This Clever Foam Made Me Enjoy Using A Toner Again

Photo: Courtesy of Benefit Cosmetics.
Did you know you have 20,000 pores on your face? It was news to me until a few months ago. Twenty thousand sounds like a massive number, though you might not think about your pores as single entities unless you're looking at your nose in a magnifying mirror or getting a facial with manual extractions where you can feel every tiny pinch.
If you think about the beauty industry, there are few brands which have marketed products specifically to pores. Namely the brand that put 'Pore' in the name of its makeup primer when it launched more than thirteen years ago: benefit Cosmetics.
benefit designed the POREfessional Primer, a balm designed to minimise the look of pores, and though it was novel at the time, POREfessional took off and grew into an entire franchise. It expanded into multiple iterations of primer (Lite, Hydrate, Matte Rescue Gel) for different skin concerns, not to mention setting sprays, too. Now, over a decade later, there's a new innovation from Benefit that speaks to pores, not from a priming or setting makeup perspective, but in skincare.
Don't call it skincare, though. The brand is adamant to keep the focus only on the pore part. "With most skincare, there's usually a claim about pores — like, something 'minimises pores,'" explains Kate Helfrich, Head of Global Product & Service Innovation at Benefit. "But there's no brand dedicated just to pores. With benefit, you won't see anti-aging from us. You won't see anti-redness from us. You will not see a hyperpigmentation focus. This is not general skincare, it's pore care."
So, what do people want when it comes to pore care? According to Jared Bailey, Benefit's Global Brow Expert, over the past few years, the benefit customer has been asking for a more skin-focused approach to everything. "What we were finding is that people were really looking at a more targeted solution to their pores, not just a makeup solution, but a solution that's going to help them get more benefits out of all of their other skincare products," Bailey explains.
Over the years, benefit has pored (pun intended) over pore data. "We've really been able to distill it into three categories: skin texture, pore minimising, and unclogging," explains Helfrich. Then, they designed six products that addressed the three common pore concerns — two cleansers, a toner, two masks, and a moisturiser — to be used all together or à la carte, alongside your other skincare products that do other things (like help with hydration).
This collection also shows Benefit's commitment to less wasteful packaging. "We're always trying to do better," says Helfrich. "For example, in our blush, we recently got rid of the brush and the wooden handle and the plastic packaging. But with pore care, it was a really unique opportunity to do as much right from the beginning." To that end, all six products are made from infinitely-recyclable aluminium and the outer boxes are FSC recycled certified.
Being that I notice my pores — especially my nose blackheads — I was interested in how my skin would react to this collection. I've tested all six pore-care products, so scroll through for my reviews.
There are two different cleansers in this line. The first is this pore-clearing, makeup-removing cleansing oil. If you're generally into oil cleansers, you'll like this one. It's an aluminium bottle with a pump, which is so much easier than a cleansing balm you have to dig your fingers into. But the idea is the same: a gentle cleanse that will melt the makeup off your face (which is especially helpful if you've used primers and setting sprays to keep your concealer on).
Use it alone or as the first step in your double cleanse, which is how I prefer it. It's more lightweight than other oil cleansers I've tried. I love that it doesn't irritate my sensitive eyes and it removes all makeup using grape seed, jojoba seed, and avocado oil. Plus, there are ceramides to keep my skin dry skin moisturised and not stripped. Are my pores 'unclogged' afterwards? I'd need an aesthetician to verify. But my face certainly feels clean.
I'd follow my oil cleanse with a cream cleanser that lathers to get off any residual oil. Jared Bailey, benefit Global Brow Expert and Aesthetician, says this Good Cleanup Cleanser is the Porefessional product that he uses every single day — he keeps it in the shower. If you have sensitive skin that reacts to sulphates, you'll be glad to know this cleanser is formulated without them, but still creates a foam to lift away residual oil and makeup. There's lemon extract in the formula, which makes the foam naturally citrus scented.
Typically, my face feels sensitised after using foaming cleansers, but not with this one. It's super gentle and doesn't pull my skin to a squeaky, tight clean. Generally speaking, if your skin is oily or acne prone, I think you'll prefer this to the cleansing oil. Vice versa, if your skin tends to be dry, go with the oil.
If you're going to try anything from this line, let it be this toner. It's an AHA and PHA toning foam, which you've probably never heard of because, me neither. Both AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid) and PHAs (polyhydroxy acids, like gluconolactone) are chemical exfoliants that help to gently slough away dead skin, leaving the surface smoother. PHAs in particular are considered to be gentle on the skin.
In my experience, this toner takes everything I love about toner (the way it refreshes my skin and preps it for next-step serums and moisturisers) and makes it generally less annoying. Because it's aerated, I don't have to use a cotton round or waste liquid dripping through my fingers. I just pump it into my hand and press the foam into my face and let it sink into those 20,000 pores.
If you're oily or acne prone, this is your mask. Maggie Ford Danielson, Director of Brand Outreach for benefit, says that the Deep Retreat Clay Mask is her must-have in the collection and thinks of it as a 'Sunday detox' mask. "I'm sensitive and acne-prone," Ford Danielson explains. "I get clogged pores, breakouts and blackheads, so I use the mask once a week to really clean the pores."
The mineral-rich kaolin clay mattifies excess oil. You can actually see it working: little white dots appear to show where oil is being drawn out of your skin. I use it as a spot treatment — just on my nose and chin where I want to target blackheads — but you can use it all over you face, if you want a real deep clean. It stays on for 30 minutes, so for me, it's more of a once a week treatment, but a treat nonetheless. That said, I'd probably recommend the mini version which is just £18 instead of £35.
This is like a priming mask. Like an instant facial, it comes off in just 3-5 minutes. I prefer this formula to the Deep Retreat because it works faster and the aluminium tube makes it easy to squeeze product out without making a mess in my tiny bathroom.
It applies almost like a cream moisturiser, but dries down to a clay. The exfoliation part comes from sea kelp and clay, but there's also hyaluronic acid and squalane in the formula, so it's not as abrasive as say, a peel pad. (Plus, compared to a peel pad, this is more eco-friendly with aluminium packaging and no single-use pad.) At night, I let it sit while I brush my teeth, and then just rinse it off.
The last product of the collection is a moisturiser. It's a lightweight gel cream and works well in conjunction with all of the other products in this line — specifically to add hydration to the skin after the foaming toner and both masks. If you're very dry, you can even put facial oil right on top. For example, Bailey uses a hydrating face oil, like Sunday Riley Juno Oil, pressed over top of the moisturiser to achieve his desired level of dewiness. Of course, you also want to add a sunscreen during the day.
I like that this includes niacinamide and squalane. I use it in the morning or in the evening if I've been exfoliating, and my dry skin drinks it up. I will say, the moisturiser does have a subtle scent, which I enjoy, but you might want to pass if you have sensitivities. Personally, I have no reactions. On the contrary, I used this moisturiser when my skin was flaring up with contact dermatitis and this cream calmed it right down. Admittedly, it's a bit on the expensive side, but I would pay a little more for aluminium.
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