What are pores and why do we have them?Pores are the opening of hair follicles on our skin which contain oil (sebaceous) glands – we have them all over our body apart from our palms and soles of feet, with the average adult having around 5 million pores on their body, and 20,000 on their face. Their function is to allow oil from the sebaceous glands to travel up the hair follicle to keep skin lubricated. Pore size alters from person to person and is mostly determined by our genetics, skin type and hormones.
Is it possible to tighten pores?It’s a common skincare myth that pores open and close, however pores have no muscles attached to them so this is not possible. Using hot and cold water also doesn’t help, neither does steaming. However, their appearance can and does change according to our skin condition and lifestyle; unfortunately as we age they can get larger, due to the diminishing collagen and elastin in the skin. Pores can also become more visible at any age when they’re clogged with dirt and oil, which gives them the appearance of being ‘open’.
If you have oily skin, your pores are likely to appear bigger because the oil glands are more active – pores need to be bigger in order to release the oil within the skin. As oil, dirt and makeup collect, pores can be weighed down and stretched which makes them appear much bigger than they actually are.
How can I treat my pores?You won’t be surprised to learn that a scrupulous skincare regime is key to keeping pores clean and refined – here's what we recommend:
CleansingCleansing is key – embracing a good skincare routine with a double cleanse at night to rid skin of dirt and dead cells is the first step to avoiding clogged, large pores. However, many people with oily skin can fall into the trap of over cleansing, which can trick skin into thinking it’s dry. This in turn creates a vicious circle, with the skin producing more oil to counteract the dryness; it then becomes oilier which may encourage increased cleansing. Choose products containing ingredients such as salicylic acid, an exfoliating beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that can burrow into the pore and dissolve dirt and oil. If you clean your skin with a brush, flannel or muslin cloth, it’s important to keep these scrupulously clean as they can harbour bacteria leading to acne.
ExfoliatingUsing a gentle exfoliator every day or every other day can work wonders in helping cell turnover and ridding your skin of those pesky dead cells that block and congest your pores. But we're not necessarily talking scrubs, as liquid exfoliators such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are often a better choice. Phytic, lactic and glycolic acids have a resurfacing effect on the skin, dissolving dead skin cells and stimulating cell renewal.
RetinolIt's worth considering a vitamin A product to help minimise pore size. Medical grade products containing vitamin A (retinol) can help lessen oil production and improve skin texture, but, as with all retinols, slow and steady is the way to go, as it can be an irritant. Take a look at our Retinoids guide for more information.
MakeupMakeup can also make pores appear bigger, as powders and foundations often settle into them over the day. Lighter oil-free, long-wearing formulas look more natural and won’t settle into or clog the pores – look in particular for products labelled as non-comedogenic, which means that the product has been formulated to avoid clogging pores. Using a pore-minimiser primer can help an uneven texture; these are designed to blur the appearance of pores before you apply makeup on top. If your skin appears shiny or oily during the day, use blotting papers which will absorb excess oil on the skin.
SunscreenMinimising sun exposure is also key since it damages collagen and elastin, which in turn expands pore size. Choose SPF 30+ and make sure you apply it every day without exception. This is arguably one of the best things you can do for the condition and health of your skin generally.
In-clinic treatmentsAquagold Fine Touch, available at Sean White Aesthetics and Adonia Medical Clinic.
A microneedling facial with an extra boost: 24-carat gold tiny needles painlessly inject a bespoke cocktail of ingredients into the skin to refine pores, brighten and tighten, and improve tone and texture.
mJOULE, exclusively available at Define Clinic, London
This new treatment combines two different lasers to stimulate collagen and elastin, which in turn helps to tighten pores and improve the appearance of the skin.
Definisse Skin Peel, available from Vincent Wong at Vindoc Aesthetics, London
A combination of different acids such as salicylic, pyruvic and retinoids are used to work on the deeper layers of the skin without too much surface peeling. As such you’re able to continue your daily activities straight away.