Tested on animals:Yes
When it comes to skin's appearance, pores are a big deal. Millions of big deals that we'd like to make as small as possible, actually. At some point in our lives, many of us want to reduce the appearance of our pores, and there is no shortage of products out there saying they can do just that. Bobbi Brown's Skin Smoothing Pore Perfector is one of them, and while it lives up to its claims of temporarily minimizing the look of large pores, a problematic ingredient list means it ultimately earns our lowest, one-star rating.
Skin Smoothing Pore Perfector comes in a opaque squeeze tube (Bobbi Brown's standard black packaging). The lightweight lotion inside dries to a slightly powdery finish that is best for combination to oily skin types. As advertised, thanks to the silicones and polymers it contains, it does have a temporary blurring effect on enlarged pores and other imperfections such as fine lines.
When it comes down to the ingredients, you'll find some good ones here: They include antioxidants like algae extract and tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), skin-identical ingredients such as lecithin, and even superstar moisture booster sodium hyaluronate. Thanks to the packaging they're in, they're also protected from light and air, which means they won't begin to lose their effectiveness as soon as you open it up. It should be noted, however, that contrary to this product's claims, there are no ingredients in here that can reduce the appearance of pores over time; the best way to do that is to use a well-formulated BHA (salicylic acid) product.
If that were all this contained, we would happily recommend Skin Smoothing Pore Perfector. What holds us, and this product, back is that it includes three major problematic ingredients that have the potential to harm skin, chief among them lavender oil. While this might make this lotion smell pleasant, lavender oil, even in small amounts, has the potential to damage and irritate skin. See More Info for details on the problems surrounding lavender oil.
Then there's fragrant geranium oil, which has, like most fragrance ingredients, the potential to irritate skin. In addition, there's an iffy amount of drying alcohol denatured, which has the potential to cause free radical damage. See More Info for why a high amount of alcohol is a problem in skincare products.
With these three ingredients considered, Skin Smoothing Pore Perfector is a product we just can't recommend. For better alternatives that actually do have the potential to reduce pore size over time, see our list of Best BHA Exfoliants. You can also find products that temporarily reduce the appearance of pores on our list of Best Foundation Primers.
- Formula has a blurring effect on enlarged pores and other imperfections.
- Contains some good skin-identical and skin-repairing ingredients, along with antioxidants.
- Packaged in a container that will keep its beneficial ingredients stable.
- Lacks the ingredients to reduce the appearance of pores over time as claimed.
- Contains potentially irritating lavender oil.
- Contains potentially irritating geranium flower oil.
- Contains a potentially problematic amount of alcohol.
Lavender Oil: In-vitro research indicates that components of lavender, specifically linalool and linalyl acetate, can be cytotoxic, which means that topical application of as little a concentration as 0.25% causes cell death (Cell Proliferation, June 2004). This study was conducted on endothelial cells, which are cells that line blood pathways in the body and play a critical role in the inflammatory process of skin.
As linalool and linalyl acetate are both rapidly absorbed by skin and can be detected within blood cells in less than 20 minutes, endothelial cells are an ideal choice for such a test (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, 1992). The results of this research also demonstrated that lavender has a damaging effect on fibroblasts, which are cells that produce collagen.
The fragrance constituents in lavender oil, linalool and linalyl acetate, oxidize when exposed to air, and in this process their potential for causing an allergic reaction is increased (Contact Dermatitis, 2008).
If you're wondering why lavender oil doesn't appear to be problematic for you, it's because research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it happening for your skin to suffer damage (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: A significant amount of research shows alcohol causes free-radical damage in skin even at low levels (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 2012). Small amounts of alcohol on skin cells in lab settings (about 3%, but keep in mind skin-care products contain amounts ranging from 5% to 60% or greater) over the course of two days increased cell death by 26%. It also destroyed the substances in cells that reduce inflammation and defend against free radicals—this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If this weren't bad enough, exposure to alcohol actually causes skin cells to self-destruct (Alcohol, 2002).
Research also shows that these destructive, aging effects on skin cells increased the longer skin was exposed to alcohol; for example, two days of exposure was dramatically more harmful than one day, and that's at only a 3% concentration (Alcohol, 2002). In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012 & Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).
For more on alcohol's (as in, ethanol, denatured alcohol, and ethyl alcohol) effects on skin, see the Paula's Choice Research Team's Expert Advice article on the topic, Alcohol in Skin Care: The Facts.