What are pores?
We all know what pores are–those infuriating dots on our skin preventing a smooth, flawless complexion. But to get serious for a moment, dermatologist Katherine Armour explains, pores are small openings in the skin that release oil and sweat. In fact, Dr Armour says there are two types of pores: oil pores–these are the prominent ones on your T-section–and sweat pores which are so small you can’t see them with the naked eye.
“Pores are very important,” says Dr Armour, “they allow sebum–the skin’s natural oil–to reach the surface and lubricate the skin, helping the skin to stay healthy and hydrated.”
How do pores become clogged?
While pores are vital for the health of your skin, if they become blocked it can result in unpleasant blackheads and whiteheads. “Pores get clogged when dead skin cells, oil, skincare, pollution, or make-up are not cleansed away adequately at the end of the day,” explains Dr Armour. “When pores get clogged they stretch and appear larger,” she adds.
Can you minimise the appearance of pores?
Good news, Dr Armour explains there are steps you can take to keep your pores clean and healthy to minimise their appearance, and end up with cleaner, clearer skin.
Step one: Cleanse your skin each night with a gentle cleanser. “This will prevent oil, make-up, pollution and sunscreen from clogging your pores,” says Dr Armour.
Ultraceuticals global education ambassador and spokesperson Tracey Beeby agrees and suggests adding an exfoliant to your regimen from time to time. “Exfoliants can be physical, using biodegradable beads to superficially polish the skin, or a liquid exfoliant that uses generally a blend of AHAs–Alpha Hydroxy Acids–and BHA–Salicylic Acid,” she explains. “The advantage of the liquid exfoliants is that they exfoliate superficially as well as within the pore to lift any blockage.”
Step two: Avoid skincare products with pore-clogging ingredients. “Comedogenic–pore-clogging–ingredients include some forms of coconut oil, dimethicone isopropyl myristate, isopropyl palmitate and olive oil,” says Dr Armour.
Step three: Apply a moisturier even if your skin is oily. “Moisturising your face is also an effective solution to keeping your pores clean. Many people with acne fear that moisturiser will add excess oil to their skin, however if they use the right product this is not the case.”
Step four: Apply sunscreen all year round. Dr Armour says some people with an oily complexion don’t apply an SPF for fear of adding more oil to their skin, when in fact not applying sunscreen at all can cause more harm than good as it can lead to saggy pores. “This is due to UV light causing breakdown of collagen and elastin in the dermis that support our skin’s structures,” explains Dr Armour. She recommends using a featherlight SPF that’s non-comedogenic, oil-free and with nano-technology that won’t block pores.
Which skincare ingredients work best to clean and unclog pores?
As well as following the above steps, it’s helpful to know which ingredients work best to combat clogged pores. Here Beeby lists a few to remember:
AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) including Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid and Citric Acid are used to dissolve the bonds that hold your dead skin cells together, creating a superficial exfoliating benefit.
BHA (Salicylic Acid) works by dissolving superficial lipids on the skin, allowing the ingredient to penetrate into the pore opening where it helps to dissolve the dead cells within the pore and dislodge any plugs of oil within.
Biodegradable jojoba beads are used within physical exfoliants to physically abrade the skins surface
Bromelain, from the fruit and the stem of the pineapple provides an enzymatic exfoliating benefit by digesting dead skin cells like a "pac-man" action on the skin. This ingredient is ideal for sensitive skins as it does not depend on a low pH to be effective.
What are the best products to use to clean and unclog pores?
Pores are found all over our bodies, so here are the top skincare products to cleanse and tackle pesky pores.