I’m really fed up with my pores. They’re so large, especially on my nose and across my cheeks and it’s really getting me down, plus my skin is so oily – I can put really pretty makeup on, but obviously that doesn’t change the texture of my skin and you can still see them. What can I do? Please help!
As much as I love 4K TV for watching arty foreign films in high def (read: mainly old Vine compilations and Nigella Bites reruns), I don’t love how much scrutiny it puts us under. Those cameras are utterly ruthless when it comes to any blemish, bump or uneven bit of skin. Even my gym has super magnifying mirrors that light you up to surgical standards so you can perlustrate your face in excruciating detail. I’m not surprised you’re feeling down about your pores in a world where even the morning news seems to be shot through a magnifying glass, but I really can assure you, in normal daylight and day-to-day life, they won’t be as obvious as you might think. Our brains are brilliant at magnifying our insecurities and telling us that everyone else is gawping at them, but I’m sure few people notice.
I digress. Melissa, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is there are a few things you can try to help minimise your pores. The bad news is that these things will only work if your pores have become dilated by environmental factors, rather than by genetics. If you pulled the chromosomal short straw, you’re better off masking your pores, rather than wasting time and money trying to correct them. "It’s a lot to do with genetics, but ongoing sun damage can also change pore size and appearance for the worse, as well as gravity pulling on the skin, making the pore look enlarged," explained Paula Begoun, skincare expert and founder of Beautypedia. "Plus, if your pores are chronically clogged, this will lead to them becoming enlarged. Some of this is beyond your control but some of it can absolutely be improved with skincare. Pores are larger where there’s higher production of oil, which is why they often spring up on the nose and cheeks."
You said your skin is overall oily, so some of your pore woes may indeed be down to nurture rather than nature. "Sun damage destroys the support structures below skin’s surface, causing pores to stretch and enlarge. The other factor is not taking care of clogged pores as soon as possible. The excess oil production and debris in the pore will stretch the size of the pore if not treated," added Paula. So let’s address your routine straight off the bat – a daily facial sunscreen is a must for many reasons, but let’s stay with pores for now. Also, a leave-on product like a toner with salicylic acid will help unclog pores and minimise their appearance – Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Exfoliant is truly the gold standard here and worthy of every accolade. "You can’t stop the oil glands from producing oil, but you can use a beta hydroxy acid exfoliant to ensure the flow of oil to skin’s surface isn’t blocked," she explained. There’s also evidence to suggest niacinamide, or vitamin B3, might help, which you can find in SkinCeuticals Metacell Renewal. Aside from that, a biweekly clay mask will help mop up excess oil to keep those pores squeaky clean – NIOD Flavanone Mud is my personal favourite.
In terms of things to avoid, Paula said to steer clear of anything with fragrance, including essential oils, as well as witch hazel, citrus and mint. "The irritation these ingredients cause can trigger more oil production at the base of your pores, which is obviously counterintuitive," she explained. Also in her crosshairs: "Rich lotions, creams and balm textures. They typically contain things too heavy for oily skin types, or skin with large pores. Layering sheer fluids and gels can deliver brilliant hydration and essential ingredients without making enlarged pores worse." I’m with Paula here – I used to adore thick, whipped creams and balm cleansers, but I’ve found my skin immeasurably softer since switching to a liquid diet of serums.
Now let’s think about concealing them. There’s certainly no shortage of products that claim to 'blur' and 'smooth' the skin by 'filling in' the pore, which is a good, albeit temporary, fix. Smashbox Photo Finish and Benefit The Porefessional are both popular, but if you want something a little more purse-friendly, try The Ordinary High-Spreadability Fluid Primer. You might find that a slightly more matte foundation (I’d suggest Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Foundation or NYX Matte But Not Flat), applied with a brush rather than fingers, gives you a better finish. Don’t skip powder, either – a light dusting of translucent powder over the top will lock it in place. Generally avoiding anything too shimmery or light-reflecting on the area is wise – I’m not saying you can’t use highlighter, but try applying it strategically to the high points of your face rather than opting for an overall sheen.
The upshot? Keep your pores scrupulously clean, and you should stand a better chance of shrinking them somewhat. "The truth in beauty is there are things you can do to shrink pores, but no matter how oily your skin is, if you have a lot of sun exposure without protection, you can expect your pores to become enlarged as you get older due to the underlying damage that literally causes the pore lining to sink and stretch," cautioned Paula. I’m always looking for another reason to douse my loved ones in SPF during summer, so you better believe I’m adding "I’m keeping your pores small!" to my list of things I shout as I slather their unwilling faces with a third coat.
Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to ‘Dear Daniela’ become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.