It seems like there are about as many lasers to choose from as there are pores in our T-zone; Shah suggests a series of three to six sessions of Clear and Brilliant (about $400-$600 per treatment) or Pico Genesis (about $500-$800 per treatment) as good beginner options. For those looking for something more robust, dermatologist Ashley Magovern, MD likes a single or double Halo treatment (about $1,500 a pop), which remodels the skin, giving it “more ‘cushion’ around the pores, which makes them less noticeable,” she says. The treatment resurfaces about 30% of the skin (vs. about 5% for Clear and Brilliant) for "a smoother, brighter platform that reflects light and obscures the appearance of the pores," among other benefits, Dr. Magovern says.
Along with brightening and tightening the skin, reducing fine lines, and improving acne scars, part of the treatment's allure is in what it does for pore size. “The collagen stimulation allows for strengthening of the structure of the skin, leading to healthier, firmer skin," says Dr. Magovern. "Firmer skin around the pore can reduce its appearance because the pore is squished like it was when we were younger. How great is that?”
As for the pain factor, the treatment can feel as harmless as fingernails dragged across the skin, if numbing cream is used and/or the practitioner doesn't go for an aggressive depth. For optimal results, the derm suggests a series four-to-six sessions, which, at about 15 minutes each, can be done on a lunch break. Afterward, skin may be pink and a little swollen for about 48 hours, Dr. Magovern notes, while the new collagen — and glow-y skin and tighter pores — takes three months to kick in.
Tapping ingredients like glycolic and salicylic acid, chemical peels dissolve and remove dead skin cells, dirt, and oil that have taken up residence in our pores and stretched them out in the process. “They can also help stimulate collagen production so the pores don’t sag open as much,” says dermatologist Jessica Wu, MD. “Deeper peels such as TCA peels can actually peel off surface layers of skin, so the new skin heals in more smoothly.”
More gentle peels (like glycolic), often performed by estheticians as part of a facial, can be done as frequently as once a month, whereas stronger peels can be done quarterly (salicylic and lactic) and yearly (TCA or trichloroacetic). What’s more, a peel is often one of the most affordable pore-shrinkers on the menu in esthetician and derm offices: Prices range from about $100 to $950, depending on the intensity of the peel and whether it’s being administered by a facialist, registered nurse, or doctor.
Dr. Shah suggests double cleansing, first with an oil-based cleanser, then a water-soluble one, and using a gentle, non-comedogenic formula. Dr. Wu also notes that those with dry skin run the risk of magnifying pores when overly drying their skin. “Dryness will lead to small cracks in your skin that cane make pores look even larger,” she says. For those with oily skin, a cleanser with beta-hydroxy acids, clay, charcoal, or sulfur can help keep gunk from building up in pores.
It’s a directive that sounds straightforward enough, until you realize just how many such exfoliating products are at our disposal (including cleansers, moisturizers, serums, treatment pads, and masks). Instead of loading up on every option out there, both Dr. Shah and Dr. Wu suggest a little restraint when starting an exfoliating regimen: Start by introducing a single product to the fold and tread lightly to avoid over-drying and irritation. “I generally recommend starting once per week and going up to three times per week as tolerated,” Dr. Shah says.
Other pore-supporting ingredients to look for in skin care: caffeine (which can constrict the skin and make pores look tighter), retinoids (which strengthen the skin that supports pores by boosting collagen production), and niacinamide (which improves elasticity and balances oils). Not sure where to start? Try this guide to help pinpoint the right product for you.