Take a walk through the beauty section of any drug store, and you’ll find product after product claiming to shrink or minimize pore size. It seems that a lot of beauty advice these days centers around this nebulous quest of making this seemingly harmless part of your skin disappear. But what does shrinking your pores actually mean and can it even be done? We investigate below.
Pores: the basics
Before we find out if they can disappear, let’s establish what pores are in the first place. There are actually two kinds of pores; oil pores and sweat pores. Oil pores are the openings of our hair follicles. These pores contain sebaceous glands, which are responsible for producing the oils that lubricate and moisturize our skin. Sweat pores are much smaller and can be found all over our body, performing the main function of — you guessed it — releasing sweat. Since sweat pores are already so tiny, they are typically not visible, making oil pores the main ones we’re concerned with. These are the ones that often get clogged and can appear enlarged.
Things that can enlarge pores
On the whole, pore size is largely determined by genetics and doesn’t change much over time, but there are some things that can increase pore size:
· Sun damage: Repeated exposure to UV rays can damage the collagen and elastic tissue in the skin, which can increase the size of pores.
· A clog: In some cases, a clogged pore can actually change the size of the pore by overstretching the elastin and collagen around it. Most of the time, if a clog is removed quickly and correctly, the pore will go back to its original size.
· Popping a pimple: While it may seem harmless, popping a pimple or performing an “extraction” the wrong way can damage the pore and cause broken capillaries or deeper clogs. This can sometimes result in a permanent expansion of the pore.
Things that physically shrink pores
Most of the time when people talk about “shrinking” pore size, what they are actually talking about is clearing pores and removing clogs, which can reduce the appearance of pores, making them less noticeable to the naked eye. But there are a few things that can actually physically shrink the size of pores. According to the New York based dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman in an interview with The Huffington Post, the powerful acne drug, Accutane, can shrink the size of pores while people are on the medication. The drug works by drying out the skin, which, in turn, shrinks the oil gland. She also noted that non-ablative laser treatments such as Medlite and Genesis and multiple Fraxel sessions can physically decrease pore size by shrinking collagen while also increasing collagen production.
If we can’t shrink them, how can we clear them?
While physically shrinking pores is not the easiest or most realistic task, minimizing pore appearance, is much more achievable, and what most people actually want. One of the best ways to clear, and therefore minimize, a pore is by using exfoliating ingredients that can reach deep into the pore and remove buildup. Here are a few of the most commonly recommended pore minimizing ingredients and methods:
· Retinol: In addition to being a powerful anti-aging and acne ingredient, retinol has proven to be an effective agent in clearing pores by increasing cell turnover.
· Glycolic acid (a type of AHA) or salicylic acid (BHA): These two ingredients are powerful exfoliators that help remove dead skin cells and clear pores of pollutants.
· Extractions: One of the most effective ways of clearing out blackheads and clogged pores is getting a manual extraction done by an experienced esthetician, emphasis on experienced, this is not something you want to try at home (see above).