3 Science-Backed Ways To Reduce Large Pores (That Really Work)

by Gio
how to shrink large pores

How the heck do you reduce large pores?!

You’ve splashed your face with cold water to tighten them, used pores strips that promised to eradicate them, and exfoliated the heck out of your skin to make them smaller… but nothing is working.

It’s like they have a life of their own. No matter what you do, they keep getting bigger and bigger. It’s like they’re under a magnifying glass all day.

Are you using the wrong products or is this a lost cause? Let’s find out.

Can You Reduce Large Pores?

First things first: you can’t get rid of pores completely.

Even if you could, you wouldn’t want to. Your pores allow sebum (the skin’s natural moisturiser) to reach the surface of your skin and keep it soft and supple.

Sebum and pores got a bad rep in some circles, but without them, your skin would be drier than the Sahara and shrivelled like an old prune.

You need pores. But do they need to be so large?!

Here’s the deal: the size of your pores is genetically determined. You can’t change it.

The exception? Clogged pores. The excess sebum + dead cells stuck inside them make them swell, so they look larger than they’re supposed to.

If you remove that gunk, your pores will get smaller… by shrinking back to their original size.

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How To Reduce Large Pores

You can’t shrink large pores, but you can shrink enlarged pores. Here are the best treatments to bring them back to their original size:

drunk elephant tlc framboos glycolic night serum

1. Exfoliate To Unclog Large Pores

If pores swell up when they’re clogged, it follows that removing all that crap comfortably lodged inside them will bring them back to their original size.

This is a job for salicylic acid.

Don’t fall for the marketing hype. No other exfoliant – no glycolic acid, Clarisonic, scrubs with charcoal, etc – unclogs pores. They can’t penetrate inside the pores.

Can you clean a house if you can’t make it past the front door? It’s the same with exfoliants. If they can’t get in, they won’t do the job.

Salicylic acid is different. Unlike all other exfoliants, salicylic acid gets inside the pores, where it dissolves the mixture of excess oil and dead cells that’s clogging them up.

Bonus points: Salicylic Acid helps you avoid breakouts and blackheads, too.

P.S. The older the sebum stuck in the pores is, the longer it’ll take to remove it. Be patient.

Best Pick:

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin

peter thomas roth retinol infusion pm night serum 02

2. Use Retinoids To Tighten Large Pores

You’re probably already using retinoids to fight wrinkles. But did you know these babies can reduce pores, too? Here are their skincare superpowers:

  • Retinoids accelerate cellular turnover (the skin’s natural exfoliating process), making skin look younger and smoother.
  • Retinoids reduce pore size, together with wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and roughness.
  • Retinoids stimulate the production of collagen, which tightens skin. And when skin is tight, pores look smaller.

How can you spot them on the label? Look for “Retin” somewhere in the name. Common retinoids include:

  • Granactive Retinoid
  • Retinol
  • Retinaldehyde
  • Tretinoin
WARNING! Retinoids can be irritating when you first start using them. Start with low concentrations a couple of times a week, and increase both dose and frequency gradually.

Best Picks:

Related:What Strength Of Retinol Do You Need?

3. Try IPL To Reduce Large Pores

If money isn’t a problem for you and you can happily splurge on more expensive treatments (three sessions cost a whooping $1800!), you can try Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments.

IPL works by emitting high intensity pulses of light, which is then converted into heat energy. It can:

  • Fade away age spots
  • Fade away melasma
  • Kill P.Acnes
  • Refine skin’s texture
  • Reduce the appearance of pores.
  • Reduce scars
  • Shrink oil glands
  • Treat sun damaged skin

Phew! Is there something it can’t do?

Need more proof? According to a 2001 study, over 90% of 49 subjects who underwent four or more IPL treatments at 3-week intervals experienced a visible improvement in wrinkling, skin coarseness, irregular pigmentation, and pore size. With minimal downtime. And, no scarring.

The catch? We don’t know yet how long the effects last. So, talk to your dermatologist to see if this is a good option for you. You don’t want to spend that kind of money, and see your pores become huge again after a month, do you?

The Bottom Line

You can’t change pore size. But if your large pores are clogged, you CAN bring them back to their original, smaller size.

How do you make your large pores look smaller? Share your tips in the comments below.



Ana August 28, 2012 - 8:44 pm

Whenever I look at my pores I remember one quip from Will & Grace: “You have a pore in your nose you could serve dip out of!” Gross, I know.

My friend had great success with IPL (I think it was IPL) and I’ve been interested in that ever since.
The difference is she had some modeling money and considered that an investment in her career 😀 .

beautifulwithbrains August 30, 2012 - 10:46 am

Ana lol. I’m glad IPL worked well for your friend. It’s a very effective treatment, but when you consider the cost and the fact that we don’t know how long the results last, I think it’s worth doing it only as an investment too, after everything else has failed. 🙂

Janessa August 30, 2012 - 1:14 am

I have yet to buy myself a retinoid product. Do I need prescription for retinoids? Sorry if that’s a dumb question. 😀
And #3 is definitely not an option for me! Haha 😀 Maybe someday.. someday.

beautifulwithbrains August 30, 2012 - 10:51 am

Janessa, there are no dumb questions. I’m sure many people are wondering the same. 😉 Some retinoids are available only by prescription because they are quite strong and so used only to treat serious conditions like severe acne. But retinoids in smaller concentrations are also available in over the counter products. They may take a bit longer to work, but still do a great job at treating and preventing the signs of aging, speeding up cell turnover and just generally keeping skin healthy.

Janessa August 31, 2012 - 1:28 am

:] Thanks, Giorgia! You are so so wonderfu! Thank you so much for all the time and thought you put aside to answer my questions. I feel extremely lucky.

beautifulwithbrains August 31, 2012 - 10:59 am

Aww thank you and you are very welcome. I’m always glad to help when I can. 🙂

Adam Ford April 21, 2018 - 12:33 am

Tea tree oil should be on this list – considerably cheaper than IPL …

Gio April 27, 2018 - 9:18 am

Adam, it definitely is cheaper. But I consider it more of a spot treatment as it can be harsh all over the face for some skin types.

Flor April 21, 2018 - 12:14 pm

I’ll try the Salma’s retinol, hope that works. An easy trick is to use ice on the face right before the makeup. This really works for an indoor and climatized event, but never for hot places… Thanks for your tips

Gio April 27, 2018 - 9:03 am

Flor, let me know how it goes, I’m sure it’ll help. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

Cat June 4, 2018 - 6:58 pm

I use retinoids and they work in fact. But lately I’m considering doing something extra, like microneedling… Each session is about 120$ and I think we need around 10. So the price is the same compared go IPL. Any idea which is more efficient? Which treatment lasts longer?

Gio June 8, 2018 - 2:01 pm

Cat, I’d definitely go with microdermabrasion. It’s more effective to treat large pores (and wrinkles too).

Natasha December 30, 2018 - 3:27 pm

I read that once your pores are stretched out, you can never get them back to normal. I’m so happy to see that’s not true. I started using salicylic acid 2 weeks ago and I’m starting to notice a difference to the pores on my nose.

Gio January 6, 2019 - 12:59 pm

Natacha, I guess the writer was confused. If your pores are genetically large, there’s not much you can do about it. But if they’re stretched out, you can definitely get them back to normal. 🙂

Rachel July 9, 2020 - 5:18 pm

What is good for ingrown hairs? I’ve been using Paula’s choice bha 2percent. But wondering if this is the best product. Thanks.

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