We all hope to see healthy, radiant skin when we look in the mirror. Pores — small holes over most of the body — are an important aspect of our skin's complexion and texture, but facial pores naturally attract the most attention. The size of pores depends on a number of factors including ethnicity, genetics, age, and gender. Although more visible pores don't indicate a health issue, they can affect self-esteem and contribute to dissatisfaction with personal appearance.

Shrinking Pores

We can't actually reduce the size of our pores. However, it is possible for some people to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores.

Pores come in two types. The ones connected to sweat glands are extremely tiny and rarely noticed, but pores connected to sebaceous glands are larger. These glands produce oil that protects and moisturizes skin, but sometimes excess oil traps dead skin cells and other debris within the pores, and these clogged pores are more prominent. Pores on the cheeks, chin, and nose may be most noticeable because these areas have the greatest number of oil glands.

close of up large pores on young man's cheek


Pores and Dirt

Large pores are not caused by dirt or poor hygiene. In fact, excessive washing, using hot water, and rough scrubbing can irritate skin and make pores look larger. Gently cleanse the face twice a day to remove excess oil and keep pores clear of dead skin cells and debris. Some cleansers contain salicylic acid that may help unclog pores, though it can also irritate some people's skin. Alternate with a milder cleanser or stop using it altogether if this happens. Gel-based or bar cleansers may work well with oily skin, while dry skin may respond to cream or lotion-based formulas.

close up of pores on model's nose


Open and Closed Pores

Pores can't really open and close. They don't have muscles, so they can't contract or relax. Warm steam or a hot shower may loosen and soften debris inside pores, making it easier to remove the buildup with cleansers or exfoliation. Cold water doesn't close pores, although cold temperatures may briefly reduce oil production. Heat can also stimulate oil production, but this isn't always a bad thing: the oil may help soften debris.

young woman splashing her face in bathroom



Many people believe the brown or black coloration of blackheads means the pores are filled with dirt, but this isn't the case. Blackheads are a type of acne and form inside hair follicles connected to oil glands. Oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria can build up and block follicles. The blocked follicle may form a closed whitehead or remain open and darken on the skin's surface to form a typical blackhead.

close up image of blackheads on person's nose


Dry Pores

Skin type doesn't determine the size of pores. However, dry skin may have a rough, uneven or flaky texture and enhance the appearance of fine lines or wrinkles. Dry skin may also be more susceptible to damage and infection. Moisturizers containing humectants draw water into the skin and occlusive ingredients such as petrolatum, lanolin, and mineral oil can form a barrier to help minimize water loss.

unhappy woman frowning at her reflection


Makeup and Clogged Pores

Some types of makeup can clog pores and even contribute to a type of acne called acne cosmetica. Fortunately, many makeup and skincare products are non-comedogenic or oil-free. These products are less likely to clog pores.

Skincare habits are important too. Always apply makeup gently to avoid irritating the skin and use an oil-free makeup remover before bed. Clean makeup brushes and applicators regularly and never share cosmetics — this cuts back on the risk of infections and irritation.

smiling woman removing her makeup


Effects of Sunlight

Another prevalent myth claims that sunlight can shrink pores. This myth is both false and potentially dangerous, as sunlight can damage the skin. Dermatologists use the terms photoaging or photodamage to describe the effects of ultraviolet light on unprotected skin. Photodamage may cause wrinkles, decreased skin tone, rough texture, broken blood vessels, blotchiness, and liver spots or freckles. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher can help protect the skin.

close up of age or sun damage spots on woman's cheek


Exfoliators and Deep Cleaning

Chemical and physical exfoliators remove dead cells and debris from the skin's surface. Chemical exfoliants include several types of acids and other solutions. Physical exfoliants include mechanical brushes and devices, textured rollers, and cleansing scrubs with salt, sugar, or other abrasive ingredients. Again, while these products could remove buildup, they aren't actually shrinking the pores.

woman exfoliating her skin with a mask


Laser Shrinking Pores

Cosmetic laser skin rejuvenation procedures create tiny wounds in the deep skin layers far below the surface. Damage to the targeted area stimulates the healing process, encouraging collagen production and new skin cell growth. Laser therapy is sometimes used to manage unwanted hair, acne scars, and other skin blemishes. It may also reduce the appearance of pores because increased collagen can tighten the skin around damaged areas. Further research is needed to find out if laser therapy actually reduces pore size.

woman at spa getting laser skin treatment


Pore Vacuuming

Pore vacuuming is a cosmetic procedure that began in Korea. A small vacuum may remove oil, dead cells, and other debris from pores. Vacuums are available for home use, but experienced professionals using FDA-approved devices may provide better results. Too much suction can cause bruises or even break small blood vessels in the skin. A technician in a professional setting can adjust the vacuum settings for individual skin types. Be sure to choose an accredited salon with good reviews for procedures like this.

woman having her pores vacuumed at a spa


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