Technically, enlarged pores are not a thing. Some of us are born with large pores while others have smaller ones. And while you can reduce the appearance of large pores, no product or diet or skin routine can permanently shrink pores that have supposedly been “enlarged”.

That is just a myth.

Like Intothegloss.com notes “You can clean ‘em out, you can dress ‘em up, but you can’t shrink 'em”.

One of the best ways to make your pores appear smaller is topical retinoids or retinols. Nowadays it seems like retinol and retinoid-containing products should be sold with halos, as they are being hailed far and wide for their anti-ageing and anti-acne properties.

These products increase epidermal turnover, meaning they actually improve the overall thickness of the skin, making it easier for the skin to get rid of oily plugs. And the less packed, or full, the pores are, the smaller they appear.

Local dermatologist Dr. Nomphelo Gantsho says that endogenous and exogenous factors are also known to make facial pores appear larger. Such factors include genetic predisposition, acne, extractions or squeezing of sebum, chronic photodamage and vitamin A deficiency.

“It is now thought that increased sebum output level, decreased elasticity around the pores, and increased hair follicle size are most clinically relevant to the cause of pores appearing larger. In female patients, additional hormonal factors, such as those of the menstrual cycle, affect the pore size,” says Dr. Nomphelo Gantsho.

So, what is the best ways to camouflage them and make pores appear smaller?

1. Use the correct products

Look at the ingredients in your skin care products. Zinc and magnesium help restore your skin's oil balance and clear pores, which can make them look smaller.

Products with soothing ingredients such as rosemary and lavender may ease irritation and prevent pores from stretching out.

Also, choose products that say "noncomedogenic" on the label. That means it won't clog your pores.

If salicylic acid is listed as an ingredient, it may also help your skin's texture and unclog pores because it exfoliates the skin.

And retinol or prescription-strength retinoids are winners at unclogging pores - keeping them looking smaller.

Read: Is retinol the best kept anti-ageing secret?

2. Cleanse properly

Washing your face and exfoliating are of course very important, but are ultimately "only temporary” solutions, warns Dr. Gantsho.

“You will naturally have large pores if you are born with oily or combination skin.”

So it’s critical for people with these skin types to never go to bed without washing your face. Leaving makeup on overnight clogs larger pores, making them appear even larger.

3. Sunscreen

A lot of time spent in the sun means skin loses its supple nature, which can make them look bigger.

“Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (depending on your phototype), every day. Also, wear a broad-brimmed hat and avoid being out in the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m (for more info. visit: www.cansa.org.za),” Dr. Gantsho.

4. Spot treatment

The larger the oil production, the larger the pore, and vice versa. So some areas of your face may be oilier and thus show more visible pores. Most common: the pores on your nose, cheeks or forehead appear large. Dr. Gantsho suggests treating congested areas using a clay mask.

Read: 3 fantastic face masks for congested skin

5. Diet

Food that are high in fat and unhealthy oils can inflame your skin, so try to avoid too many starchy, sugary and oily foods.

6. Treatments

There are of course a range of cosmetic products that have micro-blurring technology that can help pores appear micro in size.

We especially love these priming products:

Kiehl's Micro-Blur Skin Perfector, R510.

And Benefit The POREfessional, R395.


For those seeking alternative treatment, Dr. Gantsho recommends the following:

“Current treatment modalities include topical retinoids, chemical peels, oral antiandrogens, skin needling, lasers, radiofrequency, and ultrasound devices, with the latter devices offering the most novel and robust choices.

“New botanically derived topical treatments, specifically copper chlorophyllin complex sodium salt and tetra-hydro-jasmonic acid, are in development with initial positive results, though studies are still limited.”