Biore's Pore Penetrating Charcoal Bar is supposed to be able to "degunk pores" and make skin smooth, but this is a product we just cannot recommend. Not only can it not live up to its claims, but it contains some highly problematic ingredients that could serve to make skin concerns like acne and oiliness worse, which is why it earned our lowest, one-star rating.
Pore Penetrating Charcoal Bar is a black bar of soap marketed to treat combination to oily skin with enlarged pores. The first thing you'll notice about it is its strong peppermint smell. That's because this contains menthone glycerin acetal, a cooling agent related to menthol, and peppermint oil.
Biore says these additions make this cleansing bar "refreshing," but the tingling feeling they impart doesn't mean your skin is clean, it means your skin is at risk of being irritated. Though this product is meant to be rinsed off, there is still the potential that both these ingredients could cause irritation, and irritation can actually make oil production increase. See More Info about the connection between irritation and oily skin.
Among the other iffy ingredients included in this bar are sodium palmate and sodium palm kernelate, both soap ingredients that could serve to dry out skin. So what about the charcoal that is supposed to help clear out pores and gives this bar its name? While this does contain both carbon and charcoal powder, they come further down the ingredient list, meaning you're not getting a lot of either here.
Even if you were, while charcoal is a good oil-absorbing ingredient, it can't do much absorbing at all in a rinse-off product, and absorbing oil does not equate to "degunking" pores.
When it comes down to it, we don't recommend Biore's Pore Penetrating Charcoal Bar because of its inability to live up to its claims and its potential to irritate skin. If you are looking to reduce the appearance of blackheads and enlarged pores, you can find some great products that can do just that on our list of Best BHA Exfoliants.
Irritation's Connection to Oily Skin & Breakouts: Inflammation in skin is usually related to external factors such as irritation that damages the skin's barrier in numerous ways, whether you can see the reaction or not. When irritation on the surface of skin happens it activates specific chemicals called neuropeptides in the brain (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2007). Those substances are specifically the kind that regulates the hormonal system of the body.
When this happens, it leads to the formation of inflammatory chemicals directly in the oil gland. These inflammatory chemicals trigger an increase in oil production, which can increase the size of the pore, and the likelihood of acne—the more inflammation that occurs, the worse the risk (European Journal of Dermatology, 2002 & Dermatology, 2003).
Bottom line: Inflammation and its resulting irritation, whether internal or external (for this discussion externally it would be due to the use of irritating ingredients, hot water, overusing scrubs, etc.), is practically a guarantee you will see excess production of oil, larger pores and more acne breakouts (Experimental Dermatology, 2009 & Dermato-Endocrinology, 2011).
That's reason enough to avoid products with irritating ingredients, which often come in the form of fragrance including the misnamed "essential" oils.
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.
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