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At a time when everything is shrinking—mobile phones, handbags, even the human brain say anthropologists—there remains one category that annoyingly refuses to downsize: pores. The truth is we can’t make our pores physically smaller, so forget about trying all the vaunted home remedies with egg whites, apple cider vinegar and ice-cold water. Pore size is determined by genetics and informed by your skin type, sun exposure and age. Typically, fair-skinned people have small pores, while those with olive or darker complexions have big pores. But the good news is you can at least minimise their appearance.
“People hate their pores,” says leading dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross, on a recent Melbourne visit. At his New York clinic, the sultan of skin consults on all manner of dermal dilemmas, from crow’s feet to varicose veins, and the aversion to pronounced pores is a regular complaint. “Large pores, clogged pores, open pores,” he continues. “Clients come in with their Instagram, blow it up and say ‘Look at this!’ Large pores are the pet peeve of modern consumers.” Our preoccupation with pores and our obsession with poreless skin has recently inspired a clinical-sounding term: porexia. If you’re suffering from a case of “pore me”, you might be elated to learn of Dr. Gross’s latest innovation.
Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum tackles pores at the source. How does it work? “I chose seven distinct mechanisms that work together to clear and refine the pore,” he says. This multitasking treatment exfoliates skin, dissolves wax, boosts cell turnover, nixes blackheads, cleanses the inner pore, repels bacteria, and reduces excess oil. (Phew!) It accomplishes all the above with a potent blend of ingredients, familiar ones including AHAs, salicylic acid and retinol, as well a few lesser known entities. Adipic acid purifies the inner pore, agarikon mushroom extract helps firm skin and farnesol helps to ward off bacteria. Importantly, the serum is silicone-free. “Many products on the market designed to shrink pores actually trigger oil production,” he adds.
Turns out the little dots on your face have a complex anatomy. The average adult has 20,000 pores on their complexion alone. Most facial pores are the openings of hair follicles, which play a critical role. Your sebaceous glands, which sit underneath the skin, secrete sebum (oil) through the pore to keep skin hydrated and protected. “A pore is the opening of a tube—and that is a long and winding road,” Dr. Gross says. When pores become clogged with sebum, and when skin loses its elasticity, they appear more sizeable. “What makes a pore large is waxy build up, sebum and dead skin. Normally, oil should flow like olive oil but sometimes it gets stuck.”
As someone with olive skin, and my fair share of olive oil, I was intrigued. My pores would probably be evident on satellite imagery, so Alpha Beta instantly got top billing in my regime. Housed in a minimalist white bottle and dispensed with a dropper, the serum has a lightweight consistency which is easy to layer under a moisturiser and sunscreen. Having used it for a couple of weeks, I can vouch that it has moderated the look of my pores, reduced blackheads and helped to brighten my skin overall. My T-zone has rarely looked so good. “This is a daily product you use until your skin looks great,” says Dr. Gross. Impressed, I wondered what else I could be doing.
Dr. Gross likes to say that no one problem is due to any one thing, and that’s especially true in this context. “There is no magic bullet,” he continues. “The best treatment is a blend of ingredients that tackle problems for the multiple reasons they exist.” It follows that pore minimisation requires a varied approach. Washing your face regularly, especially before bedtime, is paramount. Consider adding a cleansing brush for thorough removal of impurities and makeup. Follow with exfoliation a couple times each week; choose either a chemical formula or a physical one to slough off dead skin and stimulate cell turnover. “Peels are the most effective way to decongest pores and prevent breakouts,” says Dr. Gross, pointing to his peel pads and more concentrated liquid formula. Both combine AHAs and BHAs to renew and refine your complexion.
Other strategies include applying moisturiser twice daily (dry skin will produce more oil otherwise), and wearing SPF every day (UV radiation depletes collagen and elastin). To mitigate large pores and oily skin simultaneously, add a clay, charcoal, or sulphur mask to your weekly routine. By boosting cell turnover, a retinol treatment can also help tighten pores. As a high-tech remedy, Dr. Gross’s LED face mask has a blue light option to “kill acne bacteria, decongest pores and improve oil control”. In terms of makeup, choose pore-camouflaging primers and soft-focus powders to blur their appearance. Remember that pores aren’t the enemy. They let your skin breathe, so it’s not like we can live without them.
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