Choosing the Best Pore Minimizer

We usually take our pores for granted and for the most part, we are probably barely aware of their existence.

  • Pores are tiny skin openings that contain sweat glands and hair follicles.
  • They help flush toxins and cool the body through perspiration.
  • The pores also produce sebum, a natural, oily substance that keeps our skin soft, supple and well-hydrated.
  • Enlarged pores create problems when they appear on the face – especially around the nose and cheeks.
  • Most people don’t give much thought to facial pores, but when pores look bigger, they can affect your skin’s texture and smoothness.
  • Often, the pores aren’t actually enlarged, but they are much more noticeable.

As a result, they can make you self-conscious about your overall appearance.

There are several reasons why the pores become enlarged:

  • Sebum: Sebum is healthy. Without it, our skin would soon become dry and coarse. However, some people have overactive sebaceous glands. When this abundance of oil mixes with bacteria and dead skin cells, it can clog the pores. The clogs make the pores look much bigger than they really are.
  • Squeezing and picking pimples and blackheads can also enflame the pores and make them look larger.
  • Aging: The skin thickens and loses its elasticity as the years go by, which makes the pores look larger. Exposure to sunlight can damage the skin and make the situation much worse.
  • Gender: Males have more pores than women. Additionally, the pores are larger because men have bigger sebaceous glands and thicker hair follicles, mostly because of higher levels of testosterone.
  • Genetics: Pore size is largely genetically determined. If one or both of your parents have large pores, (or if they had large pores in their teens and twenties), there’s a pretty good chance you will, too. The human face has thousands of pores and you’ll have the same number of pores throughout your entire life.
  • Pores don’t have muscles so they can’t open and close, and unfortunately, they won’t shrink. Unfortunately, your genetics and gender are predetermined, but proper skin care and use of high quality pore minimizing products can make your pores appear smaller and much less noticeable.

Choosing the Best Pore Minimizers: Ingredients

Pore minimizers work by clearing clogs so the pores appear smaller and less noticeable. Various pore minimizers include facial scrubs, cleansers, moisturizers, gels and facial masks. Some products improve the appearance of the skin within a few hours, while others may take much longer. Some pore minimizers do extra duty by decreasing sun damage, reducing acne and blackheads or eliminating skin rashes. The effect of each pore minimizer depends on the formulation of ingredients in the product. Often, pore minimizers contain substances that soften and soothe the skin, such as emu oil or vitamin E, while others use cosmetic-grade clay to dry excess oil. Some products contain sunscreen to offset the possibility of sunburn that may occur after application of pore minimizers. Cosmetic counters have hundreds of skin care products and choosing the best pore minimizer can be overwhelming. Understanding a few of the most common ingredients in pore minimizers can make the task a little easier.

 AHA (Alpha-hydroxy acid)

Alpha-hydroxy acids, which are derived from fruits and milk, are found in many popular pore minimizing products. The acids work as an exfoliant, sloughing off dead, dry skin cells, which are replaced by fresh new cells. Types of alpha-hydroxy acids include lactic acid, glycolic acid, malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid. Alpha-hydroxy acids are generally safe, but they should be used with care because they can cause itching, irritation, redness, swelling and burning. AHAs can also make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and some experts believe they can increase the risk of skin cancer. Daily use of a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is critical for people who use substances containing AHAs.

 BHA (Beta-hydroxy acid)

BHAs are usually found in salicylic acid, which is a cousin to the common aspirin. Like aspirin, BHAs are derived from sweet birch bark, willow bark and wintergreen leaves. BHAs work in much the same way as AHAs, by exfoliating debris and unclogging pores. However, they generally tend to be gentler than AHAs. They are also beneficial for their anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, which makes them an effective exfoliant for oily, acne-prone or sensitive skin. Many pore minimizing products contain more than one type of exfoliant.

 Topical Vitamin A

Retinol is the most common over-the-counter form of topical Vitamin A. It is generally used to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and smooth the skin by producing new collagen and stimulating production of new cells. It can also improve skin texture and minimize the appearance of large pores. Topical Vitamin A is often use in combination with Alpha-hydroxy acids or Beta-hydroxy acids. Retinol is generally safe, but like many skin care products, it can cause skin irritation peeling, scaling, itching. Use of a good sunscreen is highly recommended.

 Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is a substance derived from wheat, barley and rye. It is an effective exfoliant that helps remove debris from the pores. It also provides substantial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, like AHA, BHA and retinol, azelaic acid may cause itching and redness, and may increase sun sensitivity.

 DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol)

Also known as Deanol, DMAE is a natural substance often touted to boost brain power and improve attention, learning and memory. Studies also show that DMAE may improve skin tone and reduce sagging. Although research is limited, most experts believe that DMAE is safe and effective when used properly.

 Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a man-made ingredient created by combining hydrogen peroxide and benzoyl chloride. It minimizes the appearance of pores by killing trapped bacteria. It can also strip the skin of natural oils, which may dry the skin and lead to premature aging. As a general rule, benzoyl peroxide is safe when used properly.

However, be aware that benzoyl peroxide is a powerful chemical that can cause skin reactions such as reddening, itching, irritation and peeling.


Parabens are preservatives that prevent growth of bacteria in skin care products. Some studies indicate that parabens may interfere with estrogens in the body, which may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Many companies have eliminated parabens from their ingredient lists. However, other researchers believe that parabens are harmless in small amounts, and that when it comes to pore minimizers and other beauty products, there is no legitimate reason for concern.

 Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is used in thousands of beauty products. Some studies indicate that SLS is a toxic product that may cause irritation of the eyes and skin. Other research suggests that long term use of the chemical may be a carcinogen. On the other hand, many studies indicate that small amounts of the substance present little or no risk to health.


 Many newer products contain botanicals, which are appreciated by people who prefer to use earth-friendly, chemical-free pore minimizers. The list of botanicals used in pore minimizers is nearly endless but a few popular botanical substances include green tea, white tea, aloe vera, lavender oil, apricot kernel oil, kelp powder, seaweed powder or extracts of natural substances such as cassia bark, guava, ginger root, thyme or sage.

Best Pore Minimizers: Our Eight Favorite Products

1. Perricone MD Intensive Pore Minimizer

This pore minimizer provides a natural-looking, long-lasting matte finish for all skin types. You can choose from two shades — Light or Deep — or select Invisible Bright for subtle brightening. Clinique Pore Minimizer Instant Perfector resists moisture and perspiration for up to eight hours. It is allergy tested and completely fragrance-free. Use the product alone, or smooth it over makeup.

2. Murad T-Zone Pore Refining Serum

Murad has created a patented serum that implements salicylic acid, glycolic acid and aloe as well as hydrators, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to dissolve impurities, keep pores clear, normalize production of oil and slough away dull, dry skin. Murad T-Zone Pore Refining Serum contains no sulfates or parabens and is not animal-tested.

3. Estee’ Lauder Idealist Dual Action Refinishing Treatment

People with all skin types can benefit from Estee’ Lauder’s luxurious, pore-minimizing skin refinisher. Smooth the soothing cream on your face and feel it warm your skin as it gently scrubs away dry, rough patches. The result is smooth, radiant skin and pores that are nearly unnoticeable.

4. Neutrogena Pore Refining Cleanser

Neutrogena uses a dermatologist-tested formula and gentle microbeads to smooth rough patches, slough away dry skin and visibly reduce the appearance of pores. Neutrogena Pore Refining Cleanser penetrates deep into the pores to remove oil, dirt and makeup without clogging. This non-comedogenic cleansing product is soap-free and rinses easily.

5. Shiseido Pureness Pore Minimizing Cooling Essence

Shiseido has created a high-tech formula that cools and hydrates normal to oily skin while smoothing out imperfections and absorbing excess oil. The skin looks more refined and pores are less noticeable. Look for Shiseido Pureness Pore Minimizing Cooling Essence for women or Cooling Essence for Unisex version, suitable for both guys and gals.

6. Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips

Biore specializes in the treatment of large pores. Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips extract dirt and oil buildup much like the company’s regular pore strips, but the strips are formulated to clean deeply and leave the skin feeling fresh and invigorated. The strips are dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. They are suitable even for sensitive skin.

7. DDF Wrinkle Resist Plus Pore Minimizer Moisturizing Serum

This serum is a great choice for people who want to prevent fine lines and wrinkles while minimizing the appearance of pores. This daily moisturizer works by gently exfoliating and hydrating the skin, resulting in a younger appearance that is noticeable immediately. DDF Wrinkle Resist Plus Pore Minimizer Moisturizing Serum is lightweight and easily absorbed into the skin.

Skin Care to Minimize the Appearance of Pores

  • Even the best pore minimizers won’t help if you don’t take proper care of your skin. A little daily tender loving care can help minimize pore-clogging sebum, dirt and bacteria.
  • Wash your face every morning and every night, but don’t overdo it. Be gentle; scrubbing can inflame your skin and stimulate the production of more oil. Use a gentle cleanser formulated for your skin type and never use soap, which can damage and irritate your skin.
  • Keep your hands away from your face and never attempt to pop or squeeze pimples or blackheads.
  • Minimize use of makeup as much as possible. If you use foundation, opt for a powder foundation instead of liquids or creams, which can contribute to oily skin and clogged pores. Many experts think mineral-based powders are best for minimizing enlarged pores.
  • Be sure your makeup, pore minimizers and other skin care products are labeled “non-oily,” or “non-comedogenic,” which indicates the product is water based and won’t clog your pores.
  • Never go to sleep without removing your makeup, even when it’s been a long day and you’re exhausted. Use a gentle, non-comedogenic makeup remover.
  • Always apply a good quality moisturizer at least once every day. If you have oily skin, use a lightweight non-comedogenic or oil-free moisturizer. It may seem counterproductive to use moisturizer if you have oily skin, but without adequate moisture, the skin will go to work to generate more oil, which can clog the pores.
  • Always protect your skin from the sun by wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Wear a sun hat and stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the UV rays are strongest.

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