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How to Change How You Feel About Your Pores
And learn to love them!
by : Théo Dupuis-Carbonneau- Aug 29th, 2023
I can’t tell you how many hours I used to spend in front of my mom’s magnifying mirror, examining, poking and prodding my face. I dreamt of smoother, clearer skin that was free of acne, blackheads and dilated pores. It didn’t help that my coming of age was during the aughts, the era of perfectly manicured pop stars, beauty-product ads featuring models with flawless skin and the famous Bioré strips, which I couldn’t seem to stop using every weekend in the hope of clearing my nasal pores of that pesky oxidized sebum. I still remember the sensation of ever so carefully removing the strip after the prescribed 15 minutes, eyes watering from the (satisfying) pain.
Although we’re seeing more “real skin” in advertising these days, the overall lack of reality and the use of social-media filters are major factors in the harming of skin confidence everywhere. Dr. Julie Mireault, dermatologist and co-founder of Montreal’s Clinique de Dermatologie Rosemont, finds the increase in the use of these filters unfortunate given how they gloss over natural skin texture and imperfections, altering our perception of reality. “An increasing number of patients are coming to my office and asking me to make their pores disappear—even though pores are totally normal and important as they allow skin to excrete sweat and sebum,” says Mireault.
San Francisco-based certified aesthetician and Benefit Cosmetics global brow and beauty expert Jared Bailey is on the same page. “We’re seeing a lot of the glass-skin trend lately, but it’s really hard to achieve without a filter or unnatural enhancement,” he says. “But that’s not how we want to live our lives, right? We want to feel good in our own skin—literally!” After four years of research, Benefit launched its first collection of six treatments just for pores, adding to its already very popular The POREfessional line of primers and setting sprays. “[We want to] change the way we talk about pores, which is usually negative—calling them ‘clogged’ and ‘yucky’ and [talking about] how we need to erase them,” says Benefit’s global beauty authority Maggie Ford Danielson, who is also Benefit co-founder Jean Ford’s daughter. “That’s not what it’s about. We want to provide solutions instead of problems and give people tools. It’s about clean, healthy skin, but ‘healthy’ doesn’t mean perfect.” For this collection’s campaign images, the brand made the conscious decision to not airbrush the models’ skin.
In reality, our pores are our friends. From head to toe, we have about 5 million—some 20,000 of them just on our face! They can be divided into two main categories: sweat pores, which, via perpiration play a vital role in regulating body temperature and waste removal, and sebaceous pores, which, on top of housing hair follicles (minus a few exceptions like both sets of lips, areolae and eyelids) and allowing you to rid yourself of dead skin cells, are connected to your sebaceous glands and aid in the production of sebum. Although sebum in higher quantities (a.k.a. hyperseborrhea) is no one’s favourite, the substance is an integral component of the precious hydrolipidic film—the layer over your skin that protects it from outside threats like cold, dry weather or sun, and keeps it supple and comfortable.
So how do you distinguish between a healthy pore and one that’s clogged? “Healthy pores lack an accumulation of sebum and keratinocytes,” says Mireault. When you keep your pores free of sebum, debris and dead cells, you can usually avoid pimples and blackheads. To do so, Mireault suggests that younger people—and those who are dealing with acne—use products that contain salicylic acid, which is well known for its keratolytic properties, which break down the outer layers of the skin and get rid of dead skin cells. For more mature skin, she steers people toward either retinoid products—which encourage cellular regeneration and the synthesis of collagen fibre in addition to targeting signs of sun-induced aging—or products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid and lactic acid, which have exfoliant properties that dissolve the dead cells that clog pores. “With the right blend of ingredients, you don’t have to torture your pores,” says Ford Danielson. “Your skin deserves your respect.”
So what’s the takeaway? A simple routine that’s tailored to specific needs along with healthy habits will have a much more noticeable effect on skin than any “miracle” product. “I often compare pores to bed sheets,” says Bailey. “When the threads are not tightly woven, sheets have a low thread count and they’re loose, unlike with a higher thread count, which [makes for] much nicer, tighter sheets. It feels different, and you sleep better with the latter, right? So when you consider that pores are what weave your skin together, it’s really important that you take excellent care of them.”
PORING OVER THE TRUTH
Old wives’ tales and social-media fake news are out—it’s time to set the skin story straight!
Pores open and close: FALSE
“Pores don’t contract like muscles, so to say that they open and close is incorrect,” says Mireault. “When you go to the aesthetician for a facial and they use steam, it’s actually more about vasodilation and softening sebum and karyocytes for easier extraction.”
You can’t change the size of your pores: FALSE
“Pore size, much like foot size, is genetically predetermined,” says Mireault. Gender, ethnicity and skin type all play a role when it comes to the size of pores. That being said, sun exposure and smoking can lead to permanent dilation by breaking down collagen and elastin, which are what support pore structure. Cold water won’t “close up” pores either, but it will briefly tone the epidermis and slow sebum production.
You can minimize the appearance of pores: TRUE
You can dimish the appearance of pores by reducing excess sebum, supporting collagen production, exfoliating and dislodging impurities (dirt, pollution, oxidized sebum and so on) that have gotten stuck in these amazing little orifices.
These tried-and-true products will help you have healthier, happier pores:
SQUALANE + PROBIOTIC GEL MOISTURIZER, BIOSSANCE
Congested skin? Look to this hydrating gel moisturizer, which is as light as a feather. Recently improved and reformulated with probiotics as well as ginger and red-algae extracts, this gel calms skin and balances sebum production.
TIGHT ’N TONED THE POREFESSIONAL PORE-REFINING AHA + PHA TONER, BENEFIT COSMETICS
Our favourite product from Benefit’s new pore-care line, this AHA and PHA foaming toner with lemon and yuzu extracts goes on like a dream (no cotton pads needed!) and softens skin.
RETINOL CICA MOISTURE RECOVERY SERUM, INNISFREE
Fabulous news! You can now enjoy the many benefits of vitamin A—improved texture, firmness and glow—without irritation thanks to the integration of soothing Centella asiatica in this brilliant skincare product. Pushing it over the top is salicylic acid. Three birds, one stone, baby!
NUTRITIOUS 2-IN-1 FOAM CLEANSER, ESTÉE LAUDER
Whether you use it as a daily cleanser or a weekly purifying mask, this ingenious product, which contains the brand’s new Nutri-9 complex, keeps pores blissfully clean and clear, controls shine and reduces redness.
SKIN RENEWING NIGHTLY EXFOLIATING TREATMENT, CERAVE
We love the way the glycolic and lactic acids in this treatment gently exfoliate skin while its ceramides and hyaluronic acid help maintain a strong, moisture-rich skin barrier that leaves the face naturally protected.
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