The fact is, the larger your pores, the less smooth, flawless,
and – god damn it – young, it looks.
Pores are fast becoming the complexion issue du jour.
In my clinic, I am seeing a noticeable shift from women seeking treatment for wrinkles, to asking questions on how they can achieve healthier, smoother, and seemingly pore-free skin.
It is a persistent skin condition that is taking centre-stage, and one that seems to grow larger and more lairy as time goes on, leaving many of my clients asking how to reduce their pores:
- can they be shrunk?
- how did they get so big?
- is there a product that will shrink them?
- do pore strips even work?
But before you have a pore-related freak-out, understand that all is not lost.
Whilst you can’t control your predisposition to larger pores, you can, in effect, shrink the problem and minimise their size, which I have also discussed here.
Daily Pore Maintenance
Before you begin, it is important that you understand the end goal: you want to clarify and maintain the follicle so that it naturally stays the same size and doesn’t stretch. This is why the maintenance aspect is so important.
You need to have a multi-pronged approach to treating your pores, by targeting them on three dimensions:
- Surface of the Pore: Hydrate and smooth the surface of the skin for a soft-focus finish.
- Around the Pore: Use gentle products to smooth the skin’s surface and absorb excess oil instantly for an all-day, shine-free finish.
- Within the Pore: Use specific, targeted ingredients and treatments to strengthen and tighten the skin, shrinking the appearance of pore size over time.
Treat From the Inside, Out
First things first, scale back your pore’s workload by reducing the skin’s production of inflammation-inducing oils.
Studies have found that taking a 750mg daily supplement of Niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B3, helps to regulate your sebum production.
The Pore Deep Clean
Jump start the pore-refining train with a clarifying cleanse. Often, pores seem bigger because they’re filled to the brim with oxidized sebum and dead skin cells. Once you clean them out, they don’t shrink or disappear, but they won’t stretch and they’re not as easy to spot.
Treat Yourself to a Mini Extraction
As with most skin issues, when it comes to extraction, the key is to find your sweet spot.
A great way to extract without damaging your skin is to treat your face to a steam; this will soften your skin and loosen all the compacted sebum, helping you to perform a controlled extraction without causing tiny micro-tears or damaging your barrier.
Don’t Forget to Exfoliate
Every exfoliant worth its weight in outlawed microbeads promises to “reduce the appearance of pore size”, but we now know that doesn’t make sense because they’re genetic. The goal to remember is to keep the pore as clean as possible.
I recommend treating your skin to an enzymatic exfoliant which doesn’t contain scrubbing bubbles; enzymes such as Papaya and Papain work like tiny Pac-men on the skin, munching away dead skin cells and getting right into the pore to gently clean.
Mask the Difference
If you prefer an old-school approach, then rediscover that 80’s skincare favourite: the clay mask, which really works. Certain clays like Kaolin and Fuller’s Earth encourage pore walls to relax, and purge deep into the skin – pulling out impacted plugs as they dry. This allows the debris inside the pore wall to be more readily drawn out.
If the idea of manually extracting oil from your face doesn’t appeal to you, there is – fortunately – a less gruesome approach with these professional pore cleansing treatments:
- Non-ablative and ablative laser treatments: These can help to diminish the appearance of pores and acne scarring; each light pulse works to smooth and refine the skin whilst creating micro-zones of boosted collagen, revealing fresher, smoother skin. NOTE: Whilst I do want to mention this treatment for its benefits, personally I am not a big fan of laser treatments because of the long-term side effects I have seen from them, including laser burn (usually due to being administered by inexperienced staff).
- Micro-needling: This uses a number of virtually undetectable needles which create even smaller micro-channels in the skin, to remodel collagen and encourage a healing response in the deeper layers. In turn, this works to diminish the appearance of pores on the skin’s surface.
- Gentle Peel: Glycolic acid gently dissolves the build-up of dead skin cells on the surface so there’s less chance of dirt, sweat, or sebum getting trapped inside the pores.
- Scaling Treatment: Your skin is professionally prepped and primed with scaling fluid and then steamed by a professional therapist. You get to relax back and enjoy a painless, extraction-free life.
The only way that pores may appear smaller is if they’re regularly emptied of trapped sebum, which calls for topical application, not squeezing:
Retinols: These are Vitamin A-based topicals that work to decrease oil production, which can help pores to appear smaller. Also, since blackheads can exacerbate the size of the pores, topical retinoids can help flush the pore lining and even out skin texture. You can opt for a mild vitamin A product like A+ Complex; avoid harsh retinoids that cause redness and irritation.
Salicylic Acid: An anti-inflammatory adept at keeping pores as small as possible, it is one of the best ingredients for penetrating deep into the pore lining, cleaning out impurities and debris. It is a Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA), known for its ability to smooth the skin without causing irritation. Salicylic Acid also reduces acne-causing bacteria and oil, to prevent blemishes.
Smart Makeup for that Filter-Perfect Face
The grand finale of pore-concealing sorcery is makeup, but be warned: there is no line of make-up magic to make your pores disappear, so choose your formulas wisely.
Hydrate the Base: When applying makeup to make pores look smaller, it’s important to ensure that your base is as hydrated and as even as possible. H2O Hydrating Complex is like a mini drink for the skin; plumping and hydrating, preventing your pores from drinking in what you’re about to apply to your skin.
Blur Primers: These are usually silicone-based skincare products that act like Polyfilla (in a good way) by smoothing away the uneven appearance of pores. My personal favourite is Benefit’s Porefessional – a silky, vitamin-E enriched face primer, which minimises the appearance of pores and fine lines over or under make-up.
Foundation: Avoid a heavy base that will clog your skin as it will settle visibly into enlarged pores; instead, opt for a light-to-medium coverage.
The Naked Truth
The definitive answer on pore shrinkage is not so definitive, and whilst there is a slew of new pore-specific skincare products created to try to render obvious pores invisible, we now know that it’s genetic and you can’t shrink your pores.
A major mistake many of my clients make with pores is putting off dealing with them until they become a real problem. Clogged pores left untreated lead to blackheads, breakouts, and acne, and can easily become inflamed and irritated; keeping pores cleaned out is going to make them look a lot smaller. A great place to start is with Equilibrium – an oil free moisturising gel that resets and balances an overactive oily skin, keeping oily secretions at bay.
I recommend starting early when it comes to keeping pores clean – a simple skincare routine with products that slow sebum secretion and draw out impurities will help to refine the appearance of pores, keeping your skin healthy.
Your routine will require constant maintenance however, simply because there is no permanent solution to make your pores appear smaller.