It's a brand new approach to an age-old problem. Alice Hart-Davis books in with Dr Joney de Souza to find out whether the injectable could transform her pores and banish blackheads
Forget wrinkles and patchy pigmentation, the latest skincare obsession is with pores, or rather with making them vanish. Google ‘pores’ and almost 57 million results pop up, leading with suggestions to shrink, minimise and unclog them, along with plaintive wails of ‘Why do I have pores?’ and ‘How do you get rid of pores?’
But why are we suddenly so obsessed with our pores? It’s doubtless all the fault of social media and the way we feel we need to look flawless in every selfie. And given the ever-increasing tendency to regard large pores (which are a very normal part of life for anyone with skin that gets a bit oily) as hideous blemishes which must be banished, flawless means pore-less. Personally, I’ve always had a problem with blackheads and my tendency to examine my skin up close in a magnifying mirror doesn’t help.
Beauty companies have leapt to the rescue with an onslaught of products to disguise and minimise these awful pores.
You can cover yours up with Kiehl’s MicroBlur Skin Perfector , £24.50, reduce shine with Benefit’s POREfessional range , from £17, mattify oily skin with Clinique’s Pore Refining Solutions products , from £21, rip out your blackheads (and possibly some of the skin on your nose) with Biore’s Deep Cleansing Pore Strips , £8.39, erase them for the time being with Nars’ Instant Line and Pore Perfector , £20… you get the idea.
It’s big business, which I know from personal experience – the Pore-Fectly Clear cleansing range in my own Good Things skincare line, from £4.99, has proved really popular.
Beauty salons and cosmetic clinics take pore-management further with deep cleansing masks and microdermabrasion to de-gunk blocked pores (the Hydrafacial , for clinics, is a particular favourite for this) and the ultimate treatment for the im-pore-fect (sorry) is Dr Joney de Souza’s Pore Patrol which tops off a no-holds barred hour of complexion-perfecting treatments with injections of Botox into the worst-offending pores to quell them. It sounds like utter madness but in fact it’s a proven way to reduce oiliness in the skin, so as someone who is used to all facialists saying, ‘Now what can we do about your pores?’, I had to try it.
Dr Joney has been offering non-surgical cosmetic treatments for the past 15 years and spends a good deal of his time training other doctors in the latest techniques with lasers and injectable treatments. His reputation is as impressive as his new premises, a gem of a clinic in Blandford Street, a stone’s throw from the Chiltern Firehouse, with modern art, oriental screens and a soothing neutral colour scheme which makes it look more Elle Décor than clinical. His original training, though, was as a dermatologist so getting skin to look as fresh and clear as it can is his main passion.
How on earth did you come up with the idea of Botoxing pores? I ask – but before he gets on to that, Dr Joney feels compelled to bust a few myths – it seems we generally misunderstand pores and how to treat them.
Just how large your pores are is something determined by your genes, he says. They don’t open and close like flowers, as some people think; even steaming them during a facial doesn’t make them open, though it does soften up any debris that has become trapped in them. This debris is the problem, along with sebum, the natural oily secretions that our skin produces in order to keep itself supple. People with larger pores tend to have oilier skin, and it is when pores become blocked up by a mixture of this oil and old dead skin cells that the problems start. The oil oxidises, turns black and lo and behold, it’s an unsightly blackhead. That makes the pore more obvious. And, worse, as the years go by and the skin becomes that bit less taut and firm as collagen production in skin cells declines, each pore will yawn a little wider as the structure of the skin around it sags. Nice.
The way to improve the outlook is to get pores super-clean (preferably with a professional treatment rather than tackling them with your own bacteria-laden fingernails which will only injure the skin and possibly stretch the pore even more), strengthen the sagging skin with collagen-boosting treatments, because that will tighten up the skin and make pores look less obvious, then keep them as clear as possible by reducing the amount of oil that the skin produces. That means using skincare products that are particularly helpful for pores, such as a salicylic acid skin toner and a retinol-based night product. Salicylic acid is brilliant for pores because it is ‘lipophilic’, which means that it dissolves in oil, so it can work its way right into a clogged pore and effectively scour it out, and retinol helps by making skin less oily.
This is where the Botox helps, too. Yes, it is usually used to soften facial expression lines by damping down the muscles that pull those expressions. There aren’t any muscles around the pores; muscles lie deeper beneath the fat that is under the skin. But there’s another, more superficial way of injecting Botox just under the surface of the skin, which is the way it is used to treat hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating. That is usually done in the armpits, but it can also be done on overly sweaty foreheads, and blocks the nerve signals that tell the sweat glands to sweat.
Dr Joney’s patients who had this done were delighted. Not only were their foreheads less sweaty, they were less oily, too. Looking into this further, Dr Joney found that this is an effect that has been observed and studied by other doctors, who have confirmed that Botox does reduce sebum production by around 30 per cent, which can reduce the appearance of pores by around 18 per cent, though no one has quite worked out exactly how it works.
My pores can’t be Botoxed until they are clean as a whistle, so first I am handed over to laser technician and ‘medical aesthetician’ Milena Naydenov who is the clinic’s chief ‘skin whisperer’. With lasers, radiofrequency machines and an array of professional-strength skincare, she knows how exactly to coax a complexion into looking its best.
She gives my pores a working-over the like of which they’ve never experienced. First, there’s deep cleaning with a salicylic acid mask to soften the oily plugs in my pores, which are then vacuumed out with a remarkably gentle microdermabrasion device. Next, to build up the collagen around my pores, she takes a radiofrequency device and works it, flash by flash, around my whole face. Radiofrequency treatments can get quite uncomfortable, because they work by heating up the lower layers of skin to 42 degrees, to kick-start the production of more collagen, but this is perfectly tolerable, thank goodness. After that, just for good measure, she gives me a going over with an Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) machine which stimulates collagen in a slightly different way. A hydrating mask and 20 minutes under a canopy of skin-soothing, anti-inflammatory and collagen-building red lights completes the treatment.
My skin looks immaculate and my pores are barely visible now that they’re so clean. How has one treatment made so much difference? I know that it will take weeks before the collagen-boosting effects of the radiofrequency start to show, but Milena tells me that the treatment also gives skin an instant plumping effect, which is why my pores appear to have vanished.
After all this excitement, the actual Botoxing of the pores is almost a let-down. It’s really quick as Dr Joney just concentrates on the worst ones in my nose. It’s also remarkably uncomfortable just because injections in the nose seem to hurt more than anywhere else on the face, but each tiny jab is fleeting and it’s all over in less than five minutes.
As the icing on the cake of this treatment, I’m sent off home with the hottest new pore-refining skincare product, the ZO Ossential Instant Pore Refiner , £60. What this does is help exfoliate pores, build collagen and keep skin looking matte, which is precisely what the doctor ordered. And thrillingly, this does all seem to be working as predicted. A month after the treatment, the pores on my nose and chin are still much less obvious than they were and the ones on my Botoxed nose just aren’t blocking up like they used to. I still use pore-disguising primers, but I can tell my nose is less oily, as make-up stays put much better, too. Am I ready for my close-up? As ready as I’ll ever be.
Pore Patrol treatment, £300, www.drjoneydesouza.com .