What exactly is a pore?
“Pores are the opening in our glands in the skin,” explains Dr. Harald Büttner, a German-based Product Developer for NIVEA. “Each person has many and some have more oil glands in certain areas, and some people have less. The opening to these glands are the pores you can see. People with oily/combination skin tend to have larger pores, that are more likely to get clogged, because bacteria gets into the opening.”
“Ostia [the official name of the pore opening] can become blocked from ingredients like artificial colour or simply an overproduction of oil or sebum mixed with dead skin cells,” explains Holly Sherrard, Dermalogica’s Education Manager. “This combination oxidizes to form a black area or comedone (aka blackhead).” Hence those dark little spots that often appear along your t-zone.
Whiteheads versus blackheads
So what’s the difference between a blackhead and a whitehead? Put simply, a blackhead is when the bacteria is exposed and oxidized. Whiteheads have not yet been exposed to oxygen, so they do not turn black.
“The skin can also grow over the top of the ostia so the oil becomes trapped and has a white pearly appearance [causing a whitehead],” says Sherrard.
All in your genes?
Unfortunately, genetics plays a very large part in the size of your pores. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it. According to Büttner, you can’t reduce the pore size, but you can make them less visible with a proper skin care routine.
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We bust the biggest skin care myths! Learn about them here. “A once a week facial or body scrub to reduce dead skin cells is essential,” he says. “Salicylic acid would help even more, if the salicylic acid level is low and your skin can tolerate it, you can use it in the morning and night.” But don’t over do it with exfoliation and salicylic acid, or you risk making the problem worse.
“The larger the pores the more prone the skin can be to becoming clogged,” Sherrard says. “Correct cleansing is essential to keep the follicle opening clean. Look for ingredients such as oil absorbing clays of bentonite, green clay or kaolin.”
Sun care is also key to reducing the visibility of your pores. “Sunshine is a key issue,” Büttner insists. “Use a daily oil-free moisturizer. The sun damages collagen in the skin, so whenever you’re without sunscreen radicals damage the collagen and make the pores bigger in visibility.”
Strips: Yes or no?
If you are having trouble keeping your pores clear at home, a trip to the dermatologist to get regular facials and help with extractions is the best bet. Then daily maintenance will keep your pores clear in between appointments, and you shouldn't need to use the blackhead removing strips.
“The correct way to removed blackheads is to have a skin professional soften the skin and perform extractions,” suggests Sherrard. “Care should be taken when using a strip on the skin as they can sensitize the skin and cause dilated capillaries.”
Büttner agrees: “You shouldn’t over do it because of the adhesive. It takes away the upper layers of the skin, causing a stripping of the skin. But it’s a good fast fix solution.”
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Get a deep clean
Adding a few steps to your daily skin care routine will help make your pores cleaner and less visible. “You have to integrate a few steps into your beauty routine,” Büttner says. “Cleansing, sun protection, oil-free protection. It has to be daily routine like brushing your teeth. You should see the results within a few days once you start your routine. “
“If the skin is particularly shiny in certain areas like the T-zone look for a silicone based product with Enantia bark, Niacinamide, yeast extract, horse chestnut, panthenol and caffeine to reduce and regulate oil production,” Sherrard recommends.
For an added boost Büttner suggests investing in a rotating brush. “If you can afford it, get one of the rotating brushes, it’s adding a massage, and it’s kind of fun. It’s even more intense in terms of cleansing and removing dead skin cells. It can double the efficiency.”
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