What's the deal with "shrinking" your pores?

Compared to the rest of the body, pores are miniscule.

However, their size doesn’t stop them being a major source of self-consciousness for some people. Just as Regina George railed against her “huge” pores in Mean Girls, there are plenty of women and men out there wondering if it’s possible to reduce the size of theirs.

Pharmacy shelves are stocked with products that claim to “reduce the appearance of” pores (note the choice of words there); meanwhile, we’ve all read or heard the claim that a splash of cold water on the face has the power to “shrink” them.

To sort fact from optimistic fiction, we asked Dr Michael Freeman, principal dermatologist at The Skin Centre, and Dr Michael Rich, dermatologist and founder and director of the ENRICH clinic, to share their expert insights.

Watch: Mia Freedman discusses her experience with laser treatment. (Post continues after video.)

Pores are like snowflakes

Just like everything else on the human body, pore size varies from one person to the next, so there’s not really a “normal” size or shape. And, as you might have already guessed, it’s mostly down to your DNA.

“The major factor determining the size of someone’s pores is genetics, so you can thank your parents for them,” Dr Freeman says.

“Pore size can be affected by your skin’s oil production or the muscle structure around the pores,” Dr Rich adds.

That said, the size of your pores isn’t fixed. In fact, Dr Freeman says they will naturally change over time as a routine part of ageing. This is largely thanks to collagen loss.

For menstruating women, there’s another factor that comes into play. “Pore size is significantly increased during the ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle,” Dr Freeman adds.


Some products claim to "reduce the appearance" of pores. (Image: iStock)

The temperature factor

The idea of physically shrinking your pores with a mere splash of chilled water is an enticing one. Alas...

"No, pore size does not change due to temperature," Dr Freeman states.

Applying heat can make pores appear bigger, but that's got more to do with what's happening in the skin when this is happening.

"The pores are used by the oil from the sebaceous glands to travel to the skin's surface," Dr Freeman explains.

"Heating the skin makes the oil more fluid and can unblock some peoples' pores, giving the illusion of a larger pore when in fact it's just oil movement." (Post continues after gallery.)

The truth about pore 'shrinking'

The short answer is: there isn't a way to permanently, physically reduce the size of your pores if that's something that concerns you.

As Dr Rich explains, products that claim to change their appearance will usually yield an immediate, temporary result.

"For long lasting results, it is necessary to define the type of the pores and develop a complete skincare regime with a dermatologist," he says.


"Depending on your pores, the regime may include laser treatments or topical medications with retinol."

Dr Freeman agrees pores can be "noticeably" reduced through various treatment plans, of which there are three main options.

Reduce size of pores

Your pore size is mostly determined by genetics. (Image: iStock)

"Firstly, glycylglycine-containing cosmetics have been shown to shrink pores by as much as 20 per cent," he says.

The frequent application of retinoic acid can also help "a little", the downside being that this would make your skin more prone to sun damage unless you wore sunscreen regularly.

As for laser therapy, Dr Freeman favours the fractional erbium glass laser over vascular ones. "Some practitioners use IPL therapy, however I find this the least effective," he adds.

In terms of your day-to-day skin routine, Dr Rich also recommends gentle cleansing to change the oil production of your skin, something that can contribute to pores looking bigger.

Featured image: Universal Pictures