We wanted to know if you could actually shrink pores, so we asked the experts in the field. The age-old idea that you can shrink your pores—using anything from a splash of ice-cold water to an egg-white mask—is a fantastic one. Sadly, it’s also a fantasy: “Pore size is genetically determined,” says Debra Jaliman, a dermatologist in New York City, and you can’t make pores physically smaller. So to a certain extent, you have to accept what you were given. But there are things you can do to minimize the appearance of your pores. And while some people may require Fraxel laser treatments to minimize pores, most can do so with a few simple skin care changes.

1. Remove dirt and oil with regular exfoliation.

Excessive amounts of dirt and oil can clog pores, making them appear larger and giving skin a greasy “orange peel” texture. Dr. Gerstner recommends exfoliating skin a few times a week to slough off debris. She prefers chemical exfoliants like glycolic or salicylic acid over manual ones, because they help with oil control.

2. Shrink pores with retinol.

Derived from Vitamin A, retinol shrinks pores by decreasing the amount of sebum that they 

produce. While sebum plays an important role in keeping skin hydrated—it’s made up of a mixture of fats, proteins, and inorganic salts—too much of it can make pores larger. Consistent use of products that contain retinol, says Dr. Gerstner, will shrink pores in the long run. Added bonus: they’ll also shrink fine lines!

3. Camouflage large pores with a face primer.

Unfortunately, exfoliation and retinol won’t change your skin’s appearance overnight. The good news is: while you wait for their effects to kick in, you can conceal large pores with face primers. They provide a flawless base for foundation by smoothing out fine lines, acne scars, and pores.

4. Use Clay Masks Regularly. 

Masks with Kaolin clay in them are great for those with large, clogged pores. You only need to use them once or twice a week for noticeable benefits.

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