Witch Hazel Pore-Clarifying Toner
BIore’s Witch Hazel Pore-Clarifying Toner has a single good quality: its 2% concentration of pore-clearing salicylic acid, formulated within the pH range it needs to exfoliate. That might sound like great news for all skin types dealing with enlarged, clogged pores or breakouts, but this high peak quickly begins a downhill slide.
Beyond the salicylic acid, this toner is a literal “who’s who” of problematic, irritating ingredients that tend to show up in acne and pore-related products. The difference? Most of the other offenders contain one, maybe two of these troublemakers—Biore includes all of them!
Skin is exposed to three forms of drying, irritating alcohol (denatured and isopropyl) followed by astringent witch hazel water, menthol (whose cooling sensation is your skin telling you it’s being irritated) and fragrance. All of this has strong potential to throw off skin’s balance instead of making good on its claim to balance it.
In essence, this is a shockingly irritating toner whose alcohol content is its biggest detriment. See More Info to learn why high amounts of alcohol are such a problem and how irritating ingredients make oily skin worse. And see our list of best BHA exfoliants for superior pore-clarifying options.
- 2% salicylic acid is likely able to exfoliate.
- Contains three types of drying, irritating alcohol.
- Witch hazel, menthol, and fragrance further the irritation from the alcohols.
- Likely to make oily skin and enlarged pores worse.
- Strong potential to throw off skin’s balance rather than balancing it.
Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: Research makes it clear that alcohol, as a main ingredient in any skincare product, especially one you use frequently and repeatedly, is a problem.
When we express concern about the presence of alcohol in skincare or makeup products, we’re referring to denatured ethanol, which most often is listed as SD alcohol, alcohol denat., denatured alcohol, or (less often) isopropyl alcohol.
When you see these types of alcohol listed among the first six ingredients on an ingredient label, without question the product will irritate and cause other problems for skin. There’s no way around it—these volatile alcohols are simply bad for all skin types.
The reason they’re included in products is because they provide a quick-drying finish, immediately degrease skin, and feel weightless, so it’s easy to see their appeal, especially for those with oily skin. If only those short-term benefits didn’t lead to negative long-term outcomes!
Using products that contain these alcohols will cause dryness, erosion of skin’s protective barrier, and a strain on how skin replenishes, renews, and rejuvenates itself. Alcohol just weakens everything about skin.
The irony of using alcohol-based products to control oily skin is that the damage from the alcohol can actually lead to an increase in breakouts and enlarged pores. As we said, the alcohol does have an immediate de-greasing effect on skin, but it causes irritation, which eventually will counteract the de-greasing effect and make your oily skin look even more shiny.
There are people who challenge us on the information we’ve presented about alcohol’s effects. They often base their argument on a study in the British Journal of Dermatology (July 2007, pages 74–81) that concluded “alcohol-based hand rubs cause less irritation than hand washing….” But, the only thing this study showed was that alcohol was not as irritating as an even more irritating hand wash, which contained sodium lauryl sulfate. So, the study is actually just telling you that one irritant, sodium lauryl sulfate, is worse than another irritant, alcohol.
Not all alcohols are bad. For example, there are fatty alcohols, which are absolutely non-irritating and can be beneficial for skin. Examples that you’ll see on ingredient labels include cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol, all of which are good ingredients for skin. It’s important to differentiate between these skin-friendly alcohols and the problematic alcohols.
References for this information:
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, November 2008, pages 1–16
Dermato-Endocrinology, January 2011, pages 41–49
Experimental Dermatology, June 2008, pages 542–551
Clinical Dermatology, September-October 2004, pages 360–366
Alcohol Journal, April 2002, pages 179–190
Not being gentle to skin can increase oily skin & breakouts: Using harsh, irritating ingredients or cleansing brushes with stiff bristles is a serious problem for all skin types, especially for those with oily, combination, and acne-prone skin.
Research has clearly established that when skin is irritated, the oil gland at the base of each pore is stimulated to make more oil, creating a perfect environment for breakouts, white bumps, and clogged pores to get worse.
Using a product that is gentle and completely non-irritating is without question the only approach to taking the best care of your skin; doing otherwise hurts your skin—this is true even if you cannot see or feel the damage taking place.
It is also vitally important to use products that research has shown are beneficial for oily skin, clogged pores, and breakouts. The gold standard over-the-counter ingredients for these concerns are salicylic acid (BHA) and benzoyl peroxide.
References for this information:
Journal of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology, January 2016, pages 25–30
Journal of European Dermatology and Venerology, May 2014, pages 527–532
Journal of Dermatology, May 2012, pages 433–438
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, April 2011, pages 41–53
Dermato-Endocrinology, January-March 2011, pages 41–49
Experimental Dermatology, October 2009, pages 821–832
Journal of the American Medical Association, August 2004, page 764
Dermatology, January 2003, pages 17–23
European Journal of Dermatology, September-October 2002, pages 422–427
This light-weight Toner with witch hazel helps restore skin’s balance as it deep cleans and removes residue a cleanser might have missed. Witch Hazel is known to tighten pores, while salicylic acid controls oil and treats blemishes.
Strengths: Provides complete ingredient lists for every product on the company Web sit; improved cleansers.
Weaknesses: Known for their pore strips, which aren't as helpful as they seem; lots of products that contain alcohol and/or menthol, neither of which improve the look or function of pores; the sole sunscreen option lacks the proper UVA-protecting ingredients.
This drugstore line wants you to know it is serious about keeping your pores unclogged. They pledge that their products will rid your pores of the dirt, oil, and grime that can cause them to enlarge to "manhole-sized proportions." Although that size is clearly an exaggeration, most of the claims Biore makes also stretch what's possible. For example, neither their products nor the manner in which they function take into account the fact that pore size is more often than not genetic and controlled to a large extent by the oil glands that lie beneath the skin,which are themselves controlled by hormone activity, and none of that can be affected from the outside in.
None of the Biore products can shrink the oil gland or help keep it unblocked, and that is the only surefire way to reduce pore size. One of the bonuses of taking prescription Accutane for acne is that in most cases the patient's pore size becomes remarkably smaller due to the manner in which this potent drug works internally. We are not suggesting anyone should take Accutane simply to shrink large pores. But we do suggest it would be better to stop believing that skin-care products that claim to do so are the answer. Effective skin-care products (including some items in the Biore line) can remove or absorb excess oil, which makes pores less noticeable, and a well-formulated cleanser will remove grime and surface oils without drying skin, which temporarily makes pores look slightly smaller. And believe it or not, sun protection plays a role in pore size. As skin becomes more sun damaged, it becomes thicker and unable to exfoliate normally. The buildup of dead skin cells coupled with thickened skin can make pores expand. This can be remedied by using a well-formulated AHA or BHA product along with daily application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen, products that Biore lacks.
That's the extent of it, which is why to a large extent (no pun intended) pore size is something that you must learn to live with, because beyond avoiding sun damage and trying Accutane, there is little that can be done to change it. However, the outlook isn't as bleak as it may seem. With conscientious skin care and proper use of makeup, you can successfully minimize the appearance of pores and prevent them from enlarging any further.
For more information about Biore, call (888) BIORE-11 or visit www.biore.com.
About the Experts
The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.
Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.