Perfect complexion: Is our quest for smooth, flawless skin in vain?

A flawless complexion might be the end goal of most skincare routines, but is it realistically achievable, or do we need to become more comfortable in our skin?

Considered a marker of good health, flawless skin is associated with good health and genetics.

On the flip side, textured and congested skin is linked to everything from hormonal issues to ageing, sun damage and dehydration.

“Textured skin can appear sallow, it can be rough to touch, oily with visible pores, or sun-damaged,” explains dermatologist Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan.

So if you’re not genetically blessed with a clear complexion, are efforts to improve it worthwhile?

Yes – to a degree, says Dr Gunatheesan.

She recommends seeing a dermatologist for an individual assessment and analysis of the potential causes and treatment options, but says there are a number of lifestyle actions you can take to assist the healthy appearance of your skin.

How diet can improve your skin

It can be eyeroll-inducing when supermodels credit their clear skin to drinking loads of water, however there’s scientific merit to their claims, with a balanced diet and adequate hydration linked to promoting clear skin.

“The whole mind, gut and skin connection is real,” Dr Gunatheesan says.

“Some individuals might have a genetic reason for textured skin, such as prominent pores and increased production of oil glands, but there’s also epigenetics and environmental factors that can cause skin to be textured, such as UV exposure and having the wrong diet.”

Dr Gunatheesan says a diet that’s too rich in sugar, gluten and dairy can also contribute to skin congestion and inflammation.

Why you need to protect your skin from the sun

One of the most common causes of skin texture is sun damage, but it’s also one of the easiest skin issues to prevent.

“Sunscreen is a good option for every skin type, especially in Australia,” science educator and cosmetic chemist, Michelle Wong says.

“It prevents premature ageing from UV, which is much cheaper and more effective than trying to reverse the damage later.

“It’s especially important to use a sunscreen while using chemical exfoliants, since a lot of them can increase sun sensitivity.”

Other ways to protect your skin from sun damage include covering up as much skin as possible with clothing, wearing a hat, sunglasses and trying to keep to the shade.

Treatments that can assist your skin

Dr Gunatheesan recommends targeted treatments and effective ingredients that help to promote clear skin.

“I find having the right skincare ingredients, such as vitamin B3, which is Niacinamide, vitamin C, a lactic acid or AHA and a retinol really helps maintain any improvements made with clinical treatments,” she says.

“These ingredients are excellent preventative and maintenance methods for those with early textured skin, sun damage or oily skin.”

Work with your natural assets

At the end of the day, there is only so much you can do to influence your skin.

And contrary to popular belief, you can’t actually shrink your pores.

“They are the openings of your hair follicles and much like fingerprints, we all have an individual pore size, pore count and layout,” Dr Gunatheesan says.

In a world where filters and face tuning are commonplace, Dr Gunatheesan encourages an element of acceptance of our natural beauty.

“Chasing that illusion of flawless skin with no pores is a waste of time, so I think it’s good that we’re normalising visible pores,” Dr Gunatheesan says.

Written by Charlotte Brundrett.