For most of us, pores have been the bane of our existence since we first looked in the mirror and saw them (and the requisite blackheads) staring back at us. But unlike cringe-worthy class pictures and braces, it’s pretty much impossible to grow out of big pores. And, adding insult to injury, they actually begin to look worse as you get older. But before you start loading up on all the pore-hiding primers that money can buy, read this.


So, You Can See Your Pores From a Mile Away…
It’s not just you. As if we weren’t already concerned about crows’ feet and fine lines, aging also causes pores to look bigger than ever. “Collagen and GAGs—glycolaminoglycans and elastin, which are basically the packing material in our skin—becomes depleted,” says Annet King, director of global education at the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica. “This diminishes the strength of skin and the support around the follicles.” So the skin around your pores starts to sag, which, in turn, makes your pores look rounder and more obvious. On top of this, a nasty combination of dead skin cells, sebum, and dirt builds up in pores over time. If you don’t regularly exfoliate your face (here’s how often you should do it), this mixture will just stay inside those pores (which then stretch out to fit it) and clog them, causing blackheads and breakouts.

Why Your Pores Aren’t Shrinking
Back away from the mirror and put your hands down! The worst way to deal with a blackhead that won’t budge is to DIY it, tempting as it is to get your fingers in there and squeeze that mofo out. “Trying to extract them at home can lead to hyperpigmentation, permanent scarring, and additional breakouts,” warns King. Also, while scrubs can seem like the perfect way to get into and subsequently buff grime out of pores, they can do more harm than good. “Mechanical exfoliation—like microbeads and ‘crushed’ ingredients—can be sharp and may irritate skin,” says Neal Schultz, M.D., NYC dermatologist and founder of skin care line BeautyRx. If you prefer a physical exfoliator, look for one with fine, round granules (keep reading for our recommendation).

The Right Way to Shrink Them
If you have seriously oversized pores, you have to tackle them in every step of your skincare routine. King’s a fan of double-cleansing, since the first cleanser clears makeup out of the way so the second can penetrate better for a deeper, more thorough cleaning than either can achieve alone. Then, exfoliate. “You can refine the appearance of pores through exfoliation, along with ingredients that slow sebum secretions and draw out impurities,” says King. Look for ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, charcoal, and kaolin (a kind of white clay). You can use old-school pore strips too, but they’re not really a long-term solution. “They’re fine, but they’re temporary. Pores get re-clogged and re-enlarged,” explains Schultz. “You can’t do that on a daily basis.” If pores are your biggest skin complaint and No. 1 enemy, you may want to consider visiting your dermatologist, who can administer more intensive treatments like chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or even LED light therapy (which targets oil glands). If not, try taking them on with pore-cleaning products first.

Your Pore-Cleaning Dream Team


1. Cleansers in stick form are yet another Korean import (if only we had a dollar for every time we said this). This one contains activated charcoal, which absorbs pore-clogging gunk.
Boscia Deep Pore Cleansing Stick Treatment, $28,

2. This exfoliator sloughs off dead cells and grime with rice granules, which are so tiny that it’s more of a powder than a scrub. This makes it so gentle that you can use it every day.
Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, $55,

3. The heavy-duty exfoliators in this—glycolic acid, pumpkin seed extract, and tea tree oil—work synergistically and at a chemical level, meaning they eat away the gunk in pores instead of physically sloughing it off. Try it on extra-oily areas, like your nose.
BeautyRx Dermstick for Pores, $29,

4. Clay masks are the gold standard for oily skin types (who tend to have bigger pores, since oil contributes to the clogging). But most can work too well and strip skin of moisture. In just two minutes, this mask sucks out toxins—but it’s not on long enough to harm skin’s hydration.
Bobbi Brown Instant Detox Hawaiian Sea Water & White Clay Mask, $47,

5. It pays to be strategic: Cool temperatures tighten up pores (while, conversely, heat opens them up), so slather on this cooling face mask after you’ve given your pores a thorough cleansing. They’ll look smaller and less noticeable.
Caolion Pore Original Pack, $35,

6. The bad news is that your pores will never go away forever. The good news: Once they’re small, they’re easier to hide. Think of this as an Instagram filter for them. It contains optic particles that blur skin for a super-smooth finish.
The Estée Edit by Estée Lauder Pore Vanishing Stick, $28,

Watch a Korean Beauty Expert Share Her Top Places to Shop for Skin Care Products: