Pores. You tell me they drive you to distraction. Clogged, enlarged, black, white, gaping or made dotty and well-like as they fill with foundation. The window between youthful and menopausal oiliness, during which pores may keep themselves to themselves, seems unjustly narrow for many women.
The best and first course of action is not squeezing with fingernails, or deploying mythical cures such as perfume and toothpaste, or even solid temporary measures such as thick silicone primer. Your first port of call should always be salicylic, a beta, not alpha, hydroxy acid. The distinction here is key, because while alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, mandelic, lactic, citric) give great glow and exfoliation (and can still be extremely effective on problem skins to fade acne scars), they cannot penetrate oil to clear out pores. Without salicylic acid, only so much can be achieved, so slot it in at least somewhere in your routine. My preference would be after cleansing and before serum, since this allows you to easily treat problem areas while avoiding others.
Salicylic skin tonics were once the preserve of spendy medical-adjacent brands, but serious skincare is now in every high street chemist. La Roche-Posay is perhaps the most reliably excellent mass-market skincare brand, and its newly improved Effaclar Clarifying Lotion (£12.50, 200ml) upholds the standard. It packs a punch with pore-clearing salicylic, but adds plenty of glycerin for non-oily moisture and comfort, and a dash of citric acid for glow. The big bottle represents superb value and should last a couple of months if used about five times a week (a good number, but you can use it less or more frequently).
Vichy, La Roche’s sister brand, has a similarly great salicylic toner. Normaderm Purifying Pore-Tightening Lotion (£13, 200ml) is not for the faint-hearted, but it works. Oil-gobbling salicylic is combined with glow-giving glycolic (never my favourite acid, and sensitive types should swerve) to noticeably liven, clear and mattify dull but oily complexions.
I did not, when embarking on research for this column, expect to be raving about Garnier’s Organic Thyme Perfecting Toner (£5.99, 150ml), but well, here we are. It’s marvellous. It leaves pores clean and clear, but not stripped of all lubrication (yes, even on drier skin like mine), feeling comfy, calm and smooth. It’s also terrifically cheap, a vegan formula and packaged entirely in recycled plastic. My pores and I are now jonesing to revisit the brand to see what else is new.
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