One of the biggest reasons Instagram (and social media, in general) is given a bad rep for promoting unrealistic beauty standards is thanks to their filters. These clear away all imperfections and seemingly, make all pores disappear. While most of us would appreciate a Photoshopped appearance all the time, pores are real — and you can’t shrink or erase them.
This is because a pore is the opening of a hair follicle, and the sebaceous gland within each hair follicle secretes oil through the pores, explains Jules Annen, Ph.D., a holistic skin and scalp specialist. That oil is called ‘sebum,’ and it’s crucial for our skin health since it provides nourishment and protection.
So, not only do we need pores, but there’s not much we can do to change their circumference. “There is a misconception that we can permanently shrink our pore size. The size of our pores is primarily a genetic predisposition,” Annen says. “If you find that your pores are getting larger, the best way to minimize the appearance of large pores is by addressing the root causes, including increased oil secretion, skin aging, and decreased skin elasticity.”
Here, how to make those pores less visible and, more importantly, healthy:
Always wear sunscreen.
One of the reasons our pore size appears bigger or more noticeable is due to aging. Though normal, we can help our skin remain elastic and strong by protecting it from the harmful effects of sun exposure, explains Dr. Sheilagh Maguiness, MD, a dermatologist and the co-founder of Stryke Club. “Over time, UV radiation from the sun will take a huge toll on your skin, reducing the elasticity, breaking up collagen and making the skin laxer in general. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can literally make your pores larger over time,” she says.
So, try your best to avoid excessive sun exposure, as well as tanning, and reach for your SPF 30+ sunscreen every day — even indoors, since some forms of UV light can penetrate most windows or glass, she recommends.
Practice regular exfoliation.
It’s not the prettiest picture to paint, but our skin attracts everything it comes in contact with — from makeup to dirt, grime, and bacteria. When we don’t practice exfoliation, the build-up can pack into our pores and make them bigger. That’s why Dr. Maguiness recommends regular exfoliation to help those outer skin cells turn over and act to essentially unclog pores that might be filled with debris, including sebum and dead skin cells.
She says the two top categories of exfoliating ingredients are acids, namely beta hydroxy acids and topical retinoids/retinol. “Both of these ingredients work hard at helping the skin turn over more efficiently, helping to reduce the chance for debris to build up in your pores,” she says. “One of the best acid ingredients for this purpose is salicylic acid, as it can penetrate deep within pores due to its ability to dissolve in the oil and break down bonds between dead skin cells.”
Wash your face regularly.
If you’re guilty of heading to bed with a full face of makeup or after your gym session, you’re not doing your pores any favors. The effortless act of washing your face daily with an effective cleanser will help pores appear smaller, says Danny Gray, the founder of War Paint for Men. “Using warm water will help to soften the oil in pores and melt it away with your cleanser,” he says. “Avoid washing your face with hot water, as this can irritate your skin.”
Avoid a shiny or glossy finish.
In addition to the preventive rituals you can take to maintain pore health, some makeup hacks can help pores look less visible. After all, how do you think celebrities look so flawless on the red carpet or the big screen? For starters, avoid a shiny or glossy finish in your products, recommends Sebastien Tardif, a makeup artist and the creator of Veil Cosmetic Creator. These sit on the skin surface where pores or skin textures are a concern, and reflection can only enhance the size of the pores and texture on the skin. The same goes for shimmer or any type of shimmering highlighter as it enhances texture and pores on the skin,” he continues. “Therefore, using a matte finish will help in reducing the appearance of large pores by diffusing their appearance.”
Use a primer or balm first.
Before you go through your makeup routine, Tardif recommends using a primer to reduce the appearance of pores that has silicone or silicone derivatives. In general, he says a balm-like formula is ideal since it does not create additional texture and doesn’t create build-up as you apply foundation, powder, and so on. “This type of balm can be used under makeup as a pore filler/primer but also as a powder substitute over makeup,” he continues. “The advantage is that it does not layer more makeup on top of makeup, which powder does and ultimately creates a heavy, unnatural look.”
Only use oil-free makeup products.
If you can, shy away from any products that contain a high quantity of oil. Tardif says this allows you to build a skincare and makeup routine that will not suffer in the heat. “Hot weather or your own body heat will eventually warm up the oil that’s in the makeup or in the skincare you used,” she says. “As time goes by, what’s on your face will start to move around, which means that the makeup that you may have used to fill in the pores or to smooth out the appearance of pores will melt and give way to the appearance of the pores and the fine lines all over again.”
Apply foundation with a fluffy rounded-tip brush.
Once he has applied a pore reducing primer or pore filler, Tardfit likes to apply a liquid foundation specifically with a fluffy rounded-tip type of brush (think eyeshadow blending brush or a bit bigger). “I like this type of brush because I can achieve an airbrush-like finish by dabbing the liquid pigment onto the skin while working on a small area at a time as opposed to big large strokes,” he explains. “I find that using a sponge and spackle on makeup with it does not work as it doesn’t really get the makeup into the pores as it is a flat surface. I am a no-makeup makeup specialist, so these techniques work extremely well for that kind of end goal.”
We only recommend products we have independently researched, tested, and loved. If you purchase a product found through our links, Sunday Edit may earn an affiliate commission.