Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by large pores. Now, open your eyes: Turns out, you’re not alone. Derms will tell you that large pores are one of women’s biggest skin concerns, regardless of age. But what exactly causes them? “The size of our pores is determined by our genetics,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Oil glands deep within the skin connect to the surface through the pores, so people with oily skin tend to have larger pores.” The buildup of dirt and makeup can also cause pores to appear larger.
While there is no over-the-counter treatment that can actually shrink pores (sigh), there are proven products that degunk and make them appear smaller. But, sadly, those pore strips you love are total BS (bogus skin care). Pore strips work only on the surface of the skin and not on the plugs that live deeper. While Dr. Zeichner says that they can offer temporary improvement, all that strangely-satisfying gunk left on the strip once it’s painfully ripped off is actually just dead skin and dirt.
Dr. Zeichner recommends products with salicylic acid or glycolic acid instead. “These hydroxy acids remove excess oil from the skin and exfoliate dead cells that accumulate around the surface of the pore, making it look more prominent,” he says, adding that those trendy clay masks also help the appearance of pores by absorbing excess oil and dirt. So, click through to discover the products that actually work for large pores—from high-tech cleansing brushes and masks that pull out dirt like a magnet to blurring primers that offer instant gratification—because, dammit, we all deserve smooth skin.
Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser ($7; target.com)
This soap-free cleanser uses alpha and beta hydroxy acids to penetrate deep into pores and remove the dead skin, dirt, oil, and makeup that can clog them.
Clarisonic Deep Pore Cleansing Brush Head ($27 for brush head; ulta.com)
This cleansing brush head uses firm bristles designed specifically to target uneven areas of the face and dual-action movement that is ideal for opening up clogged pores. It’s compatible with all Clarisonics.
ClarityRx Fix IT 2% Pore Perfecting Solution ($5; dermstore.com)
The extra-strength solution contains two percent salicylic acid (most formulas use around a one-percent concentration) to penetrate deep into skin where it works to dissolve dead skin cells, debris, and sebum.
Tula Pro-Glycolic 10% PH Resurfacing Gel ($34; tula.com)
Glycolic acid exfoliates and evens out the surface while probiotic strains help balance and strengthen skin.
Garnier CLEAN+ Pore Purifying 2-in-1 CLAY Cleanser/Mask ($9; ulta.com)
The clay- and charcoal-based formula draws out deep impurities like a magnet for clearer and smoother skin. Use it as a mask or as a daily cleanser.
Clarins SOS Pure Rebalancing Clay Mask ($34; sephora.com)
This spa-like mask uses white and green clay to unclog pores, plus willow herb extract to reduce shine. Apply it to the face and neck for 10 minutes to help refine pores.
Guerlain Blurring Active Base Primer ($49; nordstrom.com)
Want a fast fix? This mattifying makeup primer uses the brand’s proprietary PoreControl technology in a breathable elastomer base to instantly smooth and blur the appearance of pores.