Within half an hour of using DERMAdoctor Picture Porefect ($40) on my nose to see if it would, indeed, minimize pores, I looked like I was auditioning for Bewitched. The itchiness that caused my nose to twitch as I tried to resist scratching it had been preceded by two other equally unpleasant sensations: the first was a tightness, as though my skin had shrunk; the second was stinging on one side of my nose.

I often find that DERMAdoctor's formulations are a little heavy-handed and this is no exception. Why stop at one alpha hydroxy acid (exfoliating agent) when you can squeeze in five. There is also retinol, which plays a similar role. No wonder I keep scratching my nose: the two major side effects of alpha hydroxy acids are irritation and sun sensitivity.  The FDA has issued the following guidelines for AHAs in cosmetics:

  • The AHA concentration is 10% or less

  • The final product has a pH of 3.5 or higher

  • The final product must have an effective sunscreen in the formulation or warn people to use sunscreen products

There is no sunscreen in Picture Porefect.

I am curious about the inclusion of aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine. This is an antibacterial used in deodorants. It is banned in Europe. DERMAdoctor's own website admits that aluminum products can cause irritation but goes on to claim that "aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine, is much better tolerated by the skin and less likely to cause irritation or acne". That may well be, but aluminum is still strongly associated with neurotoxicity, which is why Europeans aren't too keen on it.

Polyacrylamide is another eyebrow raiser. It is something you will also find in an injectible filler called Aquamid. One study suggests it can degrade under normal environmental conditions, releasing acrylamide, a known nerve toxin.

Ingredients in DERMAdoctor Picture Porefect

Aqua (Water), Butylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Sodium Glycolate, Azelaic Acid, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Tartaric Acid, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tree) Leaf Extract, Salix Nigra (Willow Bark) Extract, Polysorbate 20, Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Glycine, Cyclopentasiloxane, Retinol, Glycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Acrylates Copolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Polyacrylamide, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7.