Can You Really Close Your Pores? Here's What To Know

We hear a lot about pore size from the skincare industry. It feels like every time we turn around there's some product promising to close or at least minimize pores, and even those of us with relatively small pores can find our interest piqued. But the problem with all this marketing on behalf of the major beauty brands is that they're selling a fantasy. Why? Because pores don't actually close. Nor do they open, for that matter, regardless of how much you steam them or how many pore strips you use.

"Pores are the visible openings of the hair follicles to their connected oil glands," dermatologist Shari Marchbein, MD tells Cosmopolitan, adding that "their size is genetically determined." Because of this, you can't close them, you can't erase them, and you definitely can't change their size, per MedicineNet. But, as much as you may not be a fan of your pores, they're essential to the skin's ability to detoxify and regulate body temperature. 

So, what's the deal with all the pore-opening and shrinking treatments? It turns out when you get a facial, what you're seeing is actually your skin reacting to whatever's in the facial, or sometimes, even the temperature of the product. This can create swelling, which might make your pores appear smaller than usual. "I think people tend to react to transient changes that you can see from your blood vessels opening and closing," dermatologist Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin tells Harper's Bazaar. "It has nothing to do with the actual pore itself." That said, you do have options when it comes to minimizing how your pores appear. Just know that you're not closing anything. Instead, you're manipulating the skin around the pores to give yourself the appearance you want. 

Why your pores may appear large

Although pores can't actually change in size, they can become dilated, which can contribute to their prominence on the skin. "Pores can dilate when the opening becomes clogged and the oil is being produced has no exit and backs up," dermatologist Kathleen C. Suozzi, MD tell Insider. "That dilates that exit." This results in what we think of as a clogged pore, or as your dermatologist calls it: a comedone. "There are two types: open comedones and closed comedones," adds Suozzi. "Open comedones are commonly referred to as blackheads and that means the follicular ostium (the opening of the pore) has been blocked by debris." This debris is actually just our own oil and dead skin cells. Naturally, these tiny dark spots of cellular waste are going to result in pores being more obvious, in addition to them being dilated. 

Another factor that can contribute to large-looking pores is decreased levels of collagen and elastin. Both of these things can be affected by sun damage and aging. When the skin doesn't have the ability to bounce back, it becomes looser and therefore your pores just naturally become bigger because they droop along with the rest of your facial skin, per Cleveland Health Clinic.

How you can minimize appearance of your pores

Minimizing how you pores look is all about keeping them healthy. "You can do this by cleansing skin twice a day and exfoliating twice a week in order to remove oil, dirt, sebum, and cellular debris," facial aesthetics doctor Dr. Nina Bal tells Glamour. You also want to be stringent about protecting your skin from UV rays, "so using an SPF of 40+ every day is vital," says Bal.

Unfortunately, once the damage has been done to your pores "they cannot go back to their original size," explains Bal. This means investing in products that boost collagen in the skin around the pores to make them look smaller than they actually are. Ingredients that can help with this are substances that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. "In the same way that retinols — vitamin A-based topicals — work for wrinkles, they can minimize pores by plumping up skin by increasing collagen," board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD tells Allure. Also products that contains glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and/or lactic acid are great in helping to minimize pores, as well as give them a nice deep clean, according to Nazarian.

When it comes to having perfect skin forever — whatever perfect means to you — it's about taking the proactive approach and maintenance. While you may not be able to undo the skin mistakes of your past, if you're not happy with your pores, then you can make the decision right now to work on making them healthier. In time, you pores will appear minimized — even though they're the same size as they were before.