How to Shrink Pores

Which Methods Work—and Which Ones Don't

Trying various skin products and suggestions for how to shrink your pores probably won't get you too far. Pore size is largely determined by genetics, meaning you're stuck with what you have. 

There's certainly no medical need to shrink your pores. In fact, since they allow lubricating oil to reach the surface of your skin, shrinking your pores wouldn't be a good idea even if it was possible.

But if the appearance of large or otherwise noticeable pores bothers you, there are ways you can make them less noticeable. Ways to make your pores appear smaller include:

This article explains why large pores are visible and why attempts to shrink pores with hot and cold treatments usually fail. It also talks about how you can shrink pores' appearance, if not their actual size.

Making Pores Appear Smaller

Skincare products can make your pores look smaller by exfoliating the skin—or cleaning out dead skin cells and oil from the pore.

Pores that are cleared of blackheads and blockages will look less obvious. The surface of the skin will also look brighter, smoother, and more even. Your skin will feel softer, too.

While this is a temporary fix, it can give you the appearance of smaller pores that you seek.

Best Pore Minimizers

best pore minimizers

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

There are no shortage of products that boast about their ability to "zap" your pores. So how do you separate advertising promises from fact?

Look for a product made with:

Other products that may help make pores look smaller include:

  • Prescription topical retinoids
  • Pore strips

Pore strips help remove the uppermost portion of the blackhead, leaving the pore opening clear. Pore strips won't extract the entire blockage from the pore, though, and they don't stop blackheads from forming like the ingredients listed above can.

Effect of Heat and Cold on Pores

You may have heard the expression, “hot water to open the pores, cold water to close them.” But all the water in an ocean won't make small pores large or large pores small.

Heat will expand and dilate the pores, opening them slightly and making them look larger. Cold has the opposite effect; it will cause the pore openings to constrict. The pores will look smaller and tighter.

Both effects are temporary, though. After a few minutes, the skin will return to its normal temperature—and so will the size of your pores.

While hot towels, warm water, and steaming won’t "open" your pores, these tactics can soften the plugs of oil trapped within. This is why estheticians often steam a client's face before extracting blackheads.

Steaming softens the plug, called a "comedonal core." This, coupled with the heat dilating the pore opening, makes the blockage easier to push from the pore.

Hot water isn't needed to keep the pores cleaned out—just as cold water isn't needed to "close" your pores. Your pores will remain the size they were destined to be, despite the temperature of the water you use to cleanse your face.

In fact, washing your face in overly hot water can do more harm than good. Water that is too hot can irritate your skin. And if you have dilated capillaries or inflamed blemishes, they will look redder and even more obvious.

Use lukewarm water—not hot or cold—to wash your face. And use your fingers to apply cleanser rather than a washcloth or sponge.


Large pores are a natural byproduct of having oily skin. You may consider them annoying, but they help keep your skin from drying out. Still, if you want to reduce the size of your pores, skip the hot or cold treatments. They won't produce long-lasting effects.

Instead, look for facial products made with retinol or alpha hydroxy acids, which can help remove blockages and make pores appear smaller. Pore strips may help, too. Just remember: These tactics are temporary. Your pores may look smaller, but they will soon return to their original size.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do pores do?

    Pores allow sebum, the oil that keeps your skin lubricated, to travel from the sebaceous gland to the surface of your skin. Your skin would completely dry out without them.

  • Why are my pores so big?

    Pore size is something you're born with. In particular, people with naturally oily skin may have larger pores. This is so that the increased amounts of oil they produce can escape.

  • How can shrink leg pores?

    The same way you would try to reduce the size of the pores on your face—with manual and/or chemical exfoliation. Before you do, check first with a dermatologist to see if another skin issue may be playing a role.

  • What if I feel dissatisfied after using pore-minimizing products?

    Talk to your dermatologist about whether you'd be a good candidate for a laser treatment. One study found that Q-switched and micro-pulsed lasers can visibly reduce the appearance of pores.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wang S. Understudied skin characteristics awaiting genetic breakthroughs. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2018;19(2):S101-S102. doi:10.1016/j.jisp.2018.10.005

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Is steaming your face good for your skin? June 15, 2021.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Face washing 101.

  4. Premier Clinic. Large pores on the face: Causes & treatment. March 13, 2020.

  5. Chung H, Goo B, Lee H, Roh M, Chung K. Enlarged pores treated with a combination of Q-switched and micropulsed 1064nm Nd:YAG Laser with and without topical carbon suspension: A simultaneous split-face trialLaser Ther. 2011;20(3):181-188. doi:10.5978/islsm.20.181

Additional Reading
  • Sakuma TH, Maibach HI. Oily skin: an overview. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. 2012;25(5):227-35. doi:10.1159/000338978

  • Yeh L, Bonati LM, Silverberg NB. Topical retinoids for acne. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2016;35(2):50-6. doi:10.12788/j.sder.2016.024

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.