Sorry to say it: The idea that you can "shrink" or "close" your pores is a beauty myth. "Everybody has a physiologic pore size," says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules. How large (or small) they are is determined by genetics. That said, a buildup of dead skin, oil, dirt, and even the loss of collagen can stretch out your pores, making them appear even larger. Here's how to make your pores as small as possible.
The quest for less prominent pores starts at the sink. Switch to a face wash that contains exfoliating acids such as salicylic or glycolic, which dissolve pore-clogging dead skin cells and oil deep inside pores. Try Neutrogena Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Cream Cleanser ($8; ulta.com), with salicylic acid.
You've seen those sticky strips that claim to pull out blackhead-causing gunk, but do they really work? Jaliman says yes. For best results, she suggests applying them to dry skin -- not right after cleansing or showering. "Your skin will be too sensitive," Jaliman says. Try Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips ($10.25; drugstore.com).
Like the steam during a facial, heat-activated masks soften up the dead skin cells in your pores, Jaliman says. Look for a formula that's self-heating and apply it to clean skin one-to-two times a week. Try The Body Shop Warming Mineral Mask ($17; The Body Shop).
Clay draws out impurities, oil, and even water. By using a clay-based mask, you not only get a deep clean, but also a temporary tightening of your pores. It's a great quick fix before a big event. Try First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Purifying Mask with Red Clay ($30; sephora.com).
Your sun-worshipping sins of the past could be to blame for your pore size today. "Sun damage breaks down the collagen and elastic tissue, which supports the pore," Jaliman says. Losing this support makes pores larger. To repair the damage and make pores appear smaller, add a collagen-stimulating, topical retinoid (such as retinol) to your skin care regimen. Bonus: Retinoids increase the rate at which skin cells slough off, so less dead skin will end up lodged in your pores. Try Vichy LiftActiv Retinol HA Night ($47.50; drugstore.com).
Enlarged pores and oily skin tend to go hand in hand. Consider adding a mattifying product to your daily routine, which works by absorbing excess oil so it doesn’t pool in your pores. Try L’Oreal Youth Code Texture Perfector Pore Vanisher ($25; target.com).
If you want instant, poreless gratification, slick skin with a makeup primer before you apply your foundation, says celebrity makeup artist Erica Whelan. Typically formulated with silicone, primer smooths skin's surface, filling in pores so they're virtually undetectable. Try Maybelline Instant Pore Eraser Primer ($6; walmart.com).
Skip foundations that yield a dewy or shimmery look, says makeup artist Emily Kate Warren. "Sometimes the highlighting mechanism in the product makes the pores look more dramatic," she says. Instead, opt for a lightweight formula like a tinted moisturizer. It's not so pigmented and heavy so it won't sink into pores and moisturizing the surface will prevent that orange-peel look, Warren says. Try Aveeno Positively Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30 ($17.49; walgreens.com).
Need more coverage? Consider a formula that contains gel-based pigments, which blur out skin imperfections while delivering medium coverage, Whelan says. Try Smashbox Liquid Halo HD Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15 ($42; smashbox.com).
Still have problem pores? Schedule a visit with a dermatologist, who can shrink down pores permanently with a laser. Jaliman, who uses the Genesis laser, says to expect results after four to six treatments, done two weeks apart. Expect to pay, on average, $500 a session.