How to Shrink Pores (Temporarily), Plus 3 Pore Myths

Visible pores rank as one of the most common complaints people have about their skin, and photos of models and celebrities with their pores Photoshopped into oblivion make pore problems seem even worse. “Pore-shrinking” toners and masks are always popular, but can they really work? Find out why not and learn how to safely shrink pores (temporarily) with my three-product Super Pore Killer technique!


Affiliate links in this post are marked with an asterisk(*).


But first, let’s debunk some common pore myths.

Pore Myth 1: Your nose is covered in blackheads.

That is probably untrue. Those enlarged and darkened pores on your T-zone and sometimes on other areas of your face are much more likely to be sebaceous filaments (SFs), which are essentially a mixture of sebum, bacteria, dead skin cells, and a single hair (I know, I know, gross) that have filled up a large pore. SFs are what this method addresses.

Pore Myth 2: Pores can be “shrunk.”

Sadly, while you can temporarily diminish the appearance of your pores using techniques like mine, you can’t physically shrink the actual size of your pores. Keeping skin plump and hydrated can help, but in general, the size of your pores is the size of your pores. The only exception I can think of is when pores are stretched out and damaged, usually through the use of peel-off pore strips or pore masks. Those peel-off pore strips may pull out some SFs, and I know it feels awesome to use one and then see how much gross stuff is stuck to the strip afterwards, but the damage they can cause your pores is not reversible and will make the problem worse in the long run, so don’t do it. Also avoid picking at your SFs, squeezing them, or using those little metal extractor tools, all of which also put you in danger of permanently enlarged pores.

Pore Myth 3: Pores open and close.

Pores do not open and close. There aren’t little tiny muscles around every pore in your face, flexing and relaxing depending on what you’re doing to your skin or what you’ve applied to it. The idea that a warm washcloth or steam treatment will “open” your pores to allow products to penetrate more deeply is a myth. And the idea that a splash of cold water or an astringent toner will “close” your pores is also a myth. As I mentioned above, the size of your pores is the size of your pores.

The best thing you can do to make your pores look smaller and your face clearer is to regularly clean out your pores. So let’s find out how!

How to shrink pores

When it comes to clearing out my pores, I bring out the big guns.

What you need to get rid of sebaceous filaments

To clear out your SFs and shrink your pores’ appearance with my technique, you’ll need about an hour, preferably in the morning, and these three items:

How to clear out your pores for fewer SFs

Note: The best time to do this is in the morning, before your regular morning skin care routine. This way, you won’t have to cleanse first and then again at the end of this process.

  1. Apply your BHA product. (If you have dry or dehydrated skin, you may want to limit your BHA and the rest of this process to only the areas of your face where your SFs are most visible.) Because BHAs are oil soluble, they’ll be able to penetrate deep into the sebum filling up your pores, loosening the gunk to make it easier to remove with the following steps. Wait 20-25 minutes to allow the BHA to do its job.
  2. Without washing off the BHA, apply your clay mask. Wait for however long the clay mask instructions specify.
  3. Rinse off your clay mask with tepid to lukewarm water. Be careful with your water temperature here, as both your BHA and clay mask can be quite drying, and you don’t want to overdry your skin by throwing hot water at it on top of that. Dry your face.
  4. Apply your cleansing oil or carrier oil. Wait 15 minutes. The oil will help draw the gunk in your pores to the surface.
  5. Gently massage your face or areas you’re treating for 2-3 minutes. If all has gone well, at this point you’ll feel tiny little grains coming out of your pores! These are the clogs that have been making your pores more visible. Many people call them “grits,” and getting grits out of your face is an amazingly satisfying feeling. Do not apply too much pressure to your skin or massage for longer than 5 minutes, tops. Doing so can result in broken capillaries, and those can’t be fixed without pricey laser treatments. Don’t worry if you don’t feel the grits. Some people don’t, either because the clogs are too small or because there wasn’t enough sebum and dead skin buildup to create grits. Even if you don’t feel any coming out, this process is still clearing your pores and reducing their appearance.
  6. After the oil massage, emulsify and rinse off your cleansing oil or wash off your carrier oil as usual. Continue with your regular skin care routine.

At this point, you should notice that the appearance of your pores is visibly reduced. Congratulations! Pores that suffer from sebaceous filaments do inevitably fill back up, usually within a few days, but treating them with my Super Pore Killer method once or twice a week should help keep them at bay.

What do you do to shrink your pores? Tell me your tricks in the comments!

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189 responses to “How to Shrink Pores (Temporarily), Plus 3 Pore Myths

  1. A follow up. I tried this method the other day and WOW what a difference it made! I did not feel any grits when I was washing with my oil cleanser so I thought I would not notice much of a difference. When I was done the pores on my nose and cheeks were barely noticeable and the clogged pores on my chin were nearly gone! When I went out to get my eyebrows done my esthetician actually commented about how great my skin looked and how tiny my pores were and asked me what my secret was and she was looking at me through one of those huge magnifying glasses to get the tiny hairs! Of course I shared. Will be adding this to my routine.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hey this is a bit off topic but could you tell me how to get rid of pigmented lips my upper lip is dark and the lower lip is really pink thank you so much also I tried your procedure and it worked so well like holy you deserve an award

        Like

      • Hahaha! Thank you!

        For highly pigmented lips, I’m not sure there’s anything particularly safe or over the counter that could be done. If your lip pigmentation makes it hard to use lip color, I’d suggest looking into lip concealers, which many K-brands do make. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for this! It didn’t quite work (stubborn plugs?) until I followed Caroline Hirons’s facial massage method on YouTube. Then the results were amazing.

    Like

      • I’m 18 years old should I use BHA on my skin also can you help me find a skincare routine I’m so lost thank you so much

        Like

      • Hey I’m 18 would BHA be safe to use on my skin also can you please please Please do a skincare routine for teenage skin I’m so lost over what I’m supposed to do I would really appreciate if you even mentioned a gist of it in the comments thank you so much

        Like

  3. Thank You so much for this post! I wasn’t too hopeful because I have a cabinet full of expensive items that don’t work me. Overall, my face looks brighter and clearer, and I was super shocked that I actually saw the grits and my SF’s look “emptied”.

    Would you happen to have any reccomendations for reducing hyperpigmentation from acne?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. HeyFiddy! I’m dying to try this on my husband first (he’s my skincare experiment guinea pig and has tons of blackheads and SFs so this would be great for him!) and I was wondering if 100% pure cold-pressed Argan Oil would do the trick as the carrier oil??

    Like

    • Hi! I haven’t tried argan oil myself, but as long as you guys have a good game plan for removing it (since it is a pure carrier oil without emulsifiers) then I don’t see the problem 🙂 Good luck!

      Like

      • Hello again! 🙂
        I have another question…. It says to use a 2% BHA but what about 4%? I have the Resist 4% BHA Foam from Paula’s Choice and I was wondering if it would make it more effective? Or would going over a 2% BHA render the process ineffective somehow? Also, I’ve never heard you mention Paula’s other BHA offerings and I would actually be really interested to hear your take on them…. She also has a 2% BHA in her Resist line (Resist Daily Pore Refining Treatment) for oily/combo/normal/aging skin and what I love the most about it is how it doesn’t have that heavy, greasy residue that her original 2% BHA has. It’s super lightweight and also pumped full of anti-aging, cell-communicating, nourishing ingredients that leave the skin feeling balanced and weightless. It’s actually really good! Her 4% BHA Foam also is good, despite the rankish, fishy smell that seems to come with it, but it dissipates quickly so it’s no matter really. I like this one when my skin is feeling particularly clogged after a long day of work in the salon elements (I’m a hairdresser) with a full face of long-wear makeup on. I trust that these products are well/formulated and are the right pH for chemical exfoliation to occur, but I still would REALLY love to hear your take on one or both. (I also have the now-famous BHA and AHA from COSRX and I love those as well… Especially the AHA bc I never could find one that I loved in liquid form that could be used where the actives are best suited to be used in my routine.) I know Paula’s Choice isn’t Korean Skincare, but it is a company that has great products, and even thought I’ve switched to a mostly Korean-based skincare routine, there are still some of my trusty favorites from Paula that I can’t drop. (Unless I find something I like more, of course!)
        Finally, this is random but since I’m on the subject: I really REALLY think you would love her Resist Anti-Aging Toner. Everytime I use it, for whatever reason I think about how much it would appeal to you. Haha It has this thin, but slightly thickish, milky consistency that is sooo freaking hydrating and nourishing without leaving a film or residue on the face. (Legit, I have the most clog-prone, oily face there is so if I can use it, anyone could.) I particularly love it when I’ve gone too far with my actives or my Curology, get rough patches or just whenever my skin is being dry or dull for whatever reason. Also, whenever I damn well feel like it bc it just feels so juicy-delicious on my skin! 😉 Seriously, this stuff is packed with too much goodness to even list, so just do yourself a favor and check out the ingredient list if you can. I swear, I am not a PC affiliate, even though I realize that I’m kinda sounding like one. I just love skincare in general and came here to ask about the 4% BHA Foam for this pore-clearing routine and then I started rambling. lol
        I used to use strictly PC before discovering Asian Skincare and despite how much I love PC and I do believe all of her products work and are some of the best things you can put on your skin, I was plateauing and bored. Again, sorry for the rambling, but I would love to know your thoughts on a higher percentage BHA with this pore-clearing routine and possibly your thoughts on some other BHAs in the PC line-up. Maybe you could do a “BHA Battle Royale” in the future?? 🙃

        Like

      • Hahaha no I understand you! I actually do have plans to try out and possibly compare/review some more PC products in the future (I have a comparison of two of their body products, the AHA and retinol lotions, close to publishing) so you may well hear more about their stuff from me.

        As for the 4% BHA, that should be fine as long as your skin can handle it. I remember hearing that it’s out of stock quite a lot but I am definitely interested in trying that as it’s so rare to see a BHA at that concentration!

        Like

      • Yeah the 4% BHA is really nice. (Minus the fishy-gross smell that it initially has, of course!) I personally don’t find it harsh or irritating on my skin, but again my skin LOVES acids. I can actually use the 4% BHA everyday with no issues. I hope you try it yourself bc it would be cool to see your thoughts on the formulation and everything 🙂

        Like

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  6. Would you recommend using a clarisonic at the end too remove the cleansing oil? Also, is a treatment with 2% salicylic acid ok for the BHA step? I couldn’t find stridex at ulta. I couldn’t find anything with BHA, except for a $54 treatment gel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you wash first, and then once you wash off your oil you’re cleansed and ready for step 2 of your regular routine.

      Like

      • I personally also think that the BHA should be applied to a clean face, but it means there is no difference whether you do it in the morning or afternoon (please CMIIW)
        I just tried this method once but I didn’t experience the grits coming out. May be my technique was wrong? Would you please advise how is the correct way

        Like

  7. Hi, would grapeseed oil work? I have oily skin and don’t wear makeup on a daily basis, thus I don’t have any cleansing oil and facial oil. I only purchased the grapeseed oil to be mix into my handcream to make it more emollient. Thanks.

    Like

  8. Can’t wait to try this! Do you think coconut oil would work as a cleanser? That’s all I have and I’d like to avoid buying a new one if necessary…thanks 🙂

    Like

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    • BHA and AHA are not the same so no. BHA actually manages to get into the pores to clean them out while AHA helps with exfoliating your skin.

      Like

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  11. Hello! Should I use a regular cleanser/face wash after this process to wash off the oil? I am a total skin care newby. Thanks!

    Like

    • Hi! Yes, you would use your regular cleanser after the oil massage step. That’s why I suggest doing it in a morning, so you don’t have to cleanse first to remove makeup etc. Good luck and I hope it works for you!

      Like

  12. Do you find that you still need to do this pore cleansing procedure even with your curology prescription? I am wondering if the prescription alone will be enough to keep the pores clear.

    Like

    • Great question! I haven’t actually done this in quite a while and don’t do BHA daily anymore either–the tret is definitely helpful in keeping clogs at bay.

      Like

      • Hey I am 18 years old and I would absolutely love it if you did an Asian skin care rotuine walkthrough for teenagers I’ve seen a few of them but I don’t really trust them like I trust you lol can you please do One pretty please

        Like

      • Great! Thank you very much! Also, I forgot to ask this earlier but, could I use an AHA like 5% Glycolic acid instead of BHA?

        Like

      • That won’t work quite the same. The reason BHA works so well for dislodging clogs is that it is oil soluble and can penetrate down into pores to unglue the gunk; AHAs are great for what they do, but their action is on the surface due to AHAs being water soluble.

        Like

  13. Hey! I’m relatively new to AB so sorry if my questions don’t make sense/I’m doing something horribly wrong. I tried the steps, using CosRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, then Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, and I cleaned using Banila Clean it Zero. I didn’t notice anything different with my SF’s, and if I squeezed my nose a bit they still stuck out. I basically followed the steps to the letter, so I was wondering if I had maybe used a wrong product? Thank you so much!

    Like

    • Hi Fiddy,
      I also have tried 4-5 times of this method using same product as Luthien
      but I also didn’t find anything different
      would you please advise what is wrong in our procedure? Thanks

      Like

  14. hi! would this be the same as using a clay mask woth salicylic acid in it? and then cleansing oil after? say the glamglow supermud treatment?

    Like

    • Ehh, it depends on the pH of the clay mask and the concentration of salicylic acid. Clay masks tend to be quite alkaline (high pH) while salicylic acid needs to be acidic (low pH) in order to properly exfoliate–something less than 4. Additionally, you need at least 1-2% BHA in the product for it to have an effect.

      Like

  15. I have oily skin with a lot of sebaceous filaments (those little grey dots, they’re like blackheads but not? those are sebaceous filaments) all over my cheeks, nose, and forehead. They are the bane of my life. I hate them. I use the Citrus Clear BlackHead Mask now and it keeps them under control and stops them from looking quite so crater-like.

    The results have been fantastic for me. I do the Citrus Clear Blackhead Mask before I go to bed once a week and my skin looks clearer and brighter and my pores appear tighter the next morning, and any redness is dramatically reduced, plus my sebaceous filaments look smaller, paler, and more even. I’m not sure if I’d recommend it to people with drier skin though, or using it more than twice a week especially if you’re adding apple cider vinegar or other astringents to it.

    Like

  16. Hey. I just saw ur post and everything thing is so good to be true. But even then I wanna try it as soon as possible but there one thats holding me back. I wanted to know if i use this treatment then would it become mandatory for me to use it continously or when i stop the SF would return to as they were before the treatment that is that they wont grow any longer. The logic behind this that shaving a particular area would result in a stronger hair growth
    Would be so glad if u could answer my query☺

    Like

    • Shaving does not lead to stronger hair growth. It looks thicker only because you are leaving behind a blunt end.

      Like

  17. Hello! I was just wondering if you’d tried Heimish’s All Clean Balm? It’s being hailed as the better, cheaper Banila Co dupe. Do you think it would work with this method?
    Thanks ^^

    Like

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  19. Hello! 🙂 I’d REALLY like to try your method, but the only thing is I am still searching for a carrier oil to use. Would this routine still work if I use extra-virgin olive oil? Thanks! 🙂

    Like

    • Hiya! Olive oil can be good, but many people do find it comedogenic so it depends on your skin. Are you aware of any products you use or have used that contain olive oil? (It’s pretty common!) If you know you can handle it in moisturizers or whatever, I’d think the chances will be better that straight olive oil will be fine 🙂

      Like

  20. I absolutely. LOVE. this facial!!! I do it once or twice a week (depending how much free time I’ve got) and I literally don’t have problems with my pores any more. It’s amazing! Thank you thank youuuuu for developing and sharing this! Even my boyfriend noticed that I don’t have blackheads/SFs any more, and he’s a guy- he doesn’t notice anything. I only wish I’d taken before and after selfies to show everyone the difference it makes!

    Like

    • I’m so happy it works out for you! Have fun! And guess what…boyfriends noticing the improvements is often the first step towards them deciding to do skincare themselves 😉

      Like

  21. Holy cow, it worked! I don’t think my pores have been this clean since before I was born, and I’ve tried everything and just kind of accepted it as a fact that my nose will always be spotty. I’m a very new AB-convert (in process), mostly thanks to you and the other snailcasters. Thank you so much for your blog and this tip, well, is just witchcraft! ❤

    Like

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  23. So I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and always intend to comment on posts but I don’t think I actually have. I have purchased quite a few products based on your recommendations though! I read this post a long time ago and since I don’t have visible SFs on my nose, I didn’t try it. However, I do have these weird little skin-colored sebum plugs in the crease between my lower lip and chin and n the cupid’s bow area. They’re super stubborn – perhaps they are SFs despite the color. Anyway, I tried this method to get rid of them and it worked SO WELL – way better than the 80 other things I’ve tried (including targeted application of strong AHAs, strong BHAs, and oil massage). I am thrilled! 😀😀 I didn’t feel any grits come out, but the plugs aren’t visible at all. I will be doing this regularly going forward!

    Liked by 1 person

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  25. Just wanted to add my own experience with this method. I used CosRX BHA, Innisfree super pore clay mask & TFS light cleansing oil (I don’t like this oil at all but ran out of my usual Banila Co Clean It Zero). I left the BHA on for about 25 minutes, left the mask on for 15 and then the oil for 15 minutes. I massaged for about 5 mts & only managed to get maybe 3-4 grits out. However, after I washed off with MRCS my skin was left extremely sensitive, red and almost raw. Everything I put on afterwards stung my skin so badly 😦 My skin is usually combination/dry with an oily T-zone but it has been a LONG time since my skin has reacted in this extreme way. The last time I exfoliated was about a week ago with AHA and the only active I used was OST C20 2 nights ago. But it still is quite sore! So be extremely careful, sensitive-skin peoples! Next time I think I’ll just use my clay mask without using the BHA before, as the two together just made my skin hurt 😦

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  26. Just wanted to add my own experience with this method. I used CosRX BHA, Innisfree super pore clay mask & TFS light cleansing oil (I don’t like this oil at all but ran out of my usual Banila Co Clean It Zero). I left the BHA on for about 25mts, left the mask on for 15 and then the oil for 15mts. I massaged for about 5mts & only managed to get maybe 3-4 grits out. However, after I washed off with MRCS my skin was left extremely sensitive, red and almost raw. Everything I put on afterwards stung my skin so badly! My skin is usually combination/dry with an oily T-zone but it has been a LONG time since my skin has reacted in this extreme way. The last time I exfoliated was about a week ago with AHA and the only active I used was OST C20 2 nights ago. But it still is quite sore! So be extremely careful, sensitive-skin peoples! Next time I think I’ll just use my clay mask without using the BHA before, as the two together just made my skin hurt.. Btw I love your blog Fiddy, I’ve tried a lot of your suggestions and got on really well with them! ❤

    Like

  27. How come after the clay mask my sebaceous filaments seem completely gone, but after I use the oil it looks like my nose is back to stage one? Should I just not use the oil?

    Like

  28. I had really high hopes, but this didn’t work for me. 😦 Maybe I did something wrong, I don’t know. I followed each step to the letter. Bummer!

    Like

  29. Hi, i was a bit skeptical when i reas yours but i have been following your blog and they are very good so i gave it a try. And it blown me away!!!! My pores were definitely cleared! Even my going to my facial isnt as clean as this! I’m gonna do it once every week! Thank you! Please keep writing and posting!

    Like

  30. I’ve struggled with giant pores and SF on my nose for a long time and came across this post.

    I tried this method with the Stridex pads, Freeman Sea Minerals Mask and then DHC cleansing oil. The first two steps worked perfectly. I’ve used masks in the past, but starting with the Stridex pads (and waiting in between) was more powerful. Thank you.

    Where I’m stuck is with the cleansing oil. When I put in on and waited 15 minutes, the pores on my nose all clogged up and wouldn’t wash away. I’d never used a cleansing oil before and I’m pretty sure I used too much. I also have no idea how to “massage” to remove grits. I didn’t have grits coming up.

    Am I doing something wrong? Any help is appreciated. In the meantime, I’ll stick with the first two steps because they made a positive impact!

    Like

    • A little goes a long way with cleaning oils! I leave mine on for ~15 minutes, give my face a massage sort of like in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4VpzSWd0uo

      and then I use a warm damp washcloth to remove the oil. Unless the oil has a LOT of emulsifying ingredients in it (which I personally do not like) it can take a lot of washing to remove it fully – a warm wet cloth is both gentle and thorough.

      Like

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  33. A few months ago, just out of curiousity, I poked one of my sebaceous filaments with a toothpick. I really regret doing this! Now, it’s much more conspicuous and looks like a dark gray spot on my nose. Is this reversible? If not, is there any way to diminish its appearance? Thanks!

    Like

    • Oh dear 😦 It sounds like it got stretched out. I think time and skincare that firms and plumps skin (hydration, collagen building) are probably your best at-home options. But I bet it doesn’t look nearly as bad or as noticeable as you think!

      Like

  34. Wow. Seriously. I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile, but just did and it is freaking amazing how well it works.

    Just for anyone who’s interested, I have very much red-prone, sensitive skin that was pre-AB dehydrated, now combo. Pore plms localized to nose area. I used PC 2%, Giovanni D:tox Purifying Facial Mask (charcoal, volcanic ash, acai, goji, oat–good for more sensitive skin and highly rated everywhere), then grapeseed, then TFS Rice Water Bright and COSRX Good Morning. Very minimal redness considering my sensitivities, and NO MORE PORES! Plus oily tzone just feels more “normalized.”

    This isn’t something I think I could do regularly, but I’ll try it 1x a week and see how it goes.

    Fiddy, you’re a damn revelation!!

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