This article originally appeared in the Apr 22, 2021 edition of Business InsiderWritten by Katie Decker-Jacoby
Contrary to popular belief, pores can’t physically shrink and expand. Everyone has these tiny openings in their skin because they function to naturally release oil. While you can’t simply zap them away with a toner or cream, you can find the right products and maintain a healthy skincare regimen. Above all else, this is the most effective thing you can do to minimize the appearance of your pores — emphasis on appearance, not size.
But buying just any product won’t do. That’s where expert advice and product recommendations come in. We spoke with a dermatologist and an aesthetician to piece together the ideal skincare routine for those who would like to reduce the look of their pores. Dr. Marie Hayag, board-certified dermatologist and founder of 5th Avenue Aesthetics, along with Karen Fernandez, lead aesthetician for SkinSpirit, help explain the often misunderstood topic of pores, and which products can actually assist in lessening their appearance.
Below is a simple breakdown of what your skincare routine should look like, but it’s important to talk to your dermatologist before changing your routine. You can continue reading for specific product recommendations, and at the end of this guide, learn more in our FAQ section that shares expert advice.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR SKIN ROUTINE LOOK LIKE?
|1. Cleanser||1. Cleanser|
|2. Toner||2. Exfoliator or retinol|
|3. Vitamin C||3. Hydrating serum|
|4. Moisturizer||4. Moisturizer|
|5. Sunscreen (SPF 30+)|
WHAT CAUSES PORES TO APPEAR LARGE?
The state of your pores is primarily genetic, but there are several other factors that contribute to how they look. An obvious answer is clogged pores — a buildup of dead skin cells that stops oils from getting out — which can make your pores look bigger. Those with acne-prone skin and oily skin often experience these congested and therefore more visible pores, especially down the center of the face.
The sun can also do some serious damage to your skin in general. Harmful UV rays can break down the overall health of your skin. Applying sunscreen, preferably one with broad-spectrum protection and an SPF of at least 30, can help prevent sun damage and larger-looking pores.
Additionally, your skin loses collagen and elastin as you age, which prompts your pores to stretch out. Simply put, “If your skin is losing elasticity, your pores lose elasticity, so they’re basically sagging,” Fernandez says. It has everything to do with the loss of structure around your pores, according to Dr. Hayag.
When you’re in warmer and more humid environments, your pores are naturally more active and can therefore appear larger, as Fernandez notes. Your skin needs to breathe, meaning you don’t want to throw tons of product on your face — keep it short and simple.
WHICH INGREDIENTS SHOULD YOU LOOK OUT FOR?
For removing oil and getting rid of dead skin cells, you should look for cleansers and chemical exfoliators that contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). According to Dr. Hayag, watch out for lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acids — together they’re the holy trinity of acids that clear up pores. Chemical exfoliation twice a week is best. While slight tingling sensations can sometimes occur after applying acids, Dr. Hayag confirms that burning, redness, and flaking are not normal. These types of negative reactions usually mean you’re using too much and should take it easy.
In terms of boosting collagen production, you should search for products that contain retinoids and vitamin C. “I think of retinoids as putting your skin on the StairMaster and keeping it healthy; keeping it in good shape so that it really knows how to get out there the next day and reproduce,” says Fernandez. Dr. Hayag suggests keeping retinoid use to five days a week.
For normalizing and decreasing oil production, Dr. Hayag suggests products that use niacinamide and green tea. In the end, “We talk about things like salicylic acids and retinoids, but a lot of them are interchangeable, not just in just treating pores but in good skincare in general,” Dr. Hayag adds.
HOW SHOULD YOU APPROACH ADJUSTING YOUR SKINCARE ROUTINE?
Beyond investing in and upholding a good skincare routine, both of our experts advise you to go slow, simple, and gentle. Your skin likely won’t react well to a huge overhaul of your bathroom cabinet, so don’t overdo it. Moving at a steady pace also means that progress and results are cumulative rather than immediate — your skin can’t magically change overnight.
Other general tips from Fernandez include drinking lots of water, washing your face in both the morning and evening, and removing your makeup. However, you can always speak with your dermatologist about your skin concerns, and especially if you’re not sure where to start or are experiencing serious skin issues.
Another way to leave it to the professionals is getting treatments at a clinic. Neither expert advises trying DIY skin treatments at home. It’s much safer to have a dermatologist or aesthetician tend to your skin. But if your skin overall feels congested and you notice your pores clogging up, Fernandez suggests pampering yourself with a light scrub, enzyme mask, or mud mask.