your skin is conditioned by the lower concentration products (which are still stronger than non-professional AHA products!)  Click here to see my professional strength Glycolic Acid Facial Skin Care Products.
  3. Beta Hydroxy Acid (salicylic acid) is commonly used for acne.  It can be used in at-home products at a concentration of 2%, or you can have in-office peels using higher concentrations.  We just added the Obagi Blue Peel Radiance and my office staff and aesthetician’s clients love the instant refinement of skin tone and texture that they get with this peel.  The home use salicylic acid products that I recommend for my patients are my OTB Skin Oil Off Cleanser and OTB Skin Pore Cleansing Pads (mentioned above) which also contain glycolic acid.  Neutrogena also has a salicylic acid wash and toner that people like too.

Other Treatments and Tricks to Make Pores Appear Smaller:

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments are also fantastic for refining the texture and appearance of pores.  Skin feels incredible after a treatment.  I use Sciton’s BBL for IPL treatments and I love the results. IPL treatments can be done on fair to moderately-pigmented skin (up to Fitzpatrick type 4).  Laser peels can help too.  I can add a micro laser peel to any BBL treatment to really help de-plump the top skin layer and minimize the appearance of pores.

Unclog your pores because clogged pores look bigger. Unclogging your pores and getting all the oil, dead skin and debris out will go a long way to improving the appearance of your skin texture.  Click here for the link to my post on How to Unclog Your Clogged Pores.

Now the bad news: The size of your pores can’t actually change.

It’s sad but true.  Nothing can really make the pore diameter smaller.  But, remember the good news, you can change how big they look with the tricks I mentioned above! If your large pores appear smaller, then your skin looks great, and that’s what matters.

Photo: Thanks and Gratitude to DownTownPictures

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5 Responses to “How to Shrink the Appearance of Large Pores”

  1. Christine June 14, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Oh wow, LOVE this article! Such great info. I was so excited to see that you were covering this topic, and then I was reading it and found a reference to me! Thanks so much! :D

  2. Cynthia Bailey MD June 14, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Hi Christine,
    I love your blog!
    Cheers, Cynthia Bailey MD

  3. Pradnyaa June 17, 2011 at 4:47 am #

    Hi!
    I liked the blog, guess I’ll be visiting often now.
    … I was wondering if there are ways to prevent the large pores…?
    Pradnyaa

  4. Cynthia Bailey MD June 17, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    Hello Pradnyaa,
    Genetics plays a big role in how oily skin is and how large pores will appear after puberty. That said, I do have some ideas but there is not good scientific studies to guide my comment. My observation over the years of examining people’s skin is that it seems as though the best ‘luck’ for modifying pore size is by controlling acne, keeping pores unclogged, following the same instructions in this post and eating a healthy diet that does not contain a lot of greasy foods and junk foods.
    Good question!
    Cynthia Bailey MD

  5. emily June 17, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Great article! Thanks Dr. Bailey for all your amazing skin-care advice and inside knowledge!