‘Although we may not like the size of our pores, they do have a purpose,’ says Lorraine Scrivener, skin expert and director of the Eden Skin Clinic. ‘They 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.’
While pores serve an important function, there is no denying that they can be unsightly and annoying, especially as we so often find ourselves the target of megapixel smartphone cameras on a daily basis – but to quash what you may have heard about pores, there is actually no real way to ‘close’ them up.
‘It is a myth to think that certain products such as toners and other treatments close pores,’ says consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson Dr. Anjali Mahto. ‘Many can simply minimise the appearance of them only and this is because pores don’t have muscles around them allowing them to open or close.’
So if we can’t get rid of enlarged pores entirely, what are the most effective ways to diminish them?
1. Opt For A Non-Ablative Laser Treatment
Not just for healing acne or blasting scars, laser treatment can also help shrink 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,’ says Lorraine, but 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 such as ND:YAD, the Alexandrite laser or a light-based treatment like IPL. They aren’t exactly painful but clients may feel a warm sensation or the feeling of an elastic band being flicked on to the skin.’
With that in mind, each laser machine and technique can vary between 3 to 4 twenty or thirty minute sessions, but not all lasers are suitable for all skin types. Lorraine suggests booking in for a thorough consultation and a patch test to determine which one is suitable for you.
2. Incorporate Tretinoin or Retinol Into Your Skincare Routine
Tretinoin – which assumes the brand name Retin-A – is a form of vitamin A which encourages the skin to renew itself at lightening speed, and while it is largely used to treat acne, there is now good evidence to suggest that it can reduce pore size, too.
‘With continued use, retinoid products can help the appearance of pore size,’ says Dr. Mahto. ‘Prescription strength tretinoin 0.05% is an effective pore-minimising agent and it also has the ability to improve wrinkles and pigmentation. While Tretinoin works well, you need to remember that it is a strong agent and can cause dryness and irritation. In this situation, an over the counter retinol product could be a more reasonable option. Retinols are weaker agents that come in varying strengths but cause less irritation.’
Lorraine also agrees that it is so important to get it right when using potent products such as these. ‘Prolonged use of products like Retin-A is not advised,’ she says. ‘It can actually cause photosensitivity, so a high sun factor is always needed, but other side effects can be dry, red and irritated skin, so a cream like this should only be used on affected areas.’
If you experience these side effects after a while, be sure to make an appointment with a skincare specialist to discuss other options.
3. Try A Micro-Needling Treatment
Not as painful or scary as it sounds, the medical grade micro-needling technique 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.
But why is it so great? Unlike most lasers, this type of skin-refining treatment is compatible with a much wider range of skin tones, so if you have a darker complexion, it may be better for you to look in to this first.
It is also non ablative, so will only leave you with a few hours of redness – but what if you’re prepared to deal with downtime? ‘You could also try microdermabrasion,’ suggests Lorraine, a technique which uses a jet of abrasive crystals to exfoliate the skin. ‘This helps to remove dead skin cells and gently buffs over enlarged pores.’
4. Book In For A Chemical Peel Or Regular Facials
‘Professional peels are good at helping to rejuvenate the skin, encouraging old skin cells to shed and revealing healthier, fresher skin,’ says Lorraine. ‘They also kick-start a process called ‘purging’ which will help to lift blackheads and cellular debris from pores, making the skin appear smoother and tighter. In turn, pores look reduced.’
But it is important to pick the right one. Skin peels range from light, medium and deep and there are a range of different ingredients which you can discuss with your facialist or a dermatologist depending on your skin type. Some use glycolics (which lifts dead skin cells without sensitising), TCAs (trichloroacetic acids which cause the top layers of the skin to dry up and peel off) and fruit acid (a type of AHA, which boosts hydration in dry skin).
If you have sensitive skin, Lorraine mentions that facials might be a gentler approach, with Kristi suggesting that facials are actually a little more beneficial for long term pore management. ‘Facials help to thoroughly cleanse and hydrate the skin,’ she says, ‘and when considering facials or open pores, always seek out the most hydrating types.’
Talking of which…
5. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
‘Pores are open for a few reasons – dehydration (a lack of water in the skin, not dry skin), part of the ageing process and genetics,’ says Kristi Shuba skincare specialist and co-founder of Katherine Daniels Cosmetics, which is why it is so important to maintain moisture levels in the skin – but how?
‘Hydrating treatments and anything that will flood the surface of the skin with moisture are great for diminishing pores,’ Kristi continues. ‘Both the Katherine Daniels Age Defence Nourishing Hydrating Treatment for older skin and the Energising Radiance Treatment massively hydrates the skin. Not only will treatments like these help to iron away lines, but they give the appearance of snapping the pores closed.’
And according to Matt Plowman of Cardiff Sports Nutrition, we should aim to drink at least two litres of water a day, taking sips every fifteen minutes to hydrate from the inside out.
6. Apply Your Make-Up Like A Pro
If you find that foundation only serves to accentuate the appearance of your pores, you may be applying it wrong.
‘To create a really flawless effect, after using a flat foundation brush, dab a damp Beauty Blender over the skin,’ says make-up artist Francesca Kearns. ‘This really presses the product into the skin to create a much smoother and seamless effect. The NARS Velvet Matte Skin Tint, £31 is a great product to start with. Rose fruit extract visibly diminishes pores and regulates oil production. For more coverage, opt for the Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation, £32.’
And don’t sack off pore refining primers – they really do work.
‘They aren’t just a fad,’ says Francesca. ‘The NYX Pore Filling Primer, £11 is great because it contains silica and Dimethicone which will help smooth out pores while leaving the skin looking and feeling ultra-silky. Another amazing buy is the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, £26. Again, the silica ingredient provides the skin with a veil-like smoothness, really minimising the appearance of pores.’
7. Choose Your Daily SPF Carefully
Even though you may think that your skin looks and feels heaps healthier when it has caught a little bit of sun, it has been suggested that heat and UV rays act as a pore-size inducer – and it could be down to the loss of moisture.
‘Being exposed to the sun is very likely to dry the skin,’ says Kristi, ‘and long term, this can make pores appear open and enlarged. That said, many inexpensive sun lotions are likely to be heavily zinc based and the chalky white substance may sit in open pores. This causes a plug and can give the appearance of reduced pore size but, over time, this can actually result in blackheads as the pore becomes blocked.’
So what types of creams should we be investing in?
‘Choose something that has great hydrating properties,’ says Kristi, while Dr. Mahto suggests we should avoid thick, creamy textures altogether. ‘Look for those that are in a gel or lotion form’, she says. ‘Many people with acne prone skin do better with mineral sunscreens usually containing ingredients such as titanuim oxide.’
This article first appeared on ELLE.