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Ask a Dermatologist: Can I shrink my pores?

Everyone has pores, but some pores are more notable than others. Fixating on your pores under bright bathroom lights and magnifying mirrors can make the scale of the issue (and your pores!) seem bigger to you than they appear to other people. That said, asking “Why are my pores so big?” is a legitimate question. Clogged pores can appear enlarged and that’s something you can fix. Other factors that influence how visible your pores are – such as age and genetics – can be harder to influence.

We asked our Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Malvina Cunningham more about the truth behind pores, their relationship to healthy skin and how we can get rid of blocked pores, which can exacerbate the issue.

Skin + Me: What are pores?

Dr Malvina Cunningham: Pores are the small openings where hair follicles and oil-producing glands open onto the skin surface. They’re a natural part of our skin structure keeping your skin healthy. Their size is determined by genetics – however you feel about them, you can’t get rid of them. The good news is that you can make them less visible!

Pore size is determined by genetics – however you feel about them, you can’t get rid of them. The good news is that you can make them less visible!”

Skin + Me: Why are some people’s pores more visible than others?

Dr Malvina Cunningham: Pores can appear enlarged when clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells. Makeup can be another culprit. Oily skin types and combination skin are particularly prone to enlarged pores – especially across the ‘T-zone’. Loss of skin elasticity through age and excess sun exposure can be another reason for pores appearing enlarged.

When our skin ages (and loses skin elasticity), or has too much exposure to the sun, this can be a contributing factor too – so keep using your broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, just before your makeup (if you wear any).

Pores can appear enlarged when clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells.”

Skin + Me: Tell us more about the relationship between visible pores and healthy skin

Dr Malvina Cunningham: Pores are an essential part of the normal structure of our skin. These small openings where hair follicles and oil-producing glands open onto the skin surface allow sweat and oil to escape through and keep your skin and body in optimal health. Not only are they a natural element of our skin but they have an essential function for the skin to remain healthy. 

Skin + Me: How do I make my pores less visible?

Dr Malvina Cunningham: You can only make pores appear less visible but you can’t get rid of them completely. 

Any cleansing process you use on clogged pores needs to be repeated and maintained as pores inadvertently will fill up again – making them more visible again. The speed this happens depends on your skin type and other factors. 

Skin + Me: How do I get rid of clogged pores?

+ Use non-comedogenic skincare products. These are products that have been tested so that they don’t block pores and are usually oil-free.

+ Cleanse your skin twice daily with gentle face wash, particularly if you have combination or oily skin.

+ Introduce active ingredients to your skincare that are known to help with clearing pores such as retinoids, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

+ As a preventative measure against enlarged pores in general, use a daily sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage and associated premature skin ageing.

Skin + Me: What’s the relationship between pores and acne?

Dr Malvina Cunningham: Pores that are blocked by dead skin cells and oil accumulation triggers the initial process of comedone formation. This is the main lesion found in acne – your typical whitehead and blackhead

Enlarged pores and acne

Working to keep pores clear of excess oil and dead skin (while still protecting your skin barrier) is one way to tackle acne. Remember that acne causes can be complex and triggers range from blocked pores to acne bacteria, hormonal changes, stress, some medications, poor cell turnover and other health and lifestyle factors. 

Be self-compassionate and familiarise yourself with what real, healthy skin looks like. Get good advice from a Dermatologist and the right blend of active ingredients to negate highly visible pores and progress toward your skin goals.

Medical facts checked by Head of Medical, Dr Malvina Cunningham

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