How To Shrink Your Facial Pores Naturally (A Derm’s Guide)

If you buy through external links, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure in full.

How To Shrink Your Facial Pores Naturally (A Derm’s Guide)

Enlarged facial pores are a common skin problem faced by millions of people around the world. People have searched for ways to shrink pores naturally for decades. Unfortunately, there are no miracle creams that can actually shrink your pores, no cleansers that contain natural pore shrinker ingredients, and no creams to DIY shrink pores.

Pores are not made of muscle so there are no ways to shrink pores or tighten pores naturally or otherwise. However, many products on the market can help make them look less visible and give the appearance of shrinking your pores.

What are pores?

Pores are tiny openings in the skin which connect to hair follicles and sebaceous glands (1, 2). Hair follicles are where the hair grows from, and they are located in the fat layer of the skin (innermost layer) and dermis (middle layer of the skin).

Hairs extended through the dermis to emerge from the pore (opening) in the epidermis of the skin (top layer). Sebaceous glands, where oil or sebum is produced, reside in the dermis of the skin, attached to the hair follicle. Sebaceous glands secrete oil out through the pores and onto the surface of the skin.

What causes oil to be produced?

shrink pores naturally

When the sebaceous glands, or oil glands, receive a special signal, they secrete oil through the pore and onto the skin (3, 4). This is a normal and necessary process. Oil serves not only to keep the skin moist, but it also lubricates and protects it from the harsh environment. You need oil to be produced to keep the skin functioning properly and to keep it healthy.

The problem arises when excess oil is produced which causes pores to enlarge leading to blackheads and acne. Blackheads form when excess oil and dead skin cells do not get removed from the skin.

They build up in your pores and cause the pores to swell/enlarge and become either blackheads (open comedones) or whiteheads (closed comedones). If bacteria get trapped in these comedones, this can lead to inflammatory acne bumps. If left untreated, these inflamed lesions can cause scarring and discoloration of the skin.

What causes pores to enlarge?

Enlarged pores can result from a variety of reasons (3, 4). Genetics plays a large role in the size of pores. Unfortunately, the genetically predetermined size of your pores cannot be changed. The genes that you inherit from your parents dictate your skin type. However, these enlarged pores can be made less visible.

Pores can also enlarge through hormones, age, sun, improper use of products, and poor hygiene. These can be controlled to some extent.

  1. Proper use of sunscreen and sun protection can keep pores from enlarging. Sun causes degradation of collagen and elastin. This leads to sagging of the skin which makes your pores look bigger.
  2. If you have oily skin, you must use oil-free, non-comedogenic products otherwise your skin’s oily condition will worsen. If you put more oil into already oily skin, this will just cause more oil to get stuck in your pores and enlarge them even more.
  3. Proper hygiene, consisting of washing your face twice a day and moisturizing twice a day, at a minimum, is also necessary. You need to wash your face twice a day to remove the dirt and oil that can clog pores and enlarge them. Twice daily moisturizer is a must. If you do not give your skin moisture, it will think it is dehydrated and produce extra oil, making your enlarged pores even larger.

Are there any products that can shrink pores or make them look less visible?

Are there any products that can shrink pores or make them look less visible?

There are several ingredients you should look for when searching for products to help minimize the appearance of pores.

1. Retinoids

Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A, that were first discovered by a dermatologist, Dr. Kligman, decades ago (3-5). Since then retinoids have been nicknamed “the wrinkle cream”. However, they can benefit the skin in many other ways.

Retinoids have anti-aging benefits because they help rebuild collagen to minimize fine lines and wrinkles and fade dark spots. By revitalizing your collagen, it makes your skin sag less and makes your pores less visible.

Retinoids are a very effective acne treatment as well because they get rid of dead skin cells and decrease oil production, both of which lead to blackheads and acne formation. By getting rid of oil and debris, it cleanses out the pores and makes them look less visible.

Differin gel or Adapalene Gel by La Roche Posay are effective over-the-counter retinoids that help with unclogging pores, controlling oil production, and treating acne.

2. Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid (GA) is an alpha hydroxy acid, which helps decrease oil production, exfoliate dead skin cells, and smooth out fine lines and wrinkles (3, 4, 6). As your skin ages, the sloughing off dead skin cells slows down and they are allowed to buildup on your skin.

Not only does this clog your pores but it also gives your skin a dull, rough, and aged appearance. By exfoliating your skin, GA delivers anti-aging and pore minimizing benefits. Some people with sensitive skin may need to start out using it infrequently and at the lowest strengths available, then, after a period of time, they can build up to regular daily use at higher percentages.

Based on your preferences, you can find GA in various delivery systems, such as peels, cleansers, toners, creams, and lotions.

Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight Cream by Skinceuticals contains 10% GA to help exfoliate dead skin cells and decrease oil while reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

3. Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid (SA) is a beta hydroxy acid, which helps unclog pores and makes them look less visible (3, 4, 7). It does this by getting rid of dead skin cells and decreasing oil production. SA has anti-inflammatory properties, which usually makes it well tolerated and helpful for the treatment of acne.

However, some people with sensitive skin may need to start out using it infrequently until they can fully tolerate it. SA can be found as an ingredient in toners, cleansers, creams, or peels, so there is something for everyone.

Oxy Pads contain 2% SA. They help control oil production as well as treat acne.

4. Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide (BP) is one of the most popular acne treatments because it is very effective (3, 4). It also works by getting rid of dead skin cells, decreasing oil production, and killing the bacteria responsible for causing acne, P. acnes. It unclogs pores and cleans them out, and thus makes them appear smaller.

Sometimes BP can irritate the skin, especially for people with sensitive skin. Always start with the lowest strength possible and use it infrequently. You can always build up to higher strengths and more frequent use. Depending on what mode of delivery you would prefer, you can find BP in cleansers, creams, lotions, and spot treatments.

Panoxyl Wash is a 10% BP wash that is great for controlling oil and treating acne. It comes in a foaming or creamy wash.

5. Alcohol, such as isopropyl or denatured

These alcohols are great astringents used for controlling oil and reducing shine immediately (3, 4). Alcohol can also help other products penetrate better. However, you need to exercise caution. Alcohol can over-dry your skin which will lead to compensatory excess oil production.

People with sensitive skin will not likely be able to tolerate this product because it is too drying and irritating. These types of alcohols should not be confused with cetyl or stearyl alcohols, which are fatty alcohols that serve as emollients and do not dry out the skin.

La Roche Posay Effaclar Astringent Toner for Oily Skin combines denatured alcohol with salicylic acid and lipo-hydroxy acid to create a powerful astringent that cleans the skin, instantly controls oil and prevents acne.

Find out your skin profile
(answer 4 quick questions)

How to shrink pores naturally?

How to shrink pores naturally?

While there is no such thing as a natural pore shrinker, there are a variety of natural ingredients to look for when you are purchasing products. Here are some natural ingredients that can help to minimize pores naturally and make them less apparent.

1. Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil is one of the “good” oils, which will not clog your pores (3, 8, 9). In fact, this oil actually can help control oil production and decrease it. It also makes an excellent non-comedogenic moisturizer. In addition, jojoba oil also helps remove dead skin cells so they will not clog your pores and enlarge them.

As a bonus, it also contains the antioxidant vitamin E to protect your skin from free radical damage by the sun and thus prevent wrinkles. Its anti-inflammatory effects aid in the treatment of acne.

ZELEN Life Cleanser works well on all skin types. It is strong enough to control oily skin but gentle enough for sensitive skin. It contains jojoba oil, aloe vera, and sunflower oil in addition to other anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial ingredients.

2. Charcoal

The medicinal form of charcoal is activated charcoal, which has been specially treated to make it safe for human use (10, 11). Activated charcoal has long been used in hospital emergency rooms for the treatment of poisonings and overdoses because of its ability to attract the poison and remove it.

It is great at absorbing the oil in the same manner as it does poisons. It acts like a magnet to soak up the oils in your skin and give your skin a matte finish. By removing the oils, it makes your pores less visible. It also acts as an exfoliant to remove dead skin cells and clean out pores, which makes them less visible.

Boscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser is a unique warming cleanser that contains charcoal to absorb oil as well as vitamin C to protect your collagen from destruction by the sun and artichoke leaf extract to calm and soothe inflamed skin.

3. Clay

Clay, which is similar to charcoal, is able to absorb enormous amounts of oil to leave your face shine-free (11, 12). It is also a gentle exfoliant, which removes dead skin cells. Bentonite and kaolin clays are great for all skin types including sensitive skin, while red clay is better for acne-prone and oily skin.

Skinceuticals Clarifying Clay Mask contains kaolin and bentonite clay to absorb excess oil and reduce shine, glycolic acid to exfoliate dead skin cells, and aloe to soothe the skin.

4. Cucumber

Cucumber is an amazing ingredient. It has so many uses. It is an astringent which removes excess oil, as well as an anti-inflammatory agent, anti-oxidant, and diuretic (3, 13-15). This ability to remove excess oil will keep your pores from filling with oil and enlarging and can also help to treat acne. Cucumber also helps lighten dark spots on the skin. Using cucumber will leave your skin feeling cool and refreshed.

Mario Badescu Cucumber Cleansing Lotion contains not only cucumbers to help your pores, but also exfoliants and isopropyl alcohol to really mattify your skin.

5. Witch hazel

Witch hazel is also a great astringent that controls oil production (3, 4, 16, 17). It also has some anti-inflammatory capabilities, making it less irritating than alcohol. However, just like alcohol, it is not good for people with sensitive skin. It can over-dry and irritate your skin. Also, excessive use can over-dry your skin and lead to excessive oil production to compensate.

Mario Badescu Witch Hazel and Rosewater Toner combines the astringent properties of witch hazel to cleanse the skin and remove oil from the pores, with soothing aloe and anti-oxidant rose oil.

6. Geranium and Lavender

This powerhouse duo is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory making them helpful in treating acne and keeping the skin clean and free of oil (3, 18-24). By regulating oil production, it prevents clogged pores and minimizes their appearance. These ingredients are even gentle enough for people with sensitive skin.

ZELEN Life Toner combines these 2 ingredients with honey, which is also an anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory agent that helps treat acne, in order to deliver shine-free skin as well as anti-aging benefits.

Are there any natural DIY remedies for enlarged pores?

Are there any natural DIY remedies for enlarged pores?

While there are no home remedies to shrink pores, there are several different pore-minimizing home remedies that are thought to help decrease the size of enlarged pores and make them less noticeable. DIY products can be harmful if they are not prepared properly and have bacterial contamination. I always recommend using quality store-bought products that have been tested in OSHA-approved facilities.

1. Egg whites

It is believed that egg whites can shrink enlarged pores and tighten the skin (25). Eggs whites consist of mostly water and a little protein. There are no studies to validate the claim that egg whites shrink pores. Egg whites are a humectant that can bind and hold water in the skin to make the skin look plumper.

Properly hydrated skin may make the pores look less visible. Egg whites also have antibacterial effects against the bacteria causing acne, P. acnes, and they can also soak up excess oil. These properties give egg whites the ability to help with the treatment of acne and minimize the appearance of enlarged pores.

If you do try a DIY egg white mask, be careful not to ingest raw egg, as it could contain Salmonella and you could get food poisoning.  Also, some people are allergic to eggs.

2. Papaya

Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which removes oil and dead skin cells and also has anti-microbial properties (26-29). This makes it effective at cleaning out pores to make them look less visible as well as helping to treat acne. It has also been used in the treatment of burn wounds because it can debride dead tissue.

Papaya has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used in the treatment of certain dental conditions. Care should be exercised if you have sensitive skin as this may irritate it.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which helps protect against UV-induced skin damage (30-31). It also has astringent properties to help minimize pores and remove oil. Caution should be exercised if you have sensitive skin, as this may irritate it.

4. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera has long been used for its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties (3, 32-34). It has been used to treat burns and other wounds. Aloe also has the ability to balance pH and help hydrate skin, as well as astringent properties to help remove dirt and oil.

How can I prevent my pores from enlarging?

How can I prevent my pores from enlarging?

There are several steps you can take to prevent your pores from enlarging.

1. Sunscreen

Sunscreen needs to be worn daily even on cloudy and rainy days and reapplied every 1-2 hours while you are outside. This includes sitting in the car or by a window since UV rays go through glass. Make sure you select a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has UVA and UVB protection with an SPF of about 50.

You also need to apply the correct amount otherwise you will not get the full protective benefits. It takes one ounce to cover your body and a nickel-size amount to cover your face, depending on your size.

2. Cleanser

Everyone needs to cleanse their skin twice a day to remove dirt and oil that accumulate over time. If you keep your face clean, dirt and oil will not fill your pores and they will not enlarge. You want to choose a cleanser with the right ingredients to decrease oil and unclog pores. Make sure to read labels and select ingredients from the list above.

3. Moisturizer

I know it is counterintuitive to put moisturizer on oily skin, but it will only get oilier if you do not. When you do not moisturize your skin, your skin thinks it is dry and it secretes more oil. Just make sure you always use oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizers.

Humectant moisturizers are usually better for oily skin than occlusives or emollients because they are not as greasy. It is also better to choose a gel or lotion moisturizer because they are lightweight compared to creams.

4. Toner

Toners used to be just for oily or acne-prone skin, but now there are toners for every skin type. Toners are a great way to cleanse your skin to remove any dirt or makeup that remains after washing your face. They can also balance the pH of your skin and keep it slightly acidic.

If your skin’s pH gets too alkaline, your skin’s barrier will not function properly to keep moisture in and harmful microbes out. Once again it is important to read labels and select the correct ingredients from those listed above to help make your pores less visible.

5. Mask

Masks are a great addition to your skin care regimen. They trap the highly concentrated ingredients on the skin and allow it to penetrate better so you can get better results. Look for any of the ingredients listed above, such as glycolic acid or clay, to help unclog pores.

6. Peel

Depending on the strength and depth of the peel, these can be done periodically to freshen your complexion. They are excellent at removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores. They also have the added benefits of anti-aging effects. The most common ingredients in peels that can help minimize your pores are GA, SA, or retinoids.

7. Exfoliators

Exfoliators are available in 2 types: chemical and physical. They both are great at getting rid of dead skin cells so they do not remain on your skin and clog your pores. Chemical exfoliators, such as GA, use enzymes to break up the bonds between the dead skin cells so they can be washed off. Physical exfoliators take the form of beads or brushes to physically remove the dead cells. Just be sure not to over-exfoliate and cause damage to your skin.

 8. Specialty creams

These can contain any of the ingredients listed above, such as retinoids or glycolic acid. These can be applied once or twice a day, depending on what ingredients they contain and what your skin will tolerate. They serve to remove oil and dead skin cells to minimize the appearance of the pores.


Enlarged pores are a common problem that can be difficult to treat. While you cannot actually shrink the size of your pores, since they are genetically determined, you can minimize their appearance. Proper hygiene and proper use of quality products can keep your pores clean and less visible.

Whatever treatment regimen you choose, to be successful you need to have patience and you need to be consistent.

Did you find this article useful? Enter your email to receive subscriber-only skincare advice to help you perfect your routine and achieve radiant skin. Get tips and tricks, how to's and exclusive offers direct to your inbox...


  1. Montagna W, Parakkal P.  Structure and Function of the Skin. Elsevier Inc, NY.
  2. Martel JL, Miao JH, Badri T. Anatomy, Hair Follicle. [Updated 2020 Aug 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:
  1. Baumann L (ed) 2015. Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients. McGraw-Hill Education, NY.
  1. Draelos ZD (ed) 2005. Cosmeceuticals. Elsevier Inc, NY.
  1. Riahi RR, Bush AE, Cohen PR. Topical Retinoids: Therapeutic Mechanisms in the Treatment of Photodamaged Skin. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2016 Jun;17(3):265-76.
  1. Kakudo N, Kushida S, Tanaka N, Minakata T, Suzuki K, Kusumoto K. A novel method to measure conspicuous facial pores using computer analysis of digital-camera-captured images: the effect of glycolic acid chemical peeling. Skin Res Technol. 2011 Nov;17(4):427-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0846.2011.00514.x. Epub 2011 Feb 22. PMID: 21342294.
  1. Grimes PE. The safety and efficacy of salicylic acid chemical peels in darker racial-ethnic groups. Dermatol Surg. 1999 Jan;25(1):18-22. doi: 10.1046/j.1524-4725.1999.08145.x. PMID: 9935087.
  1. Pazyar N, et al. Jojoba in dermatology. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2013; 148: 687-91.
  1. Meier L, et al. Clay jojoba facial mask for lesioned skin and mild acne. Forsch Komplementmed. 2012; 19: 75-9.
  1. Villarreal J, Kahn CA, Dunford JV, Patel E, Clark RF. A retrospective review of the prehospital use of activated charcoal. Am J Emerg Med. 2015 Jan;33(1):56-9.
  1. Cortez JSA, Kharisov BI, Quezada TES, Garcia TCH. Micro and nonporous materials capable of absorbing solvents and oils reversibly: the state of the art.  Pet Sci. 2017; 14: 84-104.
  1. Williams LB, Haydel SE. Evaluation of the medicinal use of clay minerals as antibacterial agents. Int Geol Rev. 2010 Jul 1;52(7/8):745-770.
  1. Thanthong S, Nanthong R, Kongwattanakul S, Laebua K, Trirussapanich P, Pitiporn S, Nantajit D. Prophylaxis of Radiation-Induced Dermatitis in Patients With Breast Cancer Using Herbal Creams: A Prospective Randomized Controlled Trial. Integr Cancer Ther. 2020 Jan-Dec;19:1534735420920714. doi: 10.1177/1534735420920714. PMID: 32406284; PMCID: PMC7238795.
  1. Kai H, Baba M, Okuyama T. Inhibitory effect of Cucumis sativus on melanin production in melanoma B16 cells by downregulation of tyrosinase expression. Planta Med. 2008 Dec;74(15):1785-8. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1088338. Epub 2008 Nov 13. PMID: 19009501.
  1. Colantonio S, Rivers JK. Botanicals With Dermatologic Properties Derived From First Nations Healing: Part 2-Plants and Algae. J Cutan Med Surg. 2017 Jul/Aug;21(4):299-307. doi: 10.1177/1203475416683390. Epub 2016 Dec 19. PMID: 28300437.
  1. Thring TS, Hili P, Naughton DP. Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells. J Inflamm (Lond). 2011 Oct 13;8(1):27. doi: 10.1186/1476-9255-8-27. PMID: 21995704; PMCID: PMC3214789.
  1. Draelos ZD, Levy SB, Lutrario C, Gunt H. Evaluation of the Performance of a Nature-Based Sensitive Skin Regimen in Subjects With Clinically Diagnosed Sensitive Skin. J Drugs Dermatol. 2018 Aug 1;17(8):908-913. PMID: 30124733.
  1. Ben Djemaa FG, Bellassoued K, Zouari S, El Feki A, Ammar E. Antioxidant and Wound Healing Activity of Lavandula Aspic L. Ointment. J Tissue Viability. 2016; 25(4): 193-200.
  1. Rai VK, Sinha P, Yadav KS, Shukla A, Saxena A, Bawankule DU, Tandon S, Khan F, Chanotiya CS, Yadav NP. Anti-Psoriatic Effect of Lavandula Augustifolia Essential Oil and Its Major Components Linalool and linalyl Acetate. J Ethnopharmacol. 2020; 261:113-127.
  1. Altaei DT. Topical Lavender Oil for the Treatment of Recurrent Apthous Ulceration. Am J Dent. 2012; 25(1): 39-43.
  1. Han X, Beaumont C, Stevens N. Chemical Composition Analysis and In Vitro Biological Activities of Ten Essential Oils in Human Skin Cells. Biochimie Open 5. 2017; 1-7.
  1. Asiani A, Zolfaghari B, Fereidani Y. Design, Formulation and Evaluation of a Herbal Gel Contains Melissa. Sumac, Licorice, Rosemary and Geranium for Treatment of Recurrent Labial Herpes Infections.  Dent Res J. 2018; 15(3): 191-200.
  1. Kassim A, Stuart M. The inhibitory effect of various essential oils on the in vitro growth of four bacterial species of skin flora. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008; 58(12): 27.
  1. Geranium. Drugs and Lactation Database. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006.
  1. Starley IF, Mohammed P, Schneider G, Bickler SW. The treatment of pediatric burns using topical papaya. Burns. 1999 Nov;25(7):636-9. doi: 10.1016/s0305-4179(99)00056-x. PMID: 10563690.
  1. Saliasi I, Llodra JC, Bravo M, Tramini P, Dussart C, Viennot S, Carrouel F. Effect of a Toothpaste/Mouthwash Containing Carica papaya Leaf Extract on Interdental Gingival Bleeding: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Nov 27;15(12):2660. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15122660. PMID: 30486374; PMCID: PMC6313435.
  1. Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Rafiee E, Mehrabian A, Feily A. Skin wound healing and phytomedicine: a review. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(6):303-10. doi: 10.1159/000357477. Epub 2014 Jun 27. PMID: 24993834.
  1. Khan H, Akhtar N, Ali A. Effects of Cream Containing Ficus carica L. Fruit Extract on Skin Parameters: In vivo Evaluation. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2014 Nov-Dec;76(6):560-4. PMID: 25593393; PMCID: PMC4293691.
  1. Hsin-Ti L, Wen-Sheng L, Yi-Chia W, Ya-Wei L, Wen ZH, David WH, Su-Shin L. The Effect in Topical Use of Lycogen(TM) via Sonophoresis for Anti-aging on Facial Skin. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2015;16(12):1063-9. doi: 10.2174/1389201016666150731112010. PMID: 26238679.
  1. Marchena AM, Franco L, Romero AM, Barriga C, Rodríguez AB. Lycopene and Melatonin: Antioxidant Compounds in Cosmetic Formulations. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2020;33(5):237-243. doi: 10.1159/000508673. Epub 2020 Oct 16. PMID: 33070140.
  1. Aloe. Drugs and Lactation Database. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine; 2006.
  1. Klein AD, Penneys NS. Aloe Vera. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1988; 18: 714-20.
  1. Rosentahl A, Isalievich R, Moy R. Management of Acute Radiation Dermatitis: A Review of the Literature and Proposal for Treatment Algorithm.  J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019; 81: 558-67.

About The Author


Board-Certified Dermatologist

BS-MD (University of Miami)

United States

Dr. Trent completed a 6 year combined BS-MD at the University of Miami with an undergraduate major in biology and a minor in chemistry. She completed her internship in Internal Medicine and her residency in Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital. Dr. Trent is a world recognized dermatologist, who has published over 40 articles in peer-reviewed journals. She also co-authored a textbook on dermatologic diseases and therapy, which was published by McGraw-Hill Co, Inc. She has had the opportunity to present her clinical research several times at national medical meetings. Dr. Trent has been the recipient of several awards for research, teaching and clinical practice, including the prestigious Young Investigators award for research from the American Academy of Dermatology as well as the coveted Castle Connelly Top Doctor award.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ZELEN Life is rebranding to Verdica. We ship to US, CA, UK & EU in 2 - 5 days ($5 flat rate). International delivery in 7 - 14 days ($10 flat rate).