One of the most common skin concerns and questions we get asked in the salon is: how can I minimize my pores? How can I make my pores shrink? Why are my pores so obvious?
And whist pore size is genetically decided and you will never make your pores disappear, there are some things you can do help with their appearance and make them appear smaller and less obvious.
What pores are and why we have them?
First it’s good to understand what pores are and why we have them. A pore is a small opening in the skin which contains a sebaceous gland. The sebaceous gland is where oil is produced and the pore is where the oil comes out to reach the surface of the skin. The more oily your skin the more obvious your pores will appear and they often look more noticeable on parts of your face such as the nose and forehead, as these areas typically have larger sebaceous glands, therefore produce more oil- hence the dreaded shiny T-zone! Acne-prone skin and skin that is congested and clogged with blackheads will typically have larger more open pores and getting rid of the blackheads and unclogging pores will instantly help pores appear smaller.
So whilst it’s impossible to get rid of your pores or shrink them past the size that they are naturally, there are steps you can take to ensure they don’t look bigger or more obvious than they actually are.
Good Skin Care Routine:
First things first ensuring you have a good skin care routine and are using products suitable to your specific skin type is vital. Especially if you have acne or oily skin, as using products that suit your skin should help to minimise your oil production therefore giving the appearance of tighter pores.
AHA or BHA:
One of the key steps to cleaning out pores is to exfoliate and a great way to do this is with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). You can get many products which contain these from cleansers and toners to moisturisers, scrubs, masks and peels. This makes it a great versatile way to exfoliate as you can do this in a very gentle way, by using products like a cleanser or a moisturiser daily that contains a low percentage of AHA or BHA, or more intensely, by using a mask or peel weekly or twice weekly with a higher percentage of AHA or BHA.
Both these acids work by melting the ‘glue’ that holds our skin cells together and this helps the skins natural shedding process getting rid of the layers of dead skin. Whilst both work on a cellular level, AHAs work on the surface of the skin helping to brighten and smooth and peel away the surface of your skin and BHAs penetrate deeper helping to remove dead skin cells clogged in pores deeper down. This means if you have dry and sensitive prone skin you will be best to stick with AHAs as this is a gentler way of exfoliating. BHAs are best used on oily or acne prone skin as it’s more intensive and more likely to work on acne scars. BHAs are also great to help with sun damaged skin due to the fact it works at a deeper level so would work well at helping to brighten dark spots.
Mask for All Skin Types:
Banana Face masks and Aloe Vera masks are very good all round masks that can be used by all skin types to help with various concerns. Bananas are rich in potassium which will help to hydrate and moisturise dehydrated skin, and is also rich in B-vitamins which protect against free radicals that can cause skin damage and premature ageing. They also contain Zinc and Lectin which are great for destroying bacteria and germs that can cause spots. Aloe Vera is an ingredient that also contains antioxidants so helps to prevent fine lines and wrinkles from getting deeper, but also enzymes which can have an exfoliating effect and vitamins A and C, as well as being an anti-inflammatory.
Other ingredients worth looking out for are cocoa which is rich in antioxidants, milk cream which is rich in minerals and healthy fats and yeast which is rich in B-vitamins.
Another great ingredient to look out for in your fight to shrink pores is Retinol. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and is found in many creams these days due to its well-publicised ability to smooth wrinkles and brighten the skin by increasing the production of collagen. But it also works on decreasing oil production and stimulating cell renewal, which helps dead skin on the surface to fall away and new skin underneath to come to the surface quicker, and this is what will help with pore size. Care should however be taken when using Retinol as it can be an irritant particularly if you have sensitive skin so we would always advice starting off testing on a small area of the face first, then trying on the whole skin once a week and building up how often you use it gradually. Only when you have zero-irritation should you use it on a regular basis.
Lastly, one of the easiest and most basic ways you can help to keep pores looking as minimised as possible is to wear a sunscreen. Everyone should wear an SPF on their face year round, regardless of skin type and regardless of the weather, as uv rays from the sun are one of the most damaging things to the skin, and it doesn’t have to be sunny for these rays to be around. Even on cloudy days UVA rays will penetrate and these are the rays that go deeper and can do the most damage. When the skin is exposed to these rays with no sun protection on they will start to break down your collagen and elastin fibres, causing the skin to lose its tightness and sag, which will make pores look larger than they are. This is why the sun is the main culprit of premature ageing and the best way to protect against this is to ensure you are wearing an SPF every day. Lots of brands these days add SPF to their daily moisturisers or you can use a separate one and layer on top of your usual day cream.
In conclusion even though pore size is largely down to skin type and genetics, we can ensure that our pores don’t look larger than they actually are by having a good skin care routine, exfoliating regularly and wearing an SPF daily. This will not only help with pores, but with keeping your skin looking and feeling in the best condition possible on a daily basis, and helping to prevent against future damage and ageing.
If unsure of what skincare is best suited to your skin it is worth having a consultation in the salon, or if you have any more serious skincare concerns it is a good idea to consult with a dermatologist for any more advanced treatments that might be available.