One of the biggest myths surrounding the vast world of beauty products is the promise that make topical products make to give you smaller, tighter pores. Let us clear things up once and for all: you cannot alter pore size with any skincare or makeup. And the reason is simple: pore size is determined by your genes. But before you feel helpless and throw out every product you’ve ever bought, there are still things you can control when it comes to your pores. And here are some facts you need to know about pores:
What Are Pores Exactly?
For starters, pores are tiny openings on the skin surface (also known as hair follicles), through which sebum and sweat are excreted from the body. This explains why it is paramount to cleanse your skin thoroughly to keep pores clear. However, what happens more often than not is that sebum, sweat, dirt or makeup residue are not properly removed from our pores and left to accumulate. Factor in the dozens of times we touch our face over the course of the day means we are also constantly introducing bacteria (including P. Acnes, which causes breakouts) into them. When a pore gets filled up with gunk and P. Acnes, it presents itself as a blackhead because the top of the oil plug gets oxidised and turns black. And this, in turn, causes your skin texture to look rough and bumpy because congested pores appear larger than pores that are clear.
What Can Topical Products Do?
While the physical size of your pores are determined by your genes, you have total control over how your pores look. All you have to do is cleanse thoroughly, regulate sebum secretion, as well as keep pores bacteria-free. And if you’re concerned with enlarged pores, look for products that contain exfoliating acids like AHAs and BHAs. AHAs (or alpha hydroxy acids) work on skin surface by dissolving dead skin cells so they are not left to accumulate. On the other hand, BHAs (or beta hydroxy acids) work by penetrating into pores to eliminate sebum plugs. Be it cleansers, serums, moisturisers or masks, many pore-refining products are formulated with a blend of AHAs and BHAs for optimal efficacy. And since these leave-on products are designed to be used daily, the concentration of acids tend to be lower for a gradual pore-purging action. Another common type of ingredient found in pore-minimising products (like masks) are clays like Kaolin and Bentonite. Due to their porous nature, these clays are highly absorbent and soak up excess sebum from deep within pores, keeping congestion at bay. Use these purifying masks all over the face once or twice a week to give skin an overall detox, or use them locally on the T-zone or on breakouts as an SOS treatment.
Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Pore-Refining Treatment 2% BHA, $48 for 88ml, at Paula’s Choice
Designed to be applied onto skin after cleansing and toning, this leave-on solution contains an optimal concentration of 2 per cent salicylic acid which acts on comedones to gradually and gently eliminate them so that pores become decongested over time. It is also enriched with antioxidants, peptides and sodium hyaluronate which help calm, hydrate and strengthen skin.
GlamGlow SUPERMUD Clearing Treatment, $86 for 50ml
Thanks to its proprietary blend of six exfoliating acids (including glycolic, lactic and salicylic), this pore-purging mask eliminates comedones, normalises sebum production and even reduces ingrown hair. Kaolin also draws out impurities for a more refined skin texture.
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Herbivore Botanicals Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask, $72 for 70ml
If you prefer a natural alternative, try this 100 per cent plant-based face mask. Made with papaya and pineapple fruit enzymes (that are naturally rich in AHAs) and willow bark extract (a source of BHA), this mask eliminates dead skin cells and clears out pores to keep skin blackhead- and breakout-free. The refreshing gel texture has a blue shade, thanks to its azulene content, which is a powerful antioxidant that counters inflammation and reduces redness.
Commit To Sunscreen
We cannot stress the importance of sunscreen enough—after all, it is the one skincare step which dermatologists agree is the most important anti-ageing precaution you can ever do for your skin. UV rays penetrate deep into skin layers to snip away at collagen fibres, resulting in a loss of elasticity. What does that have to do with pores, you might ask? Just lift your cheeks and notice how the pores on your cheeks instantly seem smaller. This is because as your skin loses its firmness, a tiny shadow is cast at each pore, and as a result, make them appear larger.
Eau Thermale Avène Very High Protection Cleanance SPF 50+, $49.90 for 50ml
To ensure maximum protection against the sun, as well as maintain a mattified complexion, try . It has a lightweight emulsion texture that doesn’t clog pores, and contains a combination of UV filters help shield skin against UVA and UVB rays. It is also enriched with vitamin E and thermal spring water to soothe skin and lock in moisture while a sebum-regulating active keeps shine at bay.
Seek Expert Help
If you are looking for something beyond topical products, consider laser treatments which can tighten pores as well as improve skin texture. While there are many different types of lasers available at a doctor’s office, they are not created equal, and are available in different wavelengths and intensities to target a wide range of skin conditions from pigmentation, enlarged pores and even tattoo removal. For skin irregularities like scars and enlarged pores, try the Medlite C6 Laser Toning Programme at Freia Medical. It targets the dermis layer of the skin to stimulate collagen production and tighten pores for a more refined complexion. Everyone’s skin is different so a series of multiple treatments might be required for visible results, or alternatively, your doctor might recommend a combination of different treatments like chemical peels to best address your skin condition.
Text: Joyce Cheo / Additional reporting: Arissa Ha
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