Honestly: How far would you go to change the look of your pores? According to a Harris Poll/L’Oreal survey, 56 percent of women would give up booze, dessert, even social media (#firstworldpores) for an entire year to downsize those eyesores. The national obsession has reached such a fervor, dermatologists even coined the term “porexia”—which is exactly what it sounds like.
Buzzy names aside, there’s unfortunately still no miracle treatment to permanently shrink the suckers. (Get on it, derms!) Of course, regular exfoliation helps make them look smaller (clogged pores = large pores). But we’ve discovered a few unexpected reasons why they could be freaking out—in some cases, at the hands of the products used to fight them. So, if any of the following things describe you, find the smart fix that’ll help you whittle your pores…and have your merlot (or whiskey, or Hoegaarden), too.
You can’t get enough extractions.
Facials can clear out pores—if done by the right hands. “Make sure the aesthetician is cleaning out only the clogged pores—not every pore,” says Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, M.D., Ph.D., a New York City dermatologist and consultant for Lancôme. “If you manipulate those that don’t need extraction, they may stretch out permanently.” Traumatized pores can develop scar tissue that creates an indentation deeper than the pore itself, adds Sonia Batra, M.D., M.P.H., a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the USC Keck School of Medicine.
Between facial appointments, de-gunk pores (so your skin requires fewer extractions in the first place!) by using an exfoliating cleanser—we like Laura Mercier Flawless Skin Face Polish ($32, lauramercier.com)—or a cleansing brush, such as the Foreo Luna T-Sonic Cleansing and Anti-Aging System ($200, sephora.com), which dislodges dirt and dead cells with pulsing silicone bristles.
You had acne as a teen.
Big whoop. Everyone did. Problem is, the enlarged sebaceous glands that caused them way back when may have never properly shrunk, “even if you’re no longer producing a lot of oil,” explains Elizabeth Hale, M.D., an associate clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center. So if three months of topical treatments have done jack, in-office photodynamic therapy (PDT) could be the answer. A photosensitizing solution penetrates pores for an hour, then a blue light is directed at them for up to 10 minutes. Most patients require three to five sessions (at about $500 a pop), spaced two to four weeks apart. A major caveat: The skin will look and feel sunburned for a few days post-treatment.
You’re wearing makeup to hide them—but it’s actually enhancing them.
Powders may settle into those bitty holes over the course of the day, making them appear larger. Alexiades-Armenakas says she has also seen instances in which mica or talc has become caught inside a pore, enlarging it for good. (Yikes!) Before applying makeup, put on a primer to seal your pores, suggests Batra. Try L’Oréal Paris Revita Lift Miracle Blur ($25, at drugstores).
For more ways you might be unintentionally magnifying your pores, check out the March 2015 issue of Women’s Health, on sale now.
More from Women’s Health:
How to Exfoliate Every Single Body Part—the Right Way
3 Basic Beauty Tricks Every Woman Should Master
7 Skin-Care Secrets Aestheticians Swear By