Warning! Objects in mirror may appear larger than they are.
What’s going on and why do our enlarged pores bother us so?
If you know the story of Don Quixote then you know during his wild adventures, where others saw harmless, charming windmills, our hero Quixote saw giant hulks that must be slain! He didn’t just settle on one. Oh no, in his brave fight, he travelled the countryside, seeking out these monsters as they appeared to him. Was he mad? Well, you’ll have to read the book.
The story and travels of Don Quixote strangely remind me of the enormous problem many of us perceive as enlarged pores.
They’re either clogged, congested or just too large. The pores of the nose come under particular scrutiny. These visibly ‘dirty’ pores are often cleaned, buffed, polished, scrubbed and extracted to purify them and like Don Quixote, we are never satisfied until we have victory over these monsters.
This quest for the perfect pore can go on for many years and bathroom cabinets the world over are full of the necessary remedies to rid us of this unsightly problem.
Now, Don Quixote, in his travels had a sidekick, a squire of sorts, Sancho Panza. Sancho, knew his master was a little mad and grossly mistaken, but who was he to argue with the great man from La Mancha? But still. “What giants he cautiously asked”?
And so it is with your pores. What starts as somewhat annoying, can eventually lead to something akin to an all-out obsession. So rather than leave you on your merry quest to find a solution, I thought, like Sancho Panza I would perhaps name the beast for what it is and tackle four common problems.
Tilting at windmills? Maybe, it’s time to make peace with your pores.
1. Let’s start with your nose.
You may from time to time notice that the pores of your nose appear discoloured, you may even believe that this discolouration is what’s commonly known as blackheads. Perhaps. But it’s more likely to be something you may not expect it to be.
Many of us at some point, even normal or dry skin types, will have some amount of oil activity on the nose and what appears to you as tiny blackheads is, in most cases just the oxidation of oily sebum sitting in the follicle. This oxidation makes the pore (the opening of the follicle) appear black. No amount of extreme cleansing, scrubbing or even steaming is going to rid you of this problem. All these remedies will make the matter worse.
Find yourself a gentle, non-foaming cleanser and clean the skin of your nose as you would the rest of the face, thoroughly but gently, followed by regular use of a topical serum containing salicylic acid or glycolic acid. You may be familiar with these popular skincare ingredients, and many companies include them in their repertoire. I’m suggesting a serum or a lotion because although salicylic acid added to your BB cream or moisturiser might seem like a nice idea, for the best results and unimpeded penetration into the follicle, a serum or lotion formulation is best.
2. You have little white bumps which appear from time to time, mainly around your eyes.
These are known as milia and can be hard to treat; however, not impossible—internal disharmony associated with digestion can be the cause. So while topical solutions can help, if your milia are widespread, then a visit to a naturopath to sort out any mild digestive issues will also be beneficial.
Sometimes when you’re just getting the occasional milia, it can be merely a case of too much rich dairy products, especially high-fat cheeses.
As well as the internal remedies your naturopath may offer you, once again, a salicylic acid serum or lotion will help with milia. But, it’ll be a slow process. While I highly recommend using a salicylic serum at home, regular salicylic chemical peels, done for you in a salon or clinic is an excellent idea.
Many skincare professionals like to extract them, which is a simple procedure. But, I’ll caution with the comment; make sure you trust their expertise as you don’t want the risk of infection or scarring.
Or, you could visit your GP as most will willingly extract your milia. Milia tends to be superficial, so rest assured it’s not a difficult or painful task and if you doctor thinks it’s necessary can run blood tests if they feel you milia relates to an internal issue.
Lastly, DON’T SQUEEZE them. You’ll make things worse and risk infection and scarring.
3. Blackheads, clogging and congestion or just all-around bumpy.
Unlike the oxidation taking place on your nose, blackheads, clogging and congestion can appear anywhere on the face—somewhat raised and bumpy in appearance. A true blackhead is distinct in its appearance as it’s usually hardened. At the same time, a skin that is clogged and congested can appear with raised colourless bumps or just an overall bumpiness and usually in localised areas like the chin, cheeks or forehead.
Again, I recommend a very gentle, water-soluble cleanser. But I’d also recommend a pre-cleansing oil to remove oil and pollutants and soften the skin. An AHA/BHA serum, cream or lotion used daily will be highly beneficial and regular chemical peels will unlock the blackheads and congestion from the follicle.
It’s very tempting and even often advised that you use a scrub for this problem.
I will disagree with this solution until the cows come home! Scrubbing is far too random, and in most cases, the scrub is not just targeting the blackhead. Harsh scrubs can activate more blackheads and congestion as the skin becomes dehydrated on the surface, trapping dead cells in the follicle below.
Follow these recommendations and treat your skin gently and patiently with the right products and ingredients, and you’ll find this problem will eventually pass.
3. You’ve just got enlarged pores. Were you born this way?
Let’s get straight to the truth. You cannot shrink a pore. Well, at least not in the many ways often suggested to you.
The reason why you have large pores will give you your answer and a solution.
Excessive oil is often accommodated by large pores to allow the oil to flow freely. So the more oil you secrete, the more likely you will have visibly large pores.
Often the temptation is to wipe out every trace of oil by whatever means possible. Not a good idea as yet again, the face is subjected to over-cleansing, harsh products and scrubs with disastrous consequences for your poor skin. The size of your pores will not remain unchanged, but rest assured, you’ll have a newly acquired problem, which is more blackheads, clogging and congestion and dehydration which will make your enlarged pores look worse than they need to be.
The amount of oil you produce in your skin is mostly genetic, but if you over-cleanse, your skin will pump out more oil to compensate for the oil you have stripped away.
So, again and if you have oily skin, as tricky as it may be to avoid harsh products. Always choose a gentle, water-soluble cleanser and use a pre-cleansing oi. Avoid high foaming cleansers.
Clay masks can be beneficial, but again if they dry too much of the surface, then you are exacerbating the problem. So, if you’re using a clay mask, choose one that absorbs oil but doesn’t dry hard on the skin and draw out valuable moisture. I know, it feels good. But it’s not.
4. Why do our pores appear larger as we age?
There are a couple of reasons this may happen, 1). You have a post oily skin, and even though your oil flow has diminished as you’ve gotten older, the size of your enlarged pores remain. As we age and oilier skin types become less oily and more dehydrated, we tend to reach out for creamier cleansers and moisturisers, leading to an over nourishment of the skin and enlarged spongy pores and 2). Your pores are beginning to lose elasticity, and this loss of support makes the pore appear much enlarged.
If you have a post oily skin and it feels dry and dehydrated? Choose a cleanser and moisturiser to balance water content while protecting your lipid barrier. Often, overly rich moisturisers are recommended as the skin ages, leaving the skin overnourished with a spongy appearance and enlarged pores.
Update your skincare with a new skin diagnosis to suit the changing needs of your skin is an excellent idea.
If on the other hand, the pores are beginning to appear enlarged for no good reason? It may be due to a history of sun damage (including in the chest area), an anti-ageing regimen which includes retinol and AHA/BHA serums will help improve the elasticity of the skin and improve the appearance of your pores.
Finally. A reason for blackheads and congestion that may surprise you. This one’s a bonus.
Sometimes topically applied vitamin C can cause blackheads. If you’re a regular reader of The Beauty Issue, then you know how much I love L-ascorbic Acid (vitamin C) for the overall health of the skin.
BUT, if the formulation of choice is unstable and unable to penetrate the skin, then there’s a chance the vitamin C will sit in your follicles and oxidise leading to comedones (blackheads) and congestion. So, rather than abstaining. Just make sure you choose a well-formulated brand. One that suits your natural skin type, whether that be normal, oily or dry and always incorporate an AHA/BHA serum into your routine to exfoliate your skin and improve the absorption of your vitamin C serum or cream.
Slaying those giants once and for all.
And lastly, sometimes in our hope to find a solution, inadvertently we make our skin worse. Years of misconceptions, mass media marketing hype or bad advice has not helped.
The solutions I’ve offered today are twofold; Practical remedies based on treating your skin conditions gently as well as finding products that work with the natural functions of your skin type.
Failing all that, be confident in the knowledge, what you perceive to be a ‘giant’ problem rarely is. Take comfort in the fact; you may be seeing something that others don’t see at all, and you can finally make peace with your pores.
And now you?
Have you made peace with your pores, or is the battle still raging? Got a story or a solution to share? I’d love to hear from you, shoot me an email here.
See you next time,