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Clean Pores Are Happy Pores: Tips, Tricks & Facts

Oh, Pores. Something we all live with, big-and-small. Something we strive to keep clean and diminish. Pores are really quite interesting, and oftentimes mysterious. Which is why I wanted to write a post to answer many of the pore-related questions I have been receiving lately. To get things started, let me just say that clean pores are essential to a blemish-free, scar-free, wrinkle-free complexion. Which is why it is so important that we adequately care for our skin and keep pores clean. So, are you ready to get the inside scoop?


Spoiler: No. (Sorry.)

Pore size is predetermined by genetics. Meaning, you’re born with your pores being the size that they are.

Other factors include skin type (how much oil your skin produces) and how much collagen is included in the structure of your skin.

If you think you’re the only one staring into a magnifying mirror and obsessing about pore size, you’re not.

Pores are becoming an increasing concern when it comes to skincare.

In a study of over 2,000 adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of L’Oreal Paris, nearly half of women (45%) wish they could change the size of their pores, and 28% are more concerned about pore size than wrinkles.


Looks like a lot of us are thinking about pore size.

The good news? While you can’t permanently shrink the actual size of your pores, you can certainly make them look smaller on the surface.

Today, we’re going to explore some ways that we can care for and treat our pores so we don’t have to entertain the thought of trading smooth legs for flawless skin!

The Dirt on Pores

Pores are actually the openings of hair follicles. In each pore is a sebaceous gland which produces oil, or sebum, your skin’s natural moisturizer and protector.

Your pores might be more apparent on the areas of your face that produce more oil such as your forehead, chin, and around your nose. This is because these pores contain larger sebaceous glands.

This also explains why pores might be more noticeable on oily skin types and appear smaller on dry skin types.

So, what causes enlarged pores?

There are a few factors that contribute to our pores looking larger or more noticeable.

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Clogged Pores

Excess oils, dirt and dead skin cells can get trapped in pores resulting in blemishes and pores appearing larger. When this stuck gunk oxidizes, it gets dark and blackheads are born which is just a big look-at-me for pores.


As we get older, our skin loses firmness and elasticity causing it to sag. This sagging can make pores look bigger as our skin lacks plumpness and structure.


Sun damage causes free radicals in our skin to break down collagen and elastin which contributes to that sagging effect I just mentioned. Sun damage also messes with the texture of your skin causing it to thicken, leading to bigger pores.

Alright, now that we’ve covered some factors that contribute to the appearance of pores, let’s see what we can do to combat those bad boys and make them look smaller!

How to Minimize the Appearance of Pores

Wash Up

Cleansing your face regularly will ensure that you’re washing away any oil or impurities that could become pore cloggers.

Make sure you’re using a cleanser that is tailored to your skin type. If you use one that is too harsh, you could end up stripping your skin of natural oils which, in turn, causes your skin to overcompensate by producing excess oil.




When you use either a chemical or physical exfoliator, you slough off dead skin cells that could potentially block pores, and this helps encourage new cell generation.

Physical exfoliants contain granules or beads to literally scrub and buff away dead cells and dirt.

Chemical exfoliants include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic and lactic acid, beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) such as salicylic acid, or natural fruit enzymes which gently dissolve dead skin cells for skin resurfacing. They also get deep down into pores to clean out impurities.

Retinoids can also help to remove dead skin and smooth skin’s surface. They encourage new cell turnover to help unclog pores so they appear smaller.

Pro tip: Don’t overdo it with exfoliation! You could end up damaging skin. 2-3 times per week is great unless otherwise directed.

Also, be aware that retinoids can make skin more sun sensitive, so I always recommend using them in your nighttime skincare routine, and be sure to wear SPF sun protection during the day!

Plump It Up

A new school of thought is emerging that believes the way to reduce the appearance of pores is to plump the skin around them by providing moisture and rebuilding collagen.

This makes sense if you think about it. If the skin around the pore’s surface is more full and supple, the opening will appear smaller even if you can’t shrink the actual size of the pore below.



Make sure you’re using a regular moisturizer, and look for ingredients that offer hydration-boosting benefits (such as hyaluronic acid), and that can help rebuild collagen and elastin (such as peptides) to firm and plump skin.

Wear Your Daily SPF

As I mentioned, sun damage can really do a number on pores by breaking down collagen and elastin and thickening your skin’s surface, and it’s the number one cause of skin aging! (Besides actual aging, of course.)

When our skin’s structure breaks down, it allows the opening of the pore to expand and become more noticeable.

You can stop accumulating any more sun damage by wearing daily sun protection (no matter your pore size)!

Choose a formula with minimum level SPF 20, and layer on every day after moisturizer and before makeup. Don’t forget your neck, chest and arms too!

Try a Primer

Applying a primer before your makeup can turn your skin a into smooth, flawless canvas so your makeup goes on effortlessly.

Makeup typically doesn’t fill in pores, so it settles around the edges making them more apparent. A primer works to fill in indentations - pores or scars - on the skin’s surface to give you that porcelain look.

Use a Mask or Peel

At-home peels work to polish and resurface skin by removing dead skin cells and pore-blocking impurities. Plus, they leave your skin all smooth and glowy!



Other masks, such as those that include clay or charcoal, purify skin by vacuuming oil out of your pores to minimize their appearance.

Plus, masks and peels are a great way to treat yourself to an at-home spa day. Throw some cucumber slices on your eyes, and you are good to go!

Visit a Facialist

Do yourself a favor and stop picking at your face and trying to tackle clogged pores on your own! You can end up damaging your skin which could lead to permanent scarring.

Traumatized pores can develop scar tissue that creates an indentation deeper than the pore itself,” explains Sonia Batra, M.D., M.P.H., clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the USC Keck School of Medicine.

If you’re truly concerned about the look of your pores, see a professional esthetician or facialist for regular extractions. They have the tools and the know-how to deep clean pores correctly without damaging skin.

Pores: Tips, Tricks, & Facts

    • It Isn't Too Early - I think a major mistake people make with pores is putting off the problem until it is a real problem. A very common cause of acne is... clogged pores. Acne from clogged pores can lead to scarring of the skin. Clogged pores can also lead to aging, as the trapped oils and dirt do some damage to the skin. So, start early when it comes to keeping your pores clean. And if you haven't started yet, get on it. A simple skincare regimen is the perfect way to keep your pores in their finest condition: cleansing and exfoliation being two of the more important steps.
    • Pores Don't Get Smaller - contrary to what many products claim to do, pores do not actually shrink. However, keeping your pores clean does create the illusion of smaller size. And not allowing blackheads to build up can keep them small . Black heads are often the culprit of large pores, since they often cause the follicle to enlarge permanently once they have filled up the space with a plug. Avoiding blackheads is the best way to avoid large pores forming. And the best way to avoid this is through keeping your skin properly cleansed, exfoliated, and conditioned.
    • The Causes of Large Pores - there are so many factors people overlook when it comes to the causes of large pores. If they aren't genetic , they can be caused by sun damage , lack of skincare , and again, blackheads. Non-genetic causes are easy to avoid with proper care, meaning you can now avoid large pores.
    • How Cleansing Helps - pores are, well, pores. Meaning dirt, oil, and bacteria can easily get trapped in them. Cleansing regularly and properly helps to flush out the pores, meaning a lessened risk of blackheads or acne. Exfoliating is also a great way to clear your pores and slough away dead skin: leaving your skin looking and feeling cleansed and radiant. All in all, cleansing is a great way to condition your skin, both for health purposes and appearance purposes.
    • Ingredients to Try - two ingredients that have proven especially effective for cleansing and reducing the appearance of pores are fruit acids and salicylic acid. Fruit acids work to exfoliate dead skin cells, revealing smoother, more radiant skin, and cleansed pores. It is notorious for helping skin look and feel fresher and brighter - which is fabulous, no matter what your pore size. Salicylic Acid is well-known for its ability to penetrate the pore follicle, making it a perfect pore-cleansing agent. It also helps to regulate oil production and stimulate cellular turnover, meaning overall healthier skin.
    • My Favorite Pore-Refining Picks - thankfully, there are A LOT of products out there that help to keep pore clean, or improve the health/appearance of pores. CLICK HERE to view my favorites compiled into a single category. Yes, every product in this section is targeted to boost pore health. If you have any questions, my estheticians and I are happy to help with email, chat, or phone.

Step away from the magnifying mirror and leave it to the pros!

My Top Picks for Perfect Pores

Here are some of my favorite formulas to shrink the look of those pesky pores and get skin looking smooth and lovely!


Dermalogica Clear Start Pore Control Scrub

Get deep down clean with this cleanser that gets down into pores to clear out blackheads and other pore cloggers. It includes bentonite clay to suck up excess oils and control shine and soothing botanicals to remove dead skin so you’re left rejuvenated and refreshed.


Alana Mitchell Daily Vitamin C Moisturizer

My fabulous daily moisturizer deeply hydrates and plumps skin which, you guessed it, can make pores appear smaller as well as smooth fine lines and wrinkles. It also includes antioxidant vitamin C to rejuvenate skin and fight signs of aging. Plus, this gentle formula soothes rosacea, eczema and sensitive skin!


Eminence Organics Blackberry Pore Refining Serum

This powerful serum contains natural ingredients to refine and minimize pores with natural astringent properties. It also includes antioxidants to battle free radicals and protect skin from damage and breakdown. Plus, this formula nourishes skin with deep hydration for a glowing, flawless complexion.


Alana Mitchell Age Erasing Retinol Serum

I’m super excited to bring you my amazing, multi-tasking serum! It utilizes the power of retinol to target a variety of concerns. Simply smooth on this luxurious formula to diminish dark spots and fine lines, and minimize large pores. It also improves skin’s texture to give you brighter, smoother, more radiant skin!


Glo Minerals Tinted Primer SPF 30

Primers work to even tone and smooth out the surface of your skin making it look virtually flawless. This oil-free, mineral-based formula goes even further by providing SPF 30 sun protection as well as antioxidants to combat free radicals. Plus, it’s lightly tinted, so if you’re looking for light/natural-looking coverage, you might be able to just stick with this and skip makeup altogether!

glam glow

GLAMGLOW SUPERMUD Clearing Treatment

When it comes to face masks, you’ve probably seen this treatment floating around social media. There’s a reason it’s become so popular for its skin clarifying and renewing abilities. It contains an AHA and BHA blend to address common skin concerns as well as activated charcoal and clay for some deep pore extraction action. Give this mask a go and see what it can do for your skin!


Osmosis Pore Minimizing Clay Mask

Clay masks have traditionally been used to cleanse and soften skin. This purifying mask contains bentonite clay to detoxify pores and balance skin’s natural oils without drying it out. It also contains ingredients to hydrate skin, so your complexion is left clean, smooth and purified.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to get obsessed with the size of our pores when we’re inches from a mirror, but you should remember that most people don’t notice them or aren’t getting up close and personal enough to see them.

Plus, pore size doesn’t really matter as long as you’re taking care of your skin so it’s healthy. Don’t get lost focusing on your itty bitty pores. Celebrate your beautiful, healthy skin!

Are you concerned about the size of your pores? Share your questions and thoughts with us in the comments section!


I really liked that you mentioned that keeping your pores clean creates the illusion of a smaller size. My daughter loves taking care of her skin and hair and is always encouraging me to put more effort into my own skincare routine. These tips are very great and I will make sure to work on my goal to have a better skincare routine in the next few months by putting these tips into action.

Faylinn Byrne @ 2019-08-07 11:55am

Hi, Judy! It sounds like you may have more visible pores, is that correct? One thing I would do is use a primer that has sunscreen in it, such as https://www.skincarebyalana.com/suntegrity-moisturizing-face-protection-spf30-1-7oz.html or https://www.skincarebyalana.com/dermalogica-skinperfect-primer-spf30-75oz.html. That way, you are priming your face for makeup, getting your sun protection, and smoothing your skin so the “white plugs” don’t have the chance to form. I hope this helps!

Alana @ 2018-12-04 3:52pm

I am a young 78 yr. old female that still struggles with clogged pores. Every time I put anything on my skin after cleansing, ie: sun block (usually Cerave 30), I look in my mirror and see all these little ‘white plugs’ that I can simply pick out of my skin with tweezers. I know you suggest not looking in a mag mirror but kinda difficult not to do when I know they are there. These white plugs rarely turn to black heads but they keep coming. I routinely remove my makeup at night and exfoliate weekly or more often. I also always use sun block and non comedic makeup and products. Any advise is appreciated. I wonder if a natural baking soda paste would help to remove these plugs?? Thanks, Judy

Judith Harrington @ 2018-11-17 8:37am

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