You can’t shrink your pores magically (unfortunately), but there are ways to minimise their appearance and reduce the chances of congestion.
“My pores are too small”, said no one ever. And while enlarged pores are a very common occurrence, especially in a hot and humid climate like Singapore, they are still a cause for complaint. Some of us may know firsthand, enlarged pores are especially susceptible to getting clogged. And while you can’t change the size of your pores, there are things you can do to ensure that they look smaller and are less likely to get congested. We asked Carrie Gross, CEO and Co-founder of Dr. Dennis Gross to tell us what it is exactly that causes enlarged, clogged pores and what we can do about it.
What are some of the reasons that pores get clogged?
Pores are designed to bring our natural oils to the surface of our skin for a natural hydrating element. A lot of us have issues with our oil chemistry, so some people produce too much oil, or the oil that they produce is too thick, and it’s sometimes because of hormones, it’s sometimes because of stress or diet or genetics, or improper hygiene, whatever. And so the oil kicks into overdrive and then it becomes thick, and it doesn’t flow freely, so then our pores become enlarged, clogged, potentially bacteria can be trapped in the pore itself.
Sometimes, the bacteria that gets trapped in there, and then, the oil builds up on top of it, and then you can have an underlying pimple potentially erupting. Sometimes it just looks like congestion, like, it doesn’t officially turn into a pimple, it’s just bumps.
A lot of people will use heavy primers and then heavy full-coverage makeup to conceal the congestion, the pimple, or the bump. And that actually exacerbates the problem.
Why are alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids so good at keeping pores minimised and skin clear?
I think that the main function of alpha and beta hydroxy acids is that they’re helping with cell turnover. And we were talking about how, bacteria gets lodged in the pore and it feeds off of sebum and dead skin cells, [so] it’s really important to keep the surface of your skin superficially exfoliated. These acids also help to tighten the pores. The beta hydroxy acid, is the one that really goes down to the pore and works on the lining. And the alphas work on the surface.
If you’re relatively young, isn’t your skin already exfoliating itself at a fairly healthy rate?
Your cell turnover starts to slow down a little bit in your 20s. It certainly accelerates as we age, but, between the ages of 20 and 29, you’ve got oil production, and so you have to be really meticulous to make sure that you’re getting the cell turnover so the bacteria doesn’t get lodged [in the pores]. And it also can be somewhat product related—if you’re using makeup and primers, then the cells like, become a little bit glued. There’s something called intercellular cement, and it can get really sticky, and then your cells don’t turnover.
What is the proper way to use an acid? Sometimes people find their skin tingling and some people their skin burning. Is that actually supposed to happen?
Okay, so the way that we use acids is we’re always going to have like a neutraliser. You don’t want to leave acids tingling versus burning. Tingling is fine, but if it’s burning and turning really red, then that’s not okay. I think that there’s some products on the market that have heavy levels of acids, and if there are single-step, like an acid toner, you may be over-doing it.
So, our peels are calibrated to use be used daily, we blend our acids, we don’t use a mono acid. So, like, a glycolic at 10 per cent? That’s going to be aggressive to your skin. [We have] five [acids] in the Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, there’s seven in the Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel and three in the Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel. So, there’s a blend [of acids], so not one is overly aggressive in any particular way, they’re all synergistically working together.
How do you know when an acid is working? I mean I’m guessing your face is turning red is not the best gauge.
I think buying a magnifying mirror and really looking at your skin and getting to know your skin and learning to analyse your skin, diagnose any kind of issues [helps]. A lot of people will say “No! I can’t look in a magnifying mirror, I’m not getting it” But you have to know your skin, and if you don’t look in the magnifying mirror and set some goals, and watch to see if your products are working, then, you’re wasting your time and energy.
Adipic acid is not an acid we hear about often. It’s in your new serum, can you tell us more about this one and why it’s so special?
It comes from beetroot and sugar cane, it’s one of those naturally occurring acids. It is actually an antioxidant in a powder form, and we put it in here because not only is it going cleanse the lining of the pore, but it has a blurring effect. There are some studies that say it actually helps products adhere. So, it has some priming benefits. So, in the midst of formulating this product, Adipic acid was one of the most interesting ingredients to me because it could give you almost like a second skin, then, just from the fact that it helps the product stay put, that’s why I think it works as a primer under makeup.
Scroll through to find out more about the newest serum from Dr. Dennis Gross as well as other products that can help minimise the appearance of pores.
1. Pick A Pore Clearing Serum
With so many different factors contributing to clogged pores, it’s essential to use a product that tackles them all. The Dr Dennis Gross Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum, $99 is packed with a blend of ingredients that tackles clogged pores at various levels: alpha hydroxy acids slough off surface dead skin while Adipic acid, keeps that pore lining clear. Beta hydroxy acid, farnesol and phytic acid release the waxy buildup that gets stuck in pores. There’s also monkberry that helps to balance hormonal oil production. The lightweight serum is easily absorbed which makes it easy to layer your moisturiser over it. And because Adipic acid has the ability to help blur the appearance of pores and get products to adhere better, you probably won’t even need to use your primer before makeup.
2. Choose The Right Exfoliator
Physical scrubs aren’t always the best option as they can strip your skin of essential moisture and aggravate acne. Plus, some exfoliating granules are irregularly shaped, so they can cause micro-tears to your skin. To avoid using something that’s overly harsh, look for scrubs with round exfoliating beads, as well as products that are infused with replenishing ingredients like vitamin E. Some exfoliators also contain enzymes to eliminate dead skin cells and improve microcirculation for a smoother and more even-toned complexion. We like Tatcha The Rice Polish Classic Foaming Enzyme Powder, $95 for 60g. As its name suggests, it contains both exfoliating granules and rice enzymes to gently buff away dead skin cells and support cellular renewal. All you have to do is dispense half a teaspoonful of product into wet palms and lather it into a rich foam. This potent yet mild formula reveals youthful-looking skin as the rice enzymes help to improve hyperpigmentation and diminish the appearance of fine lines.
3. Use A Chemical Face Peel
Alternatively, try using a chemical exfoliant like an acid peel. Often containing AHAs, BHA or enzymes, these chemical exfoliants work either by dissolving the “glue” that holds dead skin cells onto skin surface (AHAs), or by penetrating into pores to kill acne-causing bacteria (BHA). Some products can also contain both AHAs and BHA as they work well together and can have a synergistic effect on brightening the complexion. We like Alpha H Liquid Gold, $60 for 100ml, a night-use exfoliating lotion that eliminates rough and uneven skin to make way for a soft and radiant complexion. Thanks to its optimal concentration of AHA, it encourages cellular turnover and accelerates elastin and collagen synthesis for healthier skin.
4. Try A Resurfacing Serum
If you’re looking for something milder, like one with gradual exfoliation effects, try resurfacing serums. Designed for daily use, these serums contain lower concentrations of exfoliants and improve the look and feel of skin over time. If you’re nervous about trying out exfoliating acids, it’ll be good to start with these serums as the lower concentrations of acids mean that they’re less aggressive, and you’ll be less prone to redness or any potential irritation. Tata Harper Resurfacing Serum, $115 for 30ml, contains both AHAs and BHAs to give you radiant, soft and supple skin. It’s also infused with botanical extracts that are rich in vitamin C, carotenoids and squalane for added antioxidant and skin-conditioning benefits.
5. Detox Skin With A Clarifying Mask
You can also purge pores with a clay-based mask to draw out impurities and gunk. Known for its detoxifying benefits, clay is often used as a base in such masks as it absorbs sebum and dirt effectively. For those with acne-prone skin, you can use these types of masks up to twice or thrice a week, while those with normal skin should limit them to once a week. Make sure to follow with hydrating and nourishing skincare products to restore skin’s moisture-lipid balance. We like Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque, $47 for 142g. Made with a blend of Amazonian White Clay and Bentonite Clay, it helps to absorb excess shine and toxins while keeping acne-causing bacteria at bay. It also eliminates dead skin cells and provides an astringent effect to tighten pores for a more refined skin texture. If you’re breaking out, you can also use it directly on the zit to calm and reduce the redness and swelling.
A version of this article first appeared on www.cleo.com.sg.