Is It Possible to Shrink Large Pores?

Large pores are a common skincare complaint, ranking right up there with acne and aging skin.

While they're a completely cosmetic problem, large pores can be irritating to the person who sees them in a mirror.

This article explains why large pores are visible and why attempts to make them smaller with hot and cold treatments usually fail. But there are things you can do to try to make your pores appear smaller than they actually are.

best pore minimizers

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Pore Size and Role in Skin Health

Unfortunately, pores are not like doors. They don’t open and close on a whim.

Pore size is largely determined by genetics. Just like some people have blue eyes and others have brown, some people have small pores while other people have large ones.

Pores actually play an important role in the health of your skin. They allow sebum, which is the oil that keeps your skin lubricated, to travel from the sebaceous gland to the surface of your skin.

So even if you had control over your pores, closing them wouldn't be wise—or healthy. Your skin would completely dry out.

You're more likely to notice your pores if you have oily skin. This is because people with oily skin tend to have larger pores. The pores get bigger so that the increased amounts of oil can escape the skin.

Effect of Heat and Cold on Pores

You may be very determined to shrink your pores if you've 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.

Making Pores Appear Smaller

Manufacturers of skin care products seem to know that many people dislike their large pores. And while they may tout certain "pore-shrinking" remedies, you should know that there isn't a skincare product in the universe that can change the structure of your skin.

This does not suggest that pore-minimizing products are useless. In fact, they can (sometimes) help your pores appear smaller.

How do they do this? By getting back to basics and exfoliating the skin—or cleaning out dead skin cells and oil from the pore.

Once dull, dead skin cells are removed, it leaves the surface of the skin looking brighter, smoother, and more even. Your skin will feel softer, too.

Pores that are cleared of blackheads and blockages will look less obvious as the pores return to their normal size. So while it’s a temporary fix, it can give you the result you want when you look in the mirror.

Best Pore Minimizers

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

Ingredients hold the key. Look for a product made with retinol or alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid. Prescription topical retinoids are also used to treat large pores.

Pore strips may also do the trick. They 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. But they can provide a quick fix.

Summary

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.

A Word From Verywell

We live in a world in which appearances matter. For people with large pores, this can be a frustrating reality. Since pore-minimizing products may work for only a short time, learning how to accept your skin for what it is may be the best "remedy" of all.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you make your leg pores appear smaller?

    The same way you would try to reduce the size of the pores on your face. 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, which is supposed to improve skin texture. One study found that Q-switched and micro-pulsed lasers can visibly reduce the appearance of pores.

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

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

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

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. What can treat large pores?

  6. 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