Everyone wants satiny smooth skin, and big pores are not part of the picture. Well, there’s good news and bad news when it comes to dealing with pesky pores. Shrinking them just isn’t going to happen (what?!), but you can make them appear smaller (phew!) with help from these expert tips and products.
The circular pores on your skin are the opening of hair follicles, and they each have a sebaceous gland, which produces your skin’s essential oil, sebum. They tend to be more noticeable on the parts of your face where the sebaceous glands are bigger – your forehead and nose. As for their size, it’s genetically determined, so it’s not possible to make them physically smaller (sorry!). Splashing with cold water and using eggwhite masks won’t change a thing. But what you can do is work on the external factors that play a big role in the appearance of your pores.
A clear solution
The trick to making pores seem smaller is keeping them clear. A build-up of cosmetics, pollution, dead skin cells and trapped sebum will stretch them out. For example, blackheads are pores clogged with debris and oil that has oxidised and turned black. If untreated, bacteria can make their way to these blockage sites and the growth in bacteria can then cause inflammation – ouch! In addition, exposure to UV rays weakens the collagen that supports pores and helps keep them tight, so they gradually start to look bigger. Similarly, the natural loss of collagen, which accompanies ageing, makes your pores appear larger.
The solution is to make sure you protect and preserve your skin’s condition on a daily basis. And, in case you’re tempted to use your fingernails as tools, squeezing a pimple can cause damage to the skin and enlarge a pore permanently.
4 steps to minimise pores
1. Go for a clean sweep
Number one rule – never go to bed with make-up on (it gets pushed deep into your pores while you toss and turn). When washing your face, spend a minimum of 30 seconds gently massaging in a cleanser. Use a milky cream for dry skin and a foam or gel if you have a normal or acne-prone complexion.
Always wash with lukewarm water, as hot water will dry your skin and strip it of oil. You could try a sonic cleansing brush, which is more effective than using your hands and leaves your skin looking and feeling amazing.
As for toners, while they don’t close up pores, they do give skin a conditioning rinse. Avoid alcohol-based toners because they can be dehydrating and, over time, encourage oil flow.
2. Get down and dirty
Removing pore-congesting debris is essential, so exfoliate daily. If your skin is too sensitive and turns red, let it rest for a few days and repeat less often. Keep your pressure light, too – gently move the scrub over your skin and let it do its job.
Take-home exfoliants come in two main forms – physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants have rounded grains or beads that lift off dead cells as they are moved over your skin. Avoid scrubs with rough gritty bits because they create micro scratches on your skin, which is not a desirable outcome. Chemical options contain active ingredients that loosen the bonds holding dead skin cells in place. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), retinol and fruit enzymes are some of the best but, if your skin breaks out, products containing salic acid (beta hydroxy acid or BHA) may be more effective.
3. Have a masked ball
Purifying masks take pore decongesting to the next level. They draw out residues and impurities of products left trapped in your skin – sunscreen and make-up, for example. Applied once a week, they reduce the chances of congestion and, as a result, prevent pores looking more visible.
Clay-based masks are great at absorbing excess oil and shine. You can buy one or mix up your own mask using kaolin clay powder from a pharmacy, or look online. Mix half a cup of powder with enough water to create a smooth paste. Apply, keeping it away from your eye area, and allow it to dry for about 10 minutes. Kaolin is rich in calcium, silica, zinc and magnesium, making it ideal for oily and blemish-prone skin.
4. Primed and ready to go
The final strategy us to manage your skin's hydration levels. If it is dehydrated, the sebaceous glands go into overdrive and produce additional oil to compensate. You can help prevent dryness by using an oil-free lightweight moisturiser. If your skin is oily, use a rebalancing formula. Shine draws attention to a pore's size, so a mattifying moisturiser with oil-absorbing powders is a big help. Steer clear of products The final strategy is to manage your skin’s with mineral oil or petroleum jelly, which hydration levels. If it is dehydrated, the can leave a residue, and avoid long-wearing sebaceous glands go into overdrive and produce make-up, as it’s harder to wash off.
Buy yourself a skin-refining, pore-reducing primer for under your foundation, too. A small amount on your T-zone and chin will make your skin look smoother and your foundation will go on more evenly and not clog your pores.