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This Pore Reducing Mask Really Works for This Editor

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For as long as I can remember—we’re talkin’ all the way back to my awkward, pimply, middle school days—I’ve had large pores. And although I blessedly outgrew (most of) my awkwardness and pimply-ness, the large pores on my nose and cheeks have remained my constant companions despite my best efforts (read: trying lots and lots of products) to turn my complexion into a real-life Paris filter.

Honestly, over the years my visible pores have bothered me less and less (I’m a human! Humans have skin, and skin has pores!), but when I came across the Philosophy Pore-fect & Glow Skincare Set, which is on sale until Feb. 1, my interest was piqued once again. The difference this time? I went straight to a dermatologist for her expert take, rather than just using the product a couple times and hoping for the best, like I had in the past.

Can you actually make pores smaller?

My first question for board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD: What exactly are pores, and why do some people’s appear larger than others?

“Pores are openings in the skin surface that represent the path oils and sweat take when they exit your skin,” Dr. Nazarian says. “Pore size is determined by genetics, but can become larger due to loss of elasticity, age, and damage to the support and tissue around them (often sun damage or traumatic damage, such as from picking or squeezing the skin).”

So the million dollar question is, can you actually shrink your pores? According to Dr. Nazarian, it is possible, if you approach it the right way.

“The interesting thing about pores is that if you can unclog them, and take care of them, they’ll actually look smaller and get smaller,” she says. “Pores, like any hole, can fill up, and stretch out if filled with too much stuff, or for too long […] Some things actually can permanently help, while other methods are only temporary. Many people are not aware of these details before they sign up for a particular regimen, leading to disappointment. Education is key here!”

Thanks to Dr. Nazarian and my newfound pore education, I decided the Philosophy Pore-fect & Glow Skincare Set—and specifically the pore reducing mask in the kit—would be worth a shot with consistent use. Here’s what happened when I tried it.

How to use a pore-reducing mask

One of the main pieces of advice I received from Dr. Nazarian is to start by unclogging my pores, and all three products in the Philosophy set helped with that goal.

The cleanser felt super gentle on my skin, but was effective enough to wash makeup off with one use. The peeling mousse felt similarly gentle—thanks to the combination of natural chemical exfoliants with hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid—but my skin felt so soft after using it just once, so I knew it was working to slough off the sebum and dead skin cells that can lead to clogged pores. Dr. Nazarian also noted that anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients—such as the witch hazel, cornflower extract, and pineapple extract in the mousse— can also work to prevent enlarging of pores over time.

Finally, the star of the show: the pore-reducing mask was filled with pore-minimizing ingredients such as white clay, physical exfoliants, and salicylic acid (an ingredient recommended by Dr. Nazarian for pore reduction). I applied it just to my nose and cheeks so as not to dry out the less-oily areas of my face, and after just three uses I noticed my pores had visibly shrunk.

My main takeaway from my latest pore-reducing journey? Consistency is key. Dr. Nazarian notes that cleaning out your pores will typically make them look smaller, but that effect will be temporary unless you stay on a skin-care regimen that minimizes congestion. In the past, I’ve been inconsistent with my skin-care products beyond daily face wash and moisturizer, but after seeing the results of two weeks of consistently using my decongesting lineup, I’m feeling motivated to stay on schedule so my pores can continue to reap the rewards. My middle school self would be proud.

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