With one in every three women listing ‘large pores’ as their biggest skin concern, size matters. Here’s the best way to see a shrink...
How often do you snap a selfie? ( Yes, including those ones that never see the light of day.) Apparently, the average British woman takes an eyebrow-raising 1,092 photos of herself each year. Team that with our constant access to digital fairy dust – capable of smoothing and brightening our complexion with a single tap – and it’s little wonder that the natural state of our pores is regularly called into question. So much so that ‘How to shrink pores’ is googled every 0.38 seconds across the globe.
Each pore has a sebaceous gland, which produces oils called sebum to keep skin moisturised and healthy. The problem is dead skin cells, excess sebum, pollution and heavy products can lead to blockages. Over time this can compact and stretch the size of your pores, making them more visible.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to physically shrink pores, unless you have a course of professional laser treatments, such as Fraxel. ‘Pores don’t have muscles to expand and contract,’ explains Lorraine Scrivener, skin specialist at Eden Skin Clinics. ‘A lot of pore size is down to genetics too,’ adds skincare expert Debbie Thomas. However, ‘ You can minimise the appearance of pores by reducing blockages and stimulating collagen production. This boosts skin’s plumpness, so the opening of the pore looks smaller,’ says Debbie.
Thanks to a new wave of products and gadgets, there are more ways than ever to tackle this at home. Here’s how...
Steam and Squeeze
For most of us, blackheads pose the biggest problem because they’re so visible. The dark colour isn’t dirt but oxidised excess oil and dead skin, which is why you’ll see more where skin is oily. But don’t be tempted to reach for a gritty scrub – this can aggravate skin and make the situation worse by causing inflammation and sending oil production into overdrive. Skincare expert Paula Begoun recommends approaching a blackhead like you would a weed. ‘Gentle scrubbing removes only the top portion of the problem, like mowing over a weed rather than pulling it out, roots and all.’
Steam softens the oil plug, making it easier to pull out dirt and grime. Leaning over a bowl of hot water with a towel over your head can do the trick but, for a professional extraction at home, try Panasonic’s Facial Steamer, £129. It
regulates the temperature, while releasing steam particles 18,000 times finer than steam to penetrate your skin more effectively.
When removing the build-up, don’t squeeze it out with your fingers. Not only can this compact the pore further, but bacteria from your hands can cause infection. If your blackheads are small and newly formed, COSRX Blackhead Silk Finger Balls, £8, and Boscia’s Deep Pore Buffing Brush, £16, will do the job.
For more deep-rooted blackheads, try The Body Shop’s nifty Blackhead Remover, £4.50. Place the hook over the blackhead and apply some pressure until your pore is completely clear.
EXPERIMENT WITH ACID
There are several powerhouse ingredients that can help prevent your newly cleared pores from becoming blocked again. Regular use of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAS) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAS) will gently exfoliate and get rid of dead skin cells, as well as balance oil production.
‘Salicylic acid (BHA) can penetrate the pore wall and dissolve build-up,’ explains Joel Rubin, DCL Skincare’s senior vice president of research and development. ‘ While glycolic acid, an AHA, flushes away dead skin cells on the top layer of skin to help the salicylic work more effectively.’ If you suffer from dry skin, try DCL Skincare’s Active Mattifying Tonic, £29, which combines BHA and AHA with super-hydrating hyaluronic acid. If you battle with oiliness or regular breakouts, try Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, £26, which helps balance sebum production.
For those who want to go one step further, Debbie recommends retinol: ‘Not only does it help to reduce surface build-up, it also regulates oil production and promotes collagen production.’ Consider yourself a vitamin A novice? Try The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane, £7.80, which is less aggravating on the skin than traditional retinol formulas. Keep in mind that if you haven’t dabbled with acids before, you must introduce them into your skincare routine one at a time to allow your skin to adjust, and prevent irritation, peeling or redness.
GET THE NEEDLE
‘A proven skin treatment for tightening and improving pore size is microneedling,’ says Lorraine. ‘ Tiny needles are used to create micro channels in the skin, which encourage the stimulation of cell renewal, resulting in tighter skin.’ But few at-home gadgets have come close to achieving similar results – until now. Glopro’s Microneedling Regeneration Tool, £199, provides the benefits of microneedling and uses red LED light, to reduce inflammation, increase cell turnover and help further boost collagen production. On a tighter budget? Try Swiss Clinic’s Skin Roller, £42, once or twice a week after cleansing and before applying your serum, to stimulate skin function and promote ingredient absorption.
For those who don’t like needles, Baby Quasar Clear Rayz, £144, offers both red and blue light therapy to target bacteria and inflammation, while Carita’s Clever My Cle gadget, £399, combines red, blue, green and white LED lights, as well as microcurrents to provide serious skin rejuvenation in just four minutes at home ( launching in the UK next month).
PRIME YOUR CANVAS
There are plenty of primers that claim to blur the appearance of pores, but aesthetic doctor Sarah Tonks advises caution. ‘Make-up usually makes enlarged or blocked pores look worse and can exacerbate the situation as they trap oil on the skin,’ she says.
Want a smooth base instantly? Try make-up heroes such as Maybelline’s Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser, £7.99, which minimises pores’ visibility and creates a smooth base for foundation. Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer, £20, is oil-free, so doesn’t slip; and celebrity favourite Oxygenetix Oxygenating Breathable Foundation, £45, provides full coverage without clogging pores.