If you feel like you’ve got pores the size of saucers, you’re not alone in your pore problems - flawless and poreless Instagram filters have a lot to answer for. Pores come with the territory of having, um, skin, but it’s true that some people’s pores are larger than others, and you can take action to reduce the appearance of yours if they’re vexing you, although fixating on them while staring into a x10 magnifying mirror is a road to nowhere.
Here’s how to positively address your pores, from primers to product ingredients to look out for, along with some healthy pore-themed myth-busting to boost your morale, because, despite being smoothed out on social media, pores are meant to be there. Just ask Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic Dr Anjali Mahto (we did)...
What are pores?
“Pores are tiny openings to hair follicles and each one produces a natural oil which helps us maintain healthy skin. These oils protect us against infection, dryness and skin chapping.”
Why do some people have larger pores than others?
“Pore size is determined by a number of factors which are impossible to avoid. These include genetics, sebum (the body’s natural oil) levels, gender and age. The appearance of enlarged pores are more commonly associated with men, mainly because males tend to produce more sebum on average than females, due to their higher levels of hormones like testosterone; it is also a common finding in those with acne-prone skin.”
So pores grow larger with age?
“As we age, UV rays and other environmental factors cause collagen to decline and the skin to lose its elasticity. This can make pores clogged with sebum, dirt and dead skin appear to be even larger than before because the skin around each pore is not as firm and collagen-rich as in younger skin. Firm skin essentially girds and supports pores, so makes pores appear smaller, while loose, inelastic skin makes pores appear larger or more dilated.”
What is a 'clogged pore' and how might one ‘unclog’ a pore?
“A pore becomes ‘clogged’ when oil, dry skin cells and everyday dirt and debris enter the opening. Clogged pores left untreated can lead to blackheads and acne. You can refine the appearance of pores through exfoliation , along with ingredients that slow sebum secretion and draw out impurities, such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, charcoal, and kaolin (a kind of white clay).”
Any other skincare ingredients to look out for to minimize the appearance of pores?
“ Retinol (vitamin A based topicals) decreases oil production, which can help pores to appear smaller. Also, since blackheads can exacerbate the size of the pores, topical retinoids for acne can help clean them out to even out the skin texture. SPF is important too, as the sun breaks down collagen and can make pores larger decrease their elasticity.”
“Salicylic acid is the best ingredient for penetrating into the pore lining and helping to keep them clean. It's a keratolytic beta hydroxy acid (BHA), known for its ability to smooth the skin without causing irritation, reduce acne-causing bacteria and oil to prevent blemishes, while penetrating the pores to help clear out impurities.”
How about makeup to make pores look smaller - is there anything that works?
“When applying makeup to make pores look smaller, it's important to ensure that your base is as hydrated and as even as possible, to avoid makeup clogging in and around the pores. You can do this by applying a primer before your foundation. Primers that contain silicone will “fill in” your pores and create a smooth canvas for your foundation, but make sure that you apply them correctly by using a tapping motion as opposed to a rubbing action. Silicone can break up with too much rubbing or tugging, which will cause the product to roll and peel off the skin, whereas tapping stabilizes the area.”
What professional treatments are available to reduce the appearance of pores?
“Non-ablative and ablative laser treatments can help to diminish the appearance of pores, as each light pulse works to smooth and refine while encouraging collagen, which plumps up the skin for a more flawless look. Pores are slightly larger in between the eyebrows, nose and on the chin and lasers can really help rejuvenate these areas, making the pore appear more reduced.”
“If you're not prepared for downtime, choose a non-ablative laser or a light-based treatment such as IPL. Not all lasers are suitable for all skin types, so book a consultation with a dermatologist to see what’s best for you. You could also try the microneedling technique, as it is compatible with a much wider range of skin tones than laser. Microneedling uses a number of virtually undetectable needles which create even smaller micro-channels in the skin to remodel collagen and to encourage a healing response in the deeper layers. In turn, this works to diminish the appearance of pores on the skin's surface.”
Once and for all - do pores open and close?
“It is a myth to think that certain products such as toners and other treatments close pores. This is because pores don't have muscles around them allowing them to open or close.”
Does washing with cold water help to “shrink” pores?
“Pores are not temperature-sensitive. Hot water can make the outer layers of skin swell, which makes pores look more ‘open,’ but they don’t open and close based on temperature (or at all, see above). When washing, water should be kept at a lukewarm temperature.”
Pore strips - yay or nay?
“Pore strips are able to clean the surface of the skin to an extent, however, they are not capable of deep cleansing. They work by removing the superficial portion of a blackhead. The adhesive will stick to the upper portion including the oil or sebum and pull the ‘dark material’ out. While these pore strips may successfully remove portions of the blackheads instantly at the time of application, there is no evidence that the strips prevent blackheads from recurring on a consistent basis. Pore strips may even further irritate or harm sensitive, sunburned, or acne-prone skin, so if you’re already dealing with acne or irritation, avoid them.”
In short, probably ditch the pore strips and pore over the following instead (sorry not sorry).
Six pore slayers
(N.b, this is an overly dramatic header - nothing kills pores, which is just as well because without them you wouldn’t be a functioning human being. Praise be to pores, kind of.)