Big Pores and Flaky Skin and Foundation Woes, Oh My!

Maya wrote to me complaining of enlarged pores on her otherwise relatively healthy skin, and was wondering what I could suggest to combat them.  She also suffers from mildly dry patches that seem resistant to manual exfoliation, and look awful when hidden under a heavy foundation (her pale skin also prevents her from finding a suitable, not-so-expensive option).

Well Maya, let’s tackle these issues one-by-one.

  1. Pores: Assuming that you can’t shell out for my beloved Clarisonic, I’ve got bad news for ya: pores really can’t be shrunk once they’ve been enlarged.  Pore size is partially genetic, and may partially be due to stretching (potentially from ripping them with harsh abrasives or tugging on them when attempting manual extractions).  Of course, clogged pores will look larger than clear ones, so keeping what you have clean is important.  The only way to possibly “shrink” pores is through professional microdermabrasion or laser skin resurfacing, which forces multiple layers of skin to regrow and gives you the hope that they’ll be back with smaller pores.  If that’s not an option, check out my discussion of my favorite cheap manual exfoliator, and I’d recommend investing in a product with a low percentage of salicylic acid to provide some chemical backup and keep those skin cells rejuvenating.
  2. Dryness: Maya relates that she tends to get flakey around her nose, but exfoliation doesn’t seem to help, and she is loathe to use any heavy moisturisers for fear of clogging her pores more.  Well, Maya, I bet you haven’t checked out my exfoliator yet!  That stuff works wonders for flakey skin that resists all other abrasives.  If, however, your face still looks patchy after using it, please, don’t be afraid of moisturiser!  Even the oiliest, most breakout-prone skin needs moisture (a common reason for excessive oilyness is not using a moisturiser, as the skin overproduces sebum to make up for the lack of).  All you need to do is find one that is light enough not to clog your pores, but still drenches skin with intense hydration.  My favorite one of the type is Elizabeth Arden Velva Moisture Film ($43.00).  This stuff saved my skin when I was over in Moscow, literally getting rid of the dry, flaking patches that appeared all over after the first day while not making my skin any oilier than it already is.  It absorbs within seconds, and leaves skin feeling silky and soft.  It may seem expensive, but you only need the tiniest drop to get your whole face, and the large bottle will last you a year at least.  I believe you can also purchase it on Amazon if that’s easier for you.
  3. Foundation: Kind of like me, Maya has very pale skin with yellow undertones and breakout-prone skin.  Sucks being beautiful, don’t it?  Anywho, I hear you on this issue.  Companies automatically assume that if your skin is pale, you must be Irish, as the only really pale foundations have extremely pink undertones… And the pink face/yellow chest look hasn’t even hit runways yet, let alone being workable in the real world.  I haven’t had myself matched to MAC colours in a long while (any of you who read my blog know I detest their foundations), but I believe I’m somewhere around NC20-ish.  The only non-department store or professional foundation I’ve found that comes even close to my skintone (regardless of weight) is Revlon Colorstay for Combo/Oily Skin in 150 Buff.  This is my go-to foundation for daily wear (at least until I pick up my Temptu air…) and looks pretty spot on, even in harsh fluorescent lighting (which we discussed previously).  If applied incorrectly, quickly, or with many types of brushes, this foundation can look heavy and masklike, but with a light hand and a quality brush (my favorite of the moment is the Sephora Professionnel Platinum 55), this product looks like real skin while still giving great coverage and not emphasizing flakey areas.  Sounds great, huh?  Check my YouTube channel tomorrow for a tutorial on how I apply this (I filmed it tonight, but editing is taking a bit longer than normal…)

I hope that helped!  Lemme know in the comments if you have any more questions.

  1. #1 by Megan on March 4, 2011 - 11:19

    Hey Sam (and Maya!),

    I’ve found a lovely foundation that’s pale with yellow undertones: Hourglass Veil in porcelain, their lightest shade. It has SPF, and contains minerals with supposed anti-aging ingredients. I can’t comment on how well those extras work, because I’m only 27, but I can tell you that it goes on extremely smoothly, does a great job on dry spots (I used it with a primer to cover up some oil burns on my cheek), and you only need one pump to cover your face. Pump and a half, max. It’s medium coverage and very buildable, too. I was surprised by how little I really needed. Easy to apply and if you’re using Sam’s method for foundation, it’s second skin.

    I will say that when I apply it, it immediately looks a little too yellow. I let it sit and then blot the extra, and by that time it’s settled and it’s a perfect match. I think it may be more a trick of my eyes than anything, because this stuff stands up under any light I stand in.

    It’s expensive–I gulped when I bought it–but I’d tried MUFE, Chanel, Ben Nye cream, and one of Dior’s, and Hourglass kicked all of them to the curb. I know it’s available at Sephora online, and you may be able to find a local distributor; I ended up buying mine at a makeup artist’s boutique. If you’re willing and able to do some hunting and shelling out, this stuff might just work for you.

    • #2 by Maya on March 4, 2011 - 13:20

      I wish I could, but my parents won’t let me order anything online right now, and Israel, being far behind on makeup, has yet to have hourglass. So annoying…

      • #3 by Megan on March 4, 2011 - 20:00

        Eep. Yeah, sorry–I re-read this entry and noted you were looking for a not-so-expensive option, too. What brands do you have available in Israel? Just curious what your selection is like.

    • #4 by Maya on March 5, 2011 - 16:08

      It wouldn’t let me reply to your other message for some reason.
      Well, it’s kind of a mix- most of the stores are a mix of high end and drugstore. L’oreal, Revlon, Dior, Chanel, Lancome, Pupa, a few israeli ones, clinique, Esetee Lauder etc. They don’t carry ALL the products that they carry abroad, which is annoying.
      We have a lot of the really big ones, just not really enough of them. We don’t have UD, Bobbi Brown, MUFE, Benefit, Sleek, of course there’s no Sephora or anything like it (damn it!) and everything is over-priced… But I guess Israel is really different from the stuff they show on the news, it’s actually REALLY Americanized.

  2. #5 by Maya on March 4, 2011 - 13:18

    Sam, thanks so much for the detailed answer! You really are a big help!
    General question- What’s your favorite colored face powder? I really need one and I don’t want to spend my money on anything but quality.

  3. #6 by Sarah on March 7, 2011 - 21:04

    Paula Begoun (author of “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me”) has an online version of the book that reviews and rates tons of products including many low-cost options. The site is It used to be paid members only, but just a few days ago it became free for everyone!! Check it out, it’s a great resource I use all the time.

  4. #7 by artemisraluca on August 13, 2011 - 06:18

    i’m just like her 😦 and the last part is killing me! orange foundations and all…hate them. i’m even paler than you, i think…i guess i’m more like NC15 or even NC10(been hiding from the sun because 1.i hate heat, vacations:( 3.hope i’ll age better :)) ) but it kinda sux when you’re pale and also have blemishes. oh well 😦

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  15. #18 by cp on September 18, 2014 - 15:49

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