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How to get rid of pores, according to the experts

Image: Unspash
Image: Unspash

The word “pores" has almost 3 billion hits on Google – and the number one, most asked question? “How to get rid of pores.” Tbf, it’s an affliction that affects most of us, Regina George included. And, alongside ingrown hairs, rogue spider veins and wonky eyebrows, open pores speckled across our nose and cheeks are one of beauty's most persistent grievances. They're also one of the hardest problems to shift.

Of course, we're beautiful just the way we are – pores and all – but if they're bugging you, we've got some expert advice lined up that should help.

There’s been much debate over the years about how exactly pores work. But contrary to popular belief pores can't be opened and closed like doors (they don't have muscles). However, there is some merit to applying hot and cold water to make them appear more or less pronounced (more on that later).

So what can be done about our God-given orifices? We asked Dr Nina Bal, facial aesthetics doctor and founder of FacialSculpting to run us through everything we need to know.

What are visible pores?

They may appear to be tiny dots on the surface of our skin, but pores are actually the small openings to our hair follicles. “There are two different types of pore,” says Nina. “One releases sebum (the body’s natural oil) and the other releases sweat.” Though tiny, “pores enable the oil, sweat and sebum to go from our glands to the surface of our skin, which is essential for healthy skin.” So think of them like your skin's window.

How many pores is normal?

The average adult will have around 5 million pores on their body and 20,000 on their face. But, “generally we can’t see pores in the skin,” says Nina. It’s only when enlarged that they become visible.

What causes large visible pores?

Usually, pores are genetically determined, but there are other factors which can affect the visibility of our pores. For instance, an overproduction of sebum can make pores appear larger. “If oil, toxins, dirt, and makeup collect in the pore, this can weigh it down and stretch it, making our pores appear much bigger than they are on the surface of the skin,” explains Nina.

Ageing skin is another culprit. “The skin around the pore can become less elastic as we age, making it appear larger,” says Nina.

Likewise, the sun dehydrates your skin, explains Nina, which makes the oil glands over-grown, “this in turn makes pores look bigger,” she notes.

As for other factors, inadequate skin cleansing, occlusive (or overly thick) makeup, and non-medical grade skincare (which may use ingredients that block pores) can also contribute.

Are there triggers that make pores more visible?

“Sunlight plays a part in making them look more visible,” says Nina, so if you’re out in bright, clear sunlight, they’re likely to show up more. And, “makeup can also make pores seem bigger than they actually are,” she says. “Powders and foundation can settle into those tiny holes over the course of the day, making them appear larger.”

Is it true that pores can open and close – i.e warm water can open them and cold water can close them?

“No! It’s a myth! Pores do not open and close like doors,” says Nina. Why? They’re simply openings in our skin and, crucially, they don’t have muscles attached to them so they can’t pull and contract.

Instead, cold water can make blood vessels constrict, making pores appear smaller for the short time they’re cool, while hot water and steam can loosen up the sebum and debris inside the pore, enabling it to be squeezed out more easily (though we know we’re not really supposed to). So, “they can temporarily appear to close with cold and open with heat but for a very short time, they then they go back to normal size,” says Nina.

How to get rid of pores?

In terms of actually getting rid of pores, it's not possible. “Unfortunately, once pores have stretched, they cannot go back to their original size,” says Nina. However, the good news is, we can make them appear smaller. “Large pores can continue enlarging if you allow them to stretch out and become clogged with whiteheads, blackheads, sebum, and dirt,” Nina warns.

How can we minimise the appearance of pores?

“You can do this by cleansing skin twice a day and exfoliating twice a week in order to remove oil, dirt, sebum and cellular debris,” says Nina. “Minimising sun exposure is also key since UV radiation breaks down collagen and elastin, which in turn expands the pore size,” adds Nina, “so using an SPF of 40+ every day is vital.”

What can we do to treat them?

It’s an oldie but a goodie – prevention is better than cure, since, as we’ve already established, once pores stretch, they won’t become smaller. “While you may not be able to shrink your pore size, you can ensure your pores don’t get any bigger by following a proper skin care plan,” says Nina who recommends using medical grade skincare products such as salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, retinol and non-comedogenic makeup (i.e. lightweight makeup that won’t clog your pores).

And for a little extra help, Nina suggests using a makeup primer. “A makeup primer not only helps your makeup stay in place, but it smooths and fills the surface of the skin which can help reduce the appearance of enlarged pores.”

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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