We’ve done it all at least once in our lives: peered way too closely at our faces with a magnifying mirror and thought, “OMG, my pores are huge!”
First, put the mirror down. It’s easy to think that you might need a pore-zapping skincare product or tool to completely shrink these pores away. But did you know that pores actually serve a purpose for your skin?
Yep - pores are actually a completely normal part of the skin, and having visible pores is completely natural, despite what airbrushed magazines and ads might have us think. Here's a run through of everything you need to know about your pores and how to minimise them!
What Do Pores Do?
They actually have a crucial role to play in how your skin works. They allow us to sweat and cool off - could you imagine dealing with some of these hot summers without being able to do so? They’re also where our natural skin oils come from - without that, our skin would feel super dry.
Pores also function as the opening of a hair follicle - not all pores have visible hair growing out of them, but many do. Considering that pores do all of these things, they’re an essential part of our skin structure - and there’s no point thinking we can change that. However, we can definitely influence how large (or small) our pores look.
What Can Make Pores Appear Larger?
How your pores look is determined by a mix of things - some of them you can control, but some you can’t. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about them. Understanding what affects how your pores look goes a long way to understanding how to make them look smaller!
Having good genetics for skincare is just luck of the draw, but it’s a major factor that influences how your pores look. Just as how skin type tends to be genetic, everything else about your skin is too - including pores.
Some skin types are also more prone to having larger-looking pores - mainly oily and combination skin. In this case, there’s a direct link to how oily skin is and how noticeable pores are. Since there’s more sebum produced, there’s more sebum present, full stop. This sebum hangs out in pores and makes them look a bit larger than they really are.
The condition your skin is in contributes, as well. If your skin is dehydrated (not dry), pores can look more visible. How? Well, when the skin is dehydrated, it’s not as plump and full of water as it normally would be. This means that fine lines and wrinkles are much more visible, and that includes the side effect of possibly making pores look larger than they really are.
If you’ve ever gone for a hydrafacial or used a really hydrating sheetmask and noticed that you look pretty much poreless afterwards, that’s this effect in action.
Myths About Shrinking Pores
We’ve all heard this bit of advice countless times - use hot water or steam to open up and deeply cleanse pores, then follow up with cold water to shrink them. But is this really true?
Here’s the truth - pores aren’t muscles, and can’t voluntarily open or contract at will. The reason that this hot water/cold water combo has been around for so long is a misunderstanding of what actually happens.
Hot water and steam make pores seem smaller by encouraging any sebum hanging around to wash away - you know how coconut oil is solid at lower temperatures, but liquid at warmer temperatures? The same idea applies to sebum - when exposed to warmer temperatures, it’s easily rinsed away from pores, making them look smaller since they’re now clear of sebum.
(ps. When it comes to using steam or hot water on skin, leave that to the pros. It’s easy to accidentally permanently damage skin with steam. I’ll recommend some at-home friendly tips for making pores appear smaller at home).
Using cold water on skin doesn’t actually make it ‘contract’ and make pores look smaller in any way. You’re just looking at very clean skin after washing any traces of lipids away with warm water or steam.
However, pores can get permanently stretched out due to blackheads and other blockages - and in some cases, they won’t be able to come back to normal.
How to Manage Pores
So, what can you do about pores? Honestly, a lot - once you realise that managing pores is mainly about managing overall skin health, so much of it just falls into place. Here are some skincare tips that you might find helpful on your pore-minimising journey.
Use A Cleansing Oil
Cleansing oils are what I personally rely on the most to minimise how my pores look. Here’s how - because sebum is oil-based, it’s incredibly easy for the cleansing oil to grab onto it to rinse it away. I like to use a technique called the 60 Second Wash where I massage my cleansing oil on for around a minute before rinsing it away.
The massage part is just as important as the cleansing oil part - it ensures that the cleansing oil has grabbed every single bit of makeup, sebum, and any other potentially pore-clogging grime that could be making pores seem larger than they really are.
SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil | $105
This cleansing oil from SK-II grabs every last trace of makeup and excess sebum.
Regular exfoliation, especially with something that contains Salicylic Acid helps manage pore appearance in two ways. First, Salicylic Acid is oil soluble, so it’s able to dissolve away excess sebum.
Two, it gets rid of any dead skin cells that are hanging around that could block pores, causing blackheads that make pores even more noticeable (and potentially even stretch them out).
Exfoliates and nourishes skin for a clearer complexion and smaller-looking pores.
Using a Clay Mask
Clay masks are a great addition to your routine around once a week to help regulate sebum production and reduce the likelihood of any pore-clogging blackheads. Clay masks deeply cleanse pores by grabbing any sebum that’s hanging around - resulting in the instant results of poreless skin right after a clay mask.
Eve Lom Rescue Mask | $114
A mask that nourishes and decongests skin, preventing breakouts and clogged pores.
Keeping Your Skin Hydrated
Hydrated skin plumps itself out, temporarily reducing the appearance of fine lines and at the same time, temporarily reducing the appearance of pores. Ingredients and products that help lock hydration into the skin are a hyaluronic acid serum combined with the best moisturiser for your skin type to keep moisture in.
Declaré Hydro Boost Duo Care Fluid | $85
A serum that’s packed full of hyaluronic acid and other humectants to keep skin plump and hydrated.
Toning Your Skin
Toners as a final cleansing step go a long way to ensuring that pores are clear of any sebum, plus they’re usually formulated with ingredients to tackle the appearance of pores in the first place. Ingredients such as witch hazel and niacinamide go a long way to both reducing sebum production and making your pores appear smaller.
GA-DE Purifying Toning Lotion | $25
Gently purifies and cleanses skin to minimise the look of your pores.
At the end of it, this isn’t going to zap your pores away - poreless skin only exists in magazines, and it’s 100% normal to have skin texture. It’s just human! However, these steps will still go a long way to making your pores appear smaller than they really are - no steam or cold water needed.
To find the perfect products for your skin type, take our skin care quiz!