I have recently become aware that the pores on my nose are enlarged and it is not a look that I like. So when I saw that Murad has come up with a “breakthrough cream” for “unclogging and sealing pores,” I was off to Sephora before you could say crater to check out T-Zone Pore Refining Serum ($42). But not before looking at the small print and what Howard Murad himself had to say about his pore refining industry first.

Disappointingly, Murad says that “pore size is determined by genes” and “cannot be changed.” This pronouncement seemed not only bleak, but odd. For a start, my pores have just changed size (that’s what enlarged seems to mean) and I refuse to believe change can only be one way. Secondly, I was expecting more of T-Zone Pore Refining Serum than to merely “cleanse and protect.” I thought Murad’s serum was meant to be a breakthrough.

T-Zone Pore Refining Serum and, indeed, the Murad Pore Refining range relies on two old staples of pore minimizing, alcohol and glycolic acid. The second exfoliates and the first, alcohol, will superficially tighten the skin. The two being the most dominant after water could make this a harsh and drying potion. Not all alcohols in cosmetics are bad, but alcohol denat is, unfortunately, one of the bad guys. With a low molecular weight, it can penetrate and skin easily and be extremely drying and irritating.

As well as not being desirable, alcohol denat does not qualify as a “breakthrough.” Neither does surrounding it with a few botanicals and vitamins. Open pores don’t mean that I don’t have sensitive skin and adding to my concern is drying salicylic acid and potentially irritating zinc aspartate. Having said that, there are some welcome touches including chitosan ascorbate, which studies have shown to create a protective "bandage" on the skin that helps stop bleeding, encourages wound healing and expedites tissue regeneration.

Then, serendipitously, I came across a new pore-busting cleanser/mask by Philosophy. I generally find that the only inventive thing about Philosophy’s beauty products are their names. This cleanser and mask is called Total Matteness ($30), but to my surprise it also has some interesting ingredients and at least one that could claim, unlike Murad’s, to be a breakthrough.

Recently, it was discovered that lentils could be a pore cure and an ingredient called p-Refinyl was launched. The company that makes claims that lentil extract controls sebum and its oligosaccharide content stimulates the process of keratinocyte maturation, eliminating nucleated cells from around the pores. Interestingly, Murad uses it in Skin Perfecting Primer and it seems odd that it has been omitted from his new serum aimed at pores.

The rest of Philosophy’s cleanser mask is mostly a mix of conventional clays – kaolin, bentonite and montmorillonite. Still, it is to be commended for the lentil extract and putting Murad’s alcohol and glycolic in the shade. Even so, I’ll be giving them both a pass and sticking with my Sevani Rapid Renewal Resurfacing Crème until the pore-closing business opens up with a real breakthrough.

Ingredients in Murad: Water, Alcohol Denatured, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Methyl Gluceth-10, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Salicylic Acid, Punica Granatum Extract, Rice Amino Acids, Zinc Aspartate, Chitosan Ascorbate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Zinc Acetate, Linoleic Acid, Retinyl Palmitate, Sodium PCA, Hydroxyethylcellulose, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Salicylate, Linalool, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Fragrance

Ingredients in Philosophy: Aqua/Water/Eau, Kaolin, Sea Silt, Decyl Glucoside, Propanediol, Lauryl Glucoside, Bentonite, Montmorillonite, Gluconolactone, Lens Esculenta (Lentil) Seed Extract, Bambusa Vulgaris Leaf/Stem Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extact, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Sodium Benzoate, Allantoin, Disodium EDTA, Polysilicone-11, Calcium Gluconate, Laureth-12, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891)