How to spring clean your pores and make them less visible
I used to believe I had tons of blackheads on my nose that I would apply pore strips 2 to 3 times a week. It was satisfying to see all the gunk stuck to the strip afterward but doing this so frequently was actually so bad for my skin! The constant trauma made my pores go berserk so now they get super oily and the pores look so much larger and therefore noticeable. It was only later on that I learned that those were actually sebaceous filaments, which are normal and aren't necessarily dirt traps.
Well, the damage has been done and the only way to restore my pores to a smaller size is to get a laser treatment, which is unfortunately out of my student budget. So instead, I focus on keeping my pores clean and clear because this minimizes their appearance and makes my skin look much smoother!
As my experience proves, pore strips are not the best option but they are the cheapest and fastest way to get gunk off my nose. I personally love the one from Watson’s (P119 for a pack of 10, and it often goes on sale) which I now use a maximum of twice a month. The instructions actually do say that you can use the strips 2 to 3 times a week but that would be a really bad idea.
Aside from stick-ons, there are also liquid peel-off versions. They can fit the contour of your face better, reaching into every nook and crevice, so don't end up having leftovers. Do be careful of the type of product you use as some are not only extremely painful to remove but can also damage your skin permanently.
Chemical exfoliants usually contain AHAs or BHAs to stimulate skin renewal. BHAs are particularly good at deep cleansing your pores because they are oil-soluble, which means they easily melt down the oily gunk clogging your pores. Products like the COSRx BHA Power Liquid (P1,070 from theskincarecurator.com) are usually applied just twice a week to avoid the risk of over-exfoliation, but it's okay because the results are usually longer lasting than a pore strip. To help ensure effectiveness though, this is best applied after using a low pH cleanser on dry, completely bare skin. You should also wait for approximately 20 to 30 minutes before proceeding to the next step of skincare because the acid needs a low pH environment for maximum effectiveness.
I personally prefer using a weaker BHA like the COSRx BHA Skin Returning A-Sol (P860 from theskincarecurator.com) for daily maintenance. Compared to the Liquid and its 4% BHA composition, this contains only around 1% BHA. I use this as a toner, and I like that there's no waiting time before proceeding to the next step of my skincare routine.
Physical exfoliants are probably the most widely used exfoliant option; just think of all the products with scrubs and microbeads. These are (usually) effective but because they rely on a scrubbing action, they can be abrasive to the skin. Of these types, I love Skinfood’s Black Sugar Mask Wash-Off (P330 from AltheaPH) but I make sure to dampen my face so the product would be it less abrasive.
I like to think of clay masks as the love child of a chemical exfoliant and a nose pack, minus the trauma. The clay pulls and absorbs the gunk out of your pores, leaving skin matte and smooth. Most masks are washed off after 10 to 20 minutes or when it’s dry, thus reducing trauma products like nose packs provide to the pores. I am already on my second tub of the Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask (P780 from AltheaPH), which cleans so well that I get brighter skin after use.
Aesthetic clinics use comedone removers (there P79 from Watsons!) to manually remove dirt out of each pore. This ensures proper removal of the whole comedone, unlike pore strips which can sometimes only remove the top layer of dirt. Use of a comedone remover entails proper practice to prevent damaging your skin due to excessive pressure.
If you still have deep-seated comedones, see a dermatologist. This is the safest and surest way to remove comedones but naturally, it is the most expensive. Dermatologists are experts in all things skin, and they have more credibility than a product that got lots of rave reviews. Your derma can either prescribe skincare or perform the facial cleaning.
You can mix and match these methods to create a regimen suited for your needs! I deep cleanse my pores once to twice a week, followed by a scrub, a clay mask, and the use of a comedone remover. I also apply a very mild chemical exfoliant for everyday maintenance. If you still don't know which one to go with, make sure to check out our guide for choosing the right exfoliant for you.
What’s your pore cleaning method? Share with us below!