TRUE OR FALSE: Can You Shrink Pores?

Pore, pore me.

My childhood can pretty much be summed up by the following three takeaways: eating cereal for afternoon tea, testing my parents’ patience with various talent shows put on in collaboration with my siblings, and a fierce commitment to the television show, Mythbusters.

Milk-based breakfast foods at unconventional times and fam performances aside, my overactive little brain loved to nestle in front of the telly and watch as ~experts~ debunked longstanding myths on topics like, ‘Could Jack really have fit on that piece of wood with Rose in the Titanic?’ and, ‘Can fertiliser really blow up a cement truck?’. This fondness for watching people hang myths out to dry has well and truly spilled over into adulthood. If you were to take a stroll down my Google history searches, you’d find that I often turn to the search engine to help me answer questions like ‘Can you die from a hangover’ and ‘Does hot water set stains?’. What can I say? I have a thirst for knowledge.

And so, our new segment ‘TRUE OR FALSE’ was born. Each Tuesday, we’ll be prodding and poking old wives tales (and ideas sold to us by large beauty corporations) from every angle to see how they stand up in the face of T-R-U-T-H. To kick things off, we enlisted the help of skin expert Jocelyn Petroni to answer all our burning desires around pores—how to unclog them, what products to avoid, and whether or not it’s possible to shrink pores. Here goes!

What are pores, and why do we have them?
Pores are little openings on the surface of the skin. “They are openings for hair follicles, sebaceous glands and sweat glands,” Jocelyn explains. “Their purpose is to act as a conduit for the secretion of oil, sweat and toxins from the body and to allow the skin to ‘breathe’.”

Can you *actually* shrink pores?
Short answer, no. Long answer: “Pores are an essential component to the fabric of the skin being an outlet for all hairs—for every hair on the body there is a corresponding pore. They are genetically determined, so their size cannot physically be changed.”

Kiehl’s Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Masque

How about measures for reducing their size?
While you can’t physically reduce the size of your pores (thanks, genetics!), Jocelyn assures me that you can reduce their appearance in size and refine the texture of the skin.

“Blackheads, grease deposits, dead cells, makeup and other debris fill and stretch the pores, enlarging them and preventing them from closing,” she says. “Once this material is removed by deep cleansing (i.e. the pores are cleaned out), they will close and tighten. Although the skin may still have enlarged pores, they will not be as large or noticeable. Pores within the T-zone on the face tend to be larger due to this area having more sebaceous glands, thereby releasing more sebum.”

Jocelyn also recommends using a pore-minimising face mask once a week to help tackle open pores (we love the Kiehl’s Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Masque one!).

What about reducing their visibility?
To ensure you keep your pores under wraps (or as much as possible), regular cleaning and exfoliation (with AHAs, BHAs and retinoids) is key. This will ensure they are clean and healthy, and less easy to spot from a mile away. There are also a number of pore-minimising products available that can be used topically to reduce the appearance of pores, with the most effective of these skin preparation products containing a fruit acid called Salicylic acid—an “oil soluble fruit acid that works to dissolve the build-up of sebum in the pores.” Delightful!

Jocelyn also points to the effect ageing has on our pore size, saying that, “ageing skin also presents enlarged pores, as collagen production slows and skin loses its slack, which sees it starting to sag.” With this in mind, “ensuring you are using the correct skincare for your skin condition and concerns will go a long way in reducing their visibility over time.”

Dermalogica Precleanse 150ml


How can we clear pores out, or ensure they don’t become clogged?
When it comes to making sure your pores aren’t clogged, extractions are “the most efficient method to remove blocked pores and hard sebaceous build up”, according to Jocelyn. If clogged pores are a concern for you, having a professional perform extractions every 4-6 weeks will help to reduce inflammation and ensure the situation doesn’t get any worse.

“Cleansing is really important to keep your pores in check, and I advise a double cleanse at night, to remove away the grime from the day and ‘unplug’ the pores,” says Jocelyn. “Exfoliation is also an important step to rid the skin of general debris build up and dry dead skin cells that can congest the pores, and otherwise keep the natural skin processes from functioning at their optimum and to rid the skin of a dull complexion.” Sold!

If we want to ~mask~ them, what makeup should we reach for?
According to Jocelyn, we should be avoiding makeup products with comedogenic (or pore blocking) ingredients—like Lanolin—and looking for products that are refined and contain natural, non-toxic ingredients, instead.

“I would suggest using a matte-effect foundation that offers great coverage but isn’t mask-like,” she says. “It is essential to use a pore-minimising primer before makeup to really refine the texture of the skin and help to minimise the appearance of large pores. Avoid frosty or illuminating products as these tend to sit in the skin and magnify pore size.”

Ultraceuticals Even Skintone Serum

Are there any key pore-specific products that we should invest in?
Ultraceuticals Even Skintones Serum contains fruit acids including salicylic acid which dissolve dry dead skin cells and breaks down sebum plugs in the pores,” she recommends. “Applied daily to clean skin this active serum works all day to keep the pores clean and clear. It comes in three strengths so even the most sensitive skins can benefit from the effects of daily exfoliation.”

Words, @madw0n | With thanks to Jocelyn Petroni (@jocelynpetroni)