The Incredible Pore-Shrinking Clear + Brilliant Laser: We Tried It

Wendy Rodewald

Clear + Brilliant Laser

For a long time, I’d considered my pores a lost cause. While topical products can clear up blackheads and clogs, they have a limited effect on pore size (even Retin-A and over-the-counter retinols — the gold standard of skin care ingredients — have made a minimal difference in my skin’s texture). But recently I tried the Clear + Brilliant laser, a sort of entry-level laser treatment performed at a dermatologist’s office, and now I believe there’s hope for my complexion after all.

I’ve always wanted to try lasers, but have been scared off by tales of painful treatments that leave patients with raw, red skin that resembles a burn victim’s. The company behind Clear + Brilliant bills it as a no-downtime laser (gentler than, say, Fraxel), which for me meant I could take the subway home afterward without terrifying the general public. I also expected the treatment not to hurt. I was wrong on at least one of these counts.

I had the treatment done by Dr. Gervaise Gerstner, a respected dermatologist on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. When I arrived at Dr. Gerstner’s office, her assistant prepped my skin by applying a topical numbing cream over my entire face and warned me that the pain would be the worst around the lips and on the forehead. At this point I started to feel a bit apprehensive, but luckily it was “Champagne Friday” at the office, so I calmed my nerves with a glass of pink bubbly.

After the numbing cream did its work for 15 minutes (and I downed the Champagne), Dr. Gerstner entered the room to perform the treatment. I donned protective eye covers like the ones people wear in tanning beds, and the doctor began to swipe the handheld laser over my face. The sensation felt like hundreds of tiny pin pricks, and I imagined I could feel my skin sizzling. Luckily it was all over in a matter of minutes, at which point Dr. Gerstner’s assistant applied a frozen blue gel Hannibal Lecter-esque mask to cool my burning face.

After a minute or so of the mask, she showed my my face in the mirror. I looked like I had just run four miles in the summer heat. My skin was purplish-pink and slightly swollen, much like a sunburn (it felt like one, too). After a coating of BB cream, I was turned loose to the world. On the subway ride home, my face was on fire, convincing me that I probably looked like I had been through some major trauma, but no one gave me a second look. Back at my apartment 40 minutes later, I looked in the mirror and saw…nothing. I looked completely normal, if a little shiny from the BB cream.

After eight hours or so, my skin felt a bit tight but otherwise normal with very slight pink stripy blotches where the laser passed. My pores looked smaller and my skin was incredibly soft and looked more toned. At the same time, I was disappointed that the laser didn’t erase my existing breakouts and blackheads.

My skin was slightly scaly for the next couple of days, but a week later it’s back to normal and my pores still look tinier, while my face is more glowing and the skin appears tighter. Overall, the results are subtle and you have to get very close to see a difference. I attempted to take before and after photos, but they looked exactly the same. Even in the photos on the Clear + Brilliant website, it’s hard to see a drastic difference — but up close I notice my skin is better, and my fiancé did, too (unlike every haircut I’ve ever gotten).

Like most skin treatments, you have to do the Clear + Brilliant regularly for the best results. At anywhere between $200-$500 per treatment, depending on the doctor and area of the country, it’s a pricey makeover indeed. But I’d consider doing it again to prep for an important event (like my wedding) where I know my complexion will be on display. After all, it put me much closer to the type of perfect, poreless skin I’ve always wanted than anything else I’ve tried.