Enlarged pores are a beauty concern for women of all ages, and many of us spend a lot of time and money on products that claim to shrink them. Just remember, pores are just the openings of oil glands that lie below the skin’s surface, and they are more plentiful in the T-zone, which is why most pore problems are concentrated on and around the nose, forehead and chin.
The best ways to minimize pores
1. Thickening the walls of the pores goes a long way for decreasing their visibility. Products that increase collagen production — like vitamin C and retinoids — are a good choice.
2. Products that cause swelling within the skin deliver temporary improvement for large pores. This is how most “pore minimizing” products work, and many of these rely on vitamin C or glycolic acid to achieve their goal.
3. Another way to minimize the appearance of large pores is to reduce the size of oil glands. Retinoids, especially in the form of the oral medication Accutane, are effective. The side effects of Accutane, however, outweigh the benefits strictly for reducing pore size, so this medication is reserved for severe acne that is resistant to other treatments. Most topical retinoids are unable to penetrate deep enough to reach the oil glands, but stronger versions such as Tazorac may offer mild improvement.
4. Eating foods rich in vitamin A (sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squashes, dried apricots, bell peppers, cantaloupe and tropical fruits) help reduce oil gland activity, thus reducing the appearance of large pores.
What doesn’t work
Many women try to resurface their way to smaller pores, either through aggressive exfoliation or office-based laser treatments. Anatomically, the base of the pore beneath the skin is actually larger than the pore on the surface, so resurfacing can actually make pores appear larger.
Preventing large pores
Believe it or not, a few skincare and lifestyle changes can keep your pores tight and undetectable.
1. Avoid environmental assaults that break down collagen and elastin, including sun exposure and cigarette smoke. Although our cells are capable of producing more collagen, after puberty they lose their ability to produce elastin. Without this elasticity, pores sag open and become more visible. Using sunscreen prevents the production of the enzyme that breaks down elastin, and retinoids and antioxidants can help as well.
2. When pores get clogged with dead cells, makeup and oil, they stretch and appear larger. (Another reason to always wash your face at night.) Using salicylic acid products and retinoids helps keep pores clear.
3. Avoiding skincare products with pore-clogging ingredients is yet another way to minimize pore appearance. Coconut oil is a big one to avoid, as are tinted moisturizers and tinted sunscreens as these pigments have a tendency to settle into the pores. Stick with traditional foundation, since most of the latest offerings seem to cause this problem.
Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.