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Product Reviews

Estee Lauder Idealist Pore Minimizing Skin Refinisher

Estee Lauder Idealist Pore Minimizing Skin Refinisher: ($48.50/$76 for 1 oz/1.7 oz)

Positives: There are high amounts of the monosaccharide N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG), which is a substrate precursor to hyaluronic acid (HA). In vitro, it has been demonstrated to enhance the proliferation and collagen expression of fibroblasts as well as upregulate HA production. Furthermore, in vitro studies have shown that NAG inhibits melanin production by upregulating epidermal turnover genes and down-regulating cytoskeleton genes involved in melanosome transport, which means that NAG will inhibit tyrosinase activation. However, because all of these characteristics where shown through in vitro studies, their effects may not completely translate to in vivo, or real life results. Fortunately, suggestive in vivo studies have been done, like a 8-week double-blind clinical study that demonstrated NAG’s ability to reduce facial hyperpigmentation.

This also contains a high amount of sodium lactobionate, which is the salt form of the polyhydroxy acid, lactobionic acid (LBA). LBA represents a newer generation of hydroxy acids, meaning it’s related to AHAs like glycolic acid, and BHAs like salicylic acid. The difference is that while AHAs and BHAs only have one hydroxyl group attached to the carboxyl group, LBA has multiple hydroxyl groups, hence the name POLYhydroxy acid. In one study, LBA has been shown to have comparable effects to those of AHAs, with additional benefits. This molecule functions as a humectant and moisturizer because it is able to bind to water very strongly. In addition, because LBA can act as a chelating agent that bind to pro-oxidant (radical) free metal ions, it is considered to be an antioxidant.

However, here’s the downside: the single study (done in The Netherlands in 2009) that suggests all of these beneficial properties is not available for viewing on Pubmed for some reason. I’m not just talking about the full article; not even the abstract can be seen. It’s just cited on another article that discussed hydroxy acids in general. Therefore, I can’t truly validate these properties; I can only hope that they are true. Here’s another caveat about LBA: like I said before, the form present in this product is the salt form, which means it will not exfoliate like its acidic counterpart. Furthermore, because the pH is unknown, whether any of the acid form of LBA will be present once applied to the skin is unknown. Fortunately, if combined with a pH-appropriate AHA or BHA product, some of the sodium lactobionate may convert to lactobionic acid. However, why go through this additional step if you can just use an equally effective AHA or BHA product? Yes, LBA does have additional touted benefits, but they are not exclusive. L-ascorbic acid or its derivatives and other much more well-documented ingredients can easily be used instead. The only reason why I included this ingredient in the “Positives” category is because there is a chance that it will be beneficial once applied, given an appropriate vehicular pH and the fact that it is an excellent water-binding agent.

There are high amounts of the black mulberry extract, which can theoretically inhibit melanin production, due to its arbutin and therefore hydroquinone content. There are also high amounts of the antioxidants extracts: grape, skullcap, and green tea. There are moderate amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E, as well as the barrier repair components: cholesterol, squalane, and glycerin. Finally, there are negligible amounts of palmitoyl oligopeptide and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, a vitamin C derivative.

Note that a moderate amount of yeast is present and a further discussion of this ingredient can be found here.

Neutrals: This product contains several useless ingredients, which sounds harsh, but at least they’re not hurting the skin. They include: saw palmetto, wheat, clary, and barley. They are most likely included just to enlarge the ingredient list and appeal to “organic” or “natural” buffs that desire such “benefits.” It’s just a marketing technique.

Negatives: This may be surprising, but this particular Estee Lauder product contains many potentially irritating ingredients.

There are moderately high amounts of chestnut extract, which due to its tannin content acts as an astringent and can be quite drying. Although tannins have some antioxidant properties, they are overshadowed by their ability to damage the epidermal barrier. On the flip side, by degrading the barrier, they do enhance penetration. Furthermore, this is the ingredient that will largely reduce the appearance of pores. However, I am still considering it a negative ingredient due to the high concentration that is present.

There are also moderate amounts of lavender oil, which has been discussed before as being cytotoxic and photosensitizing in vitro. How much of that translates to the skin is unknown and most likely small, but why take that risk when it has no relevant beneficial properties? Similarly, this logic applies to the moderate amount of coriander and the tiny amounts of the lavender-derived fragrances, limonene and linalool. The latter two will not be considered in the final score calculation simply because so little of them are present, and they do slightly enhance penetration.

Finally, there is a moderate amounts of grapefruit extract, which due to its furanocoumarin content, is toxic in vitro AND in vivo.

Packaging: This is housed in a semi-opaque bottle with a pump dispenser. Make sure to keep it away from sunlight.

Overall: Looking at the ingredients, this product is quite similar to the Estee Lauder Perfectionist, which I reviewed here. However, there are a few major differences. This contains many potentially irritating ingredients and therefore, is not as highly recommended as the other. While these negatives may not translate signifcantly or at all, why take that risk? If you enjoy this, by all means, use it. Please note that this product contains mineral pigments as well that cast a soft glow and makes skin look better than it actually is.

Overall, this is cautiously recommended to all skin types except the very dry and very oily if you are curious about the texture (it works well as a primer due to its silicone base), and if it will reduce the appearance of pores. Be wary of adverse reactions, and discontinue use immediately if any manifest. If you’re looking for a good Estee Lauder serum, try the Perfectionist.  


PS = [[[PIS – [(NI1 x MHS1) + (NI2 x MHS2) + (NI3 x MHS3) + (NI4 x MHS4)]] x WIC] + [TPS x WPC]] x 100%

PS = [[[PIS – [(1/10 x 3/3) + (1/10 x 2/3) + (1/10 x 2/3) + (1/10 x 2/3)]] x WIC] + [3/3 x 1/3]] x 100%

PS = [[[28.5/30 – 9/30] x 2/3] + 3/9] x 100%

PS = [[19.5/30 x 2/3] + 3/9] x 100%

PS = [39/90 + 30/90] x 100%

PS = 69/90 x 100%

PS = .767 x 100%

PS = 76.7%

AS = C

Check the Product Review Rubric for a full explanation on how I rate products.


Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Polysilicone-11, Acetyl Glucosamine, Sodium Lactobionate, Morus Nigra (Mulberry) Root Extract, Yeast Extract, Serenoa Serrulata (Saw Palmetto) Fruit Extract, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Extract, Castanea Sativa (Chestnut) Seed Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Hordeum Vulgare (Barley), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender), Amorphophallus Konjac Root Powder, Caffeine, Laminaria Saccharina Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Salvia Sclarea (Clary) Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Coriandrum Sativum (Coriander), Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit California), Cholesterol, Glycerin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Squalane, Polyethylene, Isopentyldiol, Phenyl Trimethicone, Isohexadecane, Polysorbate 20, Pantethine, Methyldihydrojasmonate, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Vp Copolymer, Polysorbate 80, Peg-8, Ethyl 2,2-Dimethylhydrocinnamal, Phospholipids, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Butylene Glycol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Glyceryl Polymethacrylate, Sodium Glycyrrhetinate, Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Limonene, Linalool, Iron Oxides, Mica, Titanium Dioxide.

About John

The Triple Helixian is an unbiased science and research-based site that attempts to clarify and elucidate questions about skin care, while aspiring to be the most thorough and complete source of information.


8 thoughts on “Estee Lauder Idealist Pore Minimizing Skin Refinisher

  1. And do you think it would do any good if I put my cream into a pump bottle? Or once it gets in contact with air it’s pointless…? I will definitely write you my daily skincare routine when I find myself some extra time…Thanks, your blog is awesome!

    Posted by Jana | March 6, 2012, 9:51 am
    • Thank you Jana! Well putting a cream into a pump bottle will definitely be better than leaving it the jar. But yes, once they come into contact with air, they’ll start oxidizing. And remember, even if you put it into a pump bottle, there’s already air inside the bottle… However, overall, there would be less exposure, than if you left it in a jar. I’ll definitely be doing a post about this, where I’ll talk about the math behind it. (I’ll include basic mathematica equations, etc…, just so everything is more clear.)

      Thank you for commenting!

      Posted by John | March 6, 2012, 3:51 pm
  2. Hi John, should I wear it under or on top of my EL daywear cream? Thank you.

    Posted by Jana | March 4, 2012, 7:05 am
    • Under it of course, simply because from what I know, all of the Daywear creams are more emollient than this serum. Just as a side note, if the EL daywear cream is in a jar package, I’d suggest finding something else, just because while Estee Lauder typically has excellent formulations, jar packaging will ensure that the antioxidants, peptides, and plant extracts present will quickly oxidize and become ineffective or useless. 😦

      Thanks for commenting!

      Perhaps try the Daywear lotions? If you have any questions, as always I’m here to help!

      Posted by John | March 4, 2012, 10:38 am
      • Thank you for your prompt answer! I just got a bit confused about using serums:-) Not happy to read that all those benefits of daywear disappear in some time because of the jar packaging:-( I have bought the new EL Revitalizing Supreme – it’s also in a jar:-( What do you think about this product? if I may ask… Have to say that I’m considering having my daily routine analysed because I keep breaking out on my chin… appreciate your efforts and thank you once again!

        Posted by Jana | March 4, 2012, 1:06 pm
  3. Yeah, I generally agree with what you’ve said. The other day, my mum was trying to decide between this one and the other Perfectionist one. She bought the other one 🙂

    Posted by Victoria | January 30, 2012, 7:03 pm
    • Haha thanks Victoria! But you qualified “agree” with “generally.” What don’t you agree with? I’d love to know what you think!

      Thanks for commenting. I’ll be doing a post soon, I’ve just been so busy sorry! And I know I keep saying soon. I need to stop disappointing you guys…

      Posted by John | January 30, 2012, 9:17 pm

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