Minimize Your Pores And Achieve Clear Skin
August 13th, 2014
One of the easiest ways to achieve a healthy complexion and minimize your pores size is to exfoliate regularly. If you want, practically instant results in how your skin looks and feels, exfoliation is the way to go. Some of the immediate benefits associate with this essential part of your skincare routine are: brighter skin, removal of dead skin cells, fading sun damaged skin, erasing fine lines and wrinkles and more.
In the article below you’ll see some amazing products that can help you achieve the skin you always wanted.
By Aviva Patz
Here’s a secret I just learned: You can slather on $100 face creams and lotions day and night and it won’t make a bit of difference if your pores are gunked up with dirt and oil. I saw this play out recently when I began, for the first time, to start exfoliating regularly. So that’s where my beautiful skin was hiding! I knew it was in there somewhere.
“Adequately exfoliating stimulates blood flow, reduces acne and dullness and imparts a brighter glow,” says cosmetic dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, based in Washington, D.C. “By keeping the dead skin layer thinned and the pores clean of debris, pores look smaller.”
Pores look smaller. Three magic words I longed to hear—and see in the mirror. Enter the exfoliants. There are two types—chemical and physical.
• Chemical—These work primarily by dissolving the bonds that hold dull, damaged skin cells together so they can be removed easily, revealing a fresher layer beneath. Look for alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs (glycolic acid, mandelic acid and fruit acids), beta hydroxy acid or BHAs (salicylic acid and willow bark), and polyhydroxy acids or PHAs (gluconolactone and lactobionic acid). Retinol (vitamin A) doesn’t exfoliate directly but it’s a great complement ingredient, because it stimulates cell turnover, adding “in with the new” to your “out with the old.”
• Physical—These are formulas with beads and scrubs that do their sloughing manually. Just be sure to look for products with smooth or gentle beads such as jojoba, because you really don’t want to be scouring your face like a bathtub. That kind of harsh treatment can cause inflammation, impair healing, damage collagen, and just generally deplete the good stuff your skin needs to stay healthy.
For a luminous, glowy, even-toned complexion, make exfoliation part of your daily or weekly cleansing routine, especially if you’re oily or acne-prone. (Less often if you have sensitive skin or rosacea.) As a bonus, it will help minimize fine lines and wrinkles! Here, the peels, pads, powders and pastes that will reveal your freshest face.
Celeb Favorite: Joanna Vargas Exfoliating Mask ($75, joannavargas.com) Julianne Moore and Rachel Weisz swear by this gentle, mineral-rich scrub, which is designed to exfoliate, hydrate and brighten. It uses Kaolin clay (which Dr. Tanzi particularly likes) and volcanic ash to draw dirt out of pores, lactic acid to break up surface grime and slay breakout-causing bacteria, and fruit enzymes to boost cell turnover and brighten skin. (It’s those fruit enzymes—pineapple enzymes, grapefruit, guava, and chamomile rose—that impart this product’s tropical scent). As a pretty big vote of confidence, celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas uses this mask in all the treatments at her tony Manhattan spa. You can sleep in it for more intense results.
Best for Mature Skin: Kate Somerville: RetAsphere Micro Peel ($90, Katesomerville.com) I got a sneak peek of this leave-on micro peel, which is due to hit stores in August. The formula delivers a one-two punch to aging skin: Its 10% glycolic acid speeds up cell turnover, helping you avoid icky buildup that clogs pores and makes wrinkles more prominent; and retinol supports collagen and elastin to smooth fine lines and wrinkles and encourage the production of young, healthy cells. As a bonus, it also has hyaluronic acid to lock in hydration, so you’ll be smooth and plumped by morning.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Tatcha Polished, gentle rice enzyme powder ($65, tatcha.com) It’s unfair to call this enzymatic powder a scrub because it has zero grit—the soft powder melts into a silky, milky paste in your palm when you add water. But it unpacks pores astonishingly well and leaves skin feeling super clean and baby soft with a subtle pearly glow. Key ingredients are Japanese rice bran (wouldn’t you know this is a geisha beauty secret?), papaya, antioxidants and other plant materials, including algae. What it doesn’t have: potentially irritating oil, parabens, fragrance or any kind of harsh abrasives. Fans are fairly rabid in their praise of this exfoliator on the Tatcha website, with all 66 reviewers awarding it five stars—even users with ultra sensitive skin and rosacea. Comes in Gentle for dry/sensitive skin, Classic for normal/combination skin, and Deep for oily/acne-prone skin. It’s pricey, but a little goes a long way.
Best Botanical: Ren Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask ($55, Sephora.com) Don’t underestimate the exfoliating power of the 100% plant- and mineral-derived active ingredients in this weekly mask. Without any harsh scrubbing beads or any synthetic anything, this creamy, divinely citrus smelling mask deploys four fruit acids—glycolic, lactic, citric and tartaric acids—to whisk away dead skin cells, revealing clean, glowing skin that has a softness you have to keep touching to believe. Fans on the Sephora website call this mask “a facial in a jar,” and praise its ability to fade stubborn acne scars. That alone is a great reason to commit to using this mask for just 10 minutes a week.
Best for Oily Skin: Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner ($45, drbrandtskincare.com) Sure, you could confer this status on most of the products listed here, but this gentle exfoliating mask specializes in mopping up surface oils to make pores appear smaller and loosening clogged pores to prevent further buildup. Although it did not suck pore gunk right off my face, as the name implies, within a week, my T-zone was less oily and my pores less pronounced. I also like the cooling sensation it imparts. Be forewarned: The stuff turns blue when it dries, so apply only after the kids are asleep.
Best Value: Avon Anew Clinical Advanced Retexturizing Peel ($25, shop.avon.com) The 10% glycolic acid in this at-home peel really delivers, making it a four-time Allure Magazine Beauty Award winner. When I swipe on one of the textured, unscented pads, I can feel the active ingredients going to work in seconds—so yeah, it stings a little—but the results are worth it. After using the peel every other day for a week, my skin looked more even, my pores were definitely tighter, and I swear some of my acne scars were slightly less visible. For the price, it’s a no-brainer.
Best for Dry Skin: Liz Earle Gentle Face Exfoliator ($24, us.lizearle.com) Even dry skin benefits from a gentle buffing, and this rich, creamy formula does the job. The fine, round jojoba beads slough off of dull, flaky skin cells, while cocoa butter, sweet almond oil, glycerin and natural beeswax (it helps relieve chapped skin) pump in moisture. This British import comes with its own muslin cloth, which adds exfoliating action as well as a little bit of novelty to the ritual. I especially love the scent of the essential oil eucalyptus, an aromatherapy favorite that delivers me mentally right to a stress-melting steam room. Aaaah.
Most Adaptable: Tsubaki Oil-Infused Exfoliating Powder ($36, boscia.com) Remember that 1980s shampoo jingle: “Sometimes you need a little Finesse; sometimes you need a lot”? I find myself humming it when using this fragrance-free formula, because the amount of water you add to the powder controls the degree of exfoliation: Add less for a thicker paste and greater exfoliation; add more for a milkier fluid and gentler sloughing. The star ingredient here is Camellia japonica or tsubaki oil, which research has shown to reduce inflammation and improve the skin’s barrier function, which is kind of like a bouncer—it keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. The result is incredibly soft, smooth, fresh-feeling skin that doesn’t feel tight or dry. I especially like what this scrub doesn’t have: preservatives, artificial fragrances, color, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, gluten or ethanol alcohol.
Best Basic Scrub: Coast to Coast Rainforest Deep Pore Purifying Polish ($22.95, ulta.com) A brand-new import from Down Under, this mild scrub uses botanical ingredients from its homeland to refresh oily or combination skin. Australian oatmeal dissolves dirt, oil and grime; something called Lilly Pilly brightens and exfoliates with vitamin C and fruit acids; Rosalina leaf extract helps skin retain moisture; and linalool is anti-inflammatory and anti-infection to calm skin and protect against infection. There are also extracts of aloe, macadamia, lavender, eucalyptus, sweet almond and more, each with its own bacteria-busting or skin healing properties. After that little lesson in Australian botany, we’re left with a gentle scrub that smells like a lovely combination of a rainforest and the ocean, and leaves skin simply clean and balanced.
Best Cheapie: The Body Shop Tea Tree Squeaky Clean Scrub ($14, thebodyshop-usa.com) Some products have an aroma that transports you—to a rose garden, a seaside café, an exotic spice market. This is not one of those products. But… it works! The star ingredient, tea tree oil, has disinfecting properties shown in clinical tests to wipe out the bacteria that cause acne. It’s also anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, to mop up the free radicals that would otherwise cause cell damage. One fan on the Body Shop website gushed, “After using this scrub ONE TIME, I ran out of the bathroom screaming ‘Look at my nose!’ My pores were smaller, my blackheads were less noticeable, my skin wasn’t beet red, and it felt cool and tingly.” For less than $10, try it and see for yourself. The proof is in the pores.
Aviva Patz writes the Beauty Banter column monthly for KnowMore.TV. She is former executive editor of Psychology Today and writes for Health, Prevention, All You, Shape, Redbook, Cooking Light and more.