POV: you’ve just had a wonderful night out with friends, come home to ‘ take the day away’ (likely with one of the best makeup removers we rounded up) and think — why are there so many pores on my nose and on my face?
If you’re prone to pores and the occasional in-front-of-mirror spectacle, we hear you — we do, too. In large part, this is why we turned to a team of board-certified dermatologists to *finally* answer all of our questions about pores, in one place.
“The interesting thing about pores is that if you can unclog them, and take care of them, they’ll actually look smaller and get smaller,” Rachel Nazarian, MD, board-certified dermatologist, told the New York Post. “So, the best way to approach this topic is to discuss the two methods of treatment: one is to make pores look smaller. The other is to actually make them smaller. Regardless of your skin type, you have pores!”
Ahead, we rounded up the 20 best pore minimizers of 2023 that are all expert-backed, along with an in-depth FAQ section from three board-certified dermatologists about ridding pores for good. Going even further, we shared some personal favorites we’ve been testing for a few months — products that have a sworn-in seat on our bathroom.
While you’re here, check out our expert-backed guides to the best salicylic acid skincare products to help remove acne and how to safely remove blackheads once and for all.
“A great product to improve pore size is Shea Moisture Overnight Resurfacing Serum which contains both salicylic acid and glycolic acid (2-in-1!)” Nazarian notes. Even better, it’s less than $25 on Amazon for you to grab, working wonders on blemish-prone skin as well.
“The REN Clean Skincare Daily Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA tonic is a great product with lactic acid that gently exfoliates but does not leave your skin dry,” Nava Greenfield, MD, board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Hospital specializing in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology, told The Post.
According to Dr. Greenfield, using this product consistently should give a pore-shrinking effect.
“The HydroPeptide Exfoliating Cleanser contains jojoba esters which physically exfoliate and clean out dead skin from pores while also providing the benefit of peptide to the skin,” Greenfield notes.
It’s also paraben-free, helps the skin feel smoother and more even-toned and contains collagen-boosting peptides.
“Community Sixty-Six’s Detoxifying AHA/BHA Gel Cleanser has a helpful combination of both alpha and beta hydroxy acids and niacinamide helping with redness,” Greenfield highlights. “A gel is best suited for oily skin.”
Wonderfully, it’s less than $25 at Sephora and 100% fragrance-free and cruelty free, serving sensitive skin to the max.
A round of applause for one of the most acclaimed pore minimizers on the market: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. It’s one of the best facial exfoliants recommended by experts, too.
“This is good for sensitive skin and includes salicylic acid with green tea to calm skin and offset irritation,” Nazarian says. It’s also approved by Rahi Sarbaziha, MD, Beverly Hills-based board-certified integrative medicine doctor and aesthetics specialist.
“This fragrance-free, cruelty free exfoliant is one of my top products for any skin type,” Dr. Sabaziha recommends. “Its salicylic acid and green tea [also] help unclog pores.”
“The Alpyn Beauty Pore-Perfecting Liquid Exfoliator combines salicylic acid with vitamin c, which is good for lightening dark spots and treating hyperpigmentation,” Nazarian explains.
For more on one of our favorite skincare brands, check out our complete Alpyn Beauty review.
“The Bioderma Sébium Pore Refiner Cream decreases oil and is great for oily skin because it has a matte finish,” Nazarian notes. Not to mention, it’s backed by nearly 7,000 skincare enthusiasts on Amazon and helps to refine the skin’s texture all the while.
“The innisfree Pore-Clearing Clay Mask 2X is also good for oily skin, but uses a gentler AHA to minimize pores,” Nazarian says. “It’s not as effective as other methods,” she notes, though it’s a wonderful wash-off face mask if you’re looking for a helpful addition to your pore-minimizing skincare routine.
New from Glow Recipe, the Strawberry BHA Pore-Smooth Blur Drops has risen to TikTok viral-fame, much ado to its pore-refining and blurring effect.
“This product blurs the appearance of pores, so it’s good for an immediate effect,” Nazarian notes.
“This gentle, non comedogenic cleanser is one of my favorite products for younger patients,” Dr. Sarbaziha says, recommending the product. “It removes makeup and unclogs pores while hydrating the skin.”
Read our full review of Benefit Cosmetics’ pore skincare line to add some other New York Post Shopping-approved products to your daily regimen.
“This makes pores appear smaller, but yields temporary results,” Nazarian says. Though the Mario Badescu Seaweed Cleansing Lotion Toner won’t give immediate results, it has been one of our favorites to use, especially if you have oily or normal skin types.
“The StriVectin Multi-Action Super Shrink Pore-Minimizing Serum uses salicylic acid to decrease the appearance of pores,” Nazarian highlights. That said, this product is good for oily skin, she adds, and offers a lovely ingredient list of BHA and clarifying enzymes.
“The Dr. Brandt Skincare pores no more Vacuum Cleaner Pore-Purifying Mask is pretty good,” Nazarian says. “It’s good for normal skin types because it combines salicylic acid and glycolic acid.”
Not to mention, we love the name — suggesting it’ll help ‘vacuum’ your pores away!
“The Herbivore Botanicals Aquarius Pore-Purifying Clarity Cream is good for dry or sensitive skin,” Nazarian explains. “It combines BHA with moisturizers to gently exfoliate.”
For more products, you can’t beat the brand’s NOVA 15% Vitamin C + Turmeric Brightening Serum ($65) or the SUPER NOVA 5% Vitamin C + Caffeine Brightening Eye Cream ($48).
“The Goop G.Tox Malachite + AHA Pore-Refining Tonic is great for oily or combination skin, but this has a whole cocktail of ingredients that chemically exfoliate,” Nazarian says.
As with all new products, test on an inconspicuous spot to determine any potential irritation levels potential before applying all over your face, she advises.
“This is my go-to retinol,” Sarbaziha says. “It contains 1% pure retinol, the highest concentration currently available and helps stimulate cell regeneration and build collagen to diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, minimize pores, blemishes and age spots.”
Though a splurge, it has a low concentration of retinol, which is especially perfect if you’re new to using the ingredient on your face.
“This deeply hydrating serum is non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores, and helps improve skin laxity, fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin texture for a plump and youthful appearance,” Sarbaziha notes.
Uniquely, its thoughtful combination is curated for mature skin, targeting the face and the neck areas.
“Developed by Dr. Goldfaden, Fresh-A-Peel is a non-irritating, fruit enzyme and lactic acid peel that is equally as effective as in-office peel,” Sarbaziha explains.
It’s also a non-physical exfoliator that, according to her, can be used on even the most sensitive skin to help minimize pores.
19. PCA Skin Resurfacing Serum, $77 to $99
“This game-changing serum is a must for dull, lackluster skin,” Sarbaziha notes. “It’s a multi-tasking serum that simultaneously resurfaces, calms and hydrates the skin, helping to improve skin tone, texture and clarity.”
What’s more, its formula features a unique glycolic arginine complex and hydrolyzed prickly pear flower extract to help dull skin appear even and smooth without irritation.
“This is another great retinoid that features 0.1% retinal (the enzyme-calibrated form of retinol) for more youthful-looking skin,” Sarbaziha explains.
Specifically, this product is great for those who want to minimize pores and also target fine lines, hyperpigmentation, unevenness, blemish control and age-related issues.
An FAQ on Pore Minimizers
Ahead, our team of board-certified dermatologists give us the 411 on how to really dial down your pores.
First things first: What causes pores to form on the face?
Even though you may think you’re the only one with visible pores, everybody has pores all over their body — on every inch of skin, except for your palms and soles of your feet. “Each pore contains a hair follicle and a sebaceous gland which produces oil.” Sarbaziha says. Enlarged pores around the face may be a result of:
- Increased sebum excretion: Sebum or oil excretion is an important part of skin health. Excess sebum excretion can be triggered by many factors such as hormonal changes.
- Decreased elasticity: Aging decreases collagen production and therefore elasticity in the skin. This can lead to visibly enlarged pores.
- Sun damage: Sun damage also decreases collagen production in the skin leading to wrinkles and visible pores.
- Large hair follicles: Each pore contains a hair follicle. Naturally, patients with thicker hair follicles tend to have enlarged pores.
- Genetics: Enlarged pores are hereditary traits, so if your parents have enlarged pores you most likely will to.
“Pores can appear slightly larger or smaller when the temperature around them changes, which either constricts (cold weather) or dilates (warm weather) the blood vessels,” Nazarian explains. “The interesting thing about pores is that if you can unclog them, and take care of them, they’ll actually look smaller and get smaller.”
How do you remove pores on the skin?
We have some bad news — you can’t remove pores from your skin, but you can help minimize them.
“You can’t remove the pores, but you can shrink the pores and remove any buildup of dead skin and oxidized keratin from the pores,” Greenfield explains. “You can do this by using a number of topics ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid or retinol.”
The best ingredients to help minimize pores, according to experts
Ahead, our team of board-certified dermatologists list some ingredients to look for in a quality pore-minimizing product, as we outlined above:
- AHAs and BHAs: Alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids both help exfoliate the skin and unclog pores
- Glycolic acid – an AHA that is naturally produced from sugarcane
- Salicylic acid – a BHA that is naturally produced from willow bark
- Retinol: Simultaneously increases collagen production and decreases oil production. Make sure to moisturize regularly since retinol may irritate the skin
- SPF: Protects skin from sun damage, helps protect skin elasticity and collagen production
- Clay: Helps absorb excess sebum in the skin
- Niacinamide: Controls sebum production to prevent enlarged and clogged pores
What’s the best way to remove pores on dry skin?
According to Sarbaziha, patients with dry skin should use salicylic acid, as it will not leave their skin feeling overly dry. “Those with dry skin should cleanse once daily and hydrate properly with a serum and moisturizer,” she adds.
What’s the best way to remove pores on oily skin?
Patients with oily skin can use salicylic or glycolic acid to clean out pores and excess oil. They should also integrate retinol to reduce sebum production and boost collagen.
” It’s important to moisturize, since over-drying the skin can lead to excess oil production,” Sarbaziha notes.
What’s the best way to remove pores on acne-prone skin?
Patients with acne should use salicylic acid and retinol to help clear out the skin.
“If salicylic acid dries up the skin too much, aim for a mild non-comedogenic cleanser,” Sarbaziha advises.
What’s the best way to remove pores on mature skin?
Patients with mature skin should look for products that help cleanse pores and help boost collagen production. They can use glycolic, salicylic or lactic acid in their daily cleansers.
“I also suggest my patients with all skin types consider in-office treatments like glycolic gel peels once a month,” Sarbaziha says.
What’s the best way to remove pores on combination skin?
People with combination skin can typically handle “stronger” ingredients and treatments like retinoids and peels, per Sarbaziha.
“I recommend using a daily cleanser and avoid using alcohol- or oil-based products,” she adds.
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