“My pores are too small”, said no one ever. And while enlarged pores are a very common occurrence, especially in a hot and humid climate like Singapore, they are still a cause for complaint. Some of us may know firsthand, enlarged pores are especially susceptible to getting clogged. And while you can’t change the size of your pores, there are things you can do to ensure that they look smaller and are less likely to get congested. We asked Carrie Gross, CEO and Co-founder of Dr. Dennis Gross to tell us what it is exactly that causes enlarged, clogged pores and what we can do about it.

What are some of the reasons that pores get clogged?

Pores are designed to bring our natural oils to the surface of our skin for a natural hydrating element. A lot of us have issues with our oil chemistry, so some people produce too much oil, or the oil that they produce is too thick, and it’s sometimes because of hormones, it’s sometimes because of stress or diet or genetics, or improper hygiene, whatever. And so the oil kicks into overdrive and then it becomes thick, and it doesn’t flow freely, so then our pores become enlarged, clogged, potentially bacteria can be trapped in the pore itself.

Sometimes, the bacteria that gets trapped in there, and then, the oil builds up on top of it, and then you can have an underlying pimple potentially erupting. Sometimes it just looks like congestion, like, it doesn’t officially turn into a pimple, it’s just bumps.

A lot of people will use heavy primers and then heavy full-coverage makeup to conceal the congestion, the pimple, or the bump. And that actually exacerbates the problem.

Why are alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids so good at keeping pores minimised and skin clear?  

I think that the main function of alpha and beta hydroxy acids is that they’re helping with cell turnover. And we were talking about how, bacteria gets lodged in the pore and it feeds off of sebum and dead skin cells, [so] it’s really important to keep the surface of your skin superficially exfoliated. These acids also help to tighten the pores. The beta hydroxy acid, is the one that really goes down to the pore and works on the lining. And the alphas work on the surface.

If you’re relatively young, isn’t your skin already exfoliating itself at a fairly healthy rate?

Your cell turnover starts to slow down a little bit in your 20s. It certainly accelerates as we age, but, between the ages of 20 and 29, you’ve got oil production, and so you have to be really meticulous to make sure that you’re getting the cell turnover so the bacteria doesn’t get lodged [in the pores]. And it also can be somewhat product related—if you’re using makeup and primers, then the cells like, become a little bit glued. There’s something called intercellular cement, and it can get really sticky, and then your cells don’t turnover.

What is the proper way to use an acid? Sometimes people find their skin tingling and some people their skin burning. Is that actually supposed to happen? 

Okay, so the way that we use acids is we’re always going to have like a neutraliser. You don’t want to leave acids tingling versus burning. Tingling is fine, but if it’s burning and turning really red, then that’s not okay. I think that there’s some products on the market that have heavy levels of acids, and if there are single-step, like an acid toner, you may be over-doing it.

So, our peels are calibrated to use be used daily, we blend our acids, we don’t use a mono acid. So, like, a glycolic at 10 per cent? That’s going to be aggressive to your skin. [We have] five [acids] in the Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, there’s seven in the Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel and three in the Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel. So, there’s a blend [of acids], so not one is overly aggressive in any particular way, they’re all synergistically working together.

How do you know when an acid is working? I mean I’m guessing your face is turning red is not the best gauge. 

I think buying a magnifying mirror and really looking at your skin and getting to know your skin and learning to analyse your skin, diagnose any kind of issues [helps]. A lot of people will say “No! I can’t look in a magnifying mirror, I’m not getting it” But you have to know your skin, and if you don’t look in the magnifying mirror and set some goals, and watch to see if your products are working, then, you’re wasting your time and energy.

Adipic acid is not an acid we hear about often. It’s in your new serum, can you tell us more about this one and why it’s so special? 

It comes from beetroot and sugar cane, it’s one of those naturally occurring acids. It is actually an antioxidant in a powder form, and we put it in here because not only is it going cleanse the lining of the pore, but it has a blurring effect. There are some studies that say it actually helps products adhere. So, it has some priming benefits. So, in the midst of formulating this product, Adipic acid was one of the most interesting ingredients to me because it could give you almost like a second skin, then, just from the fact that it helps the product stay put, that’s why I think it works as a primer under makeup.

Scroll through to find out more about the newest serum from Dr. Dennis Gross as well as other products that can help minimise the appearance of pores.

More from CLEO:
Is Your Acne Caused By Gut Issues?
9 Cleansers That Will Save Your Skin From SG’s Pollution 
Review: I Triend 4 Anti-Redness Creams On My Acne Scars 


Image: Unsplash
Text: Joyce Cheo, additional text: Smita DeSouza