Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

How to Choose the Best Clean & Clear Acne Treatment Product

By Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

Clean & Clear is one of the most recognizable drugstore acne lines available for acne sufferers. So what are the best Clean and Clear products for acne? This article will tell you which (if any) Clear & Clean products are safe for your skin, and which are not, starting with the best of the product line and working down to the worse. We’ll also share our recommendations for acne-fighting products that really do work.

Best clean and clear products for acne
Most of the Clean & Clear products contain perfumes and other ingredients that can irritate the skin.


  • Most Clean & Clear products contain alcohol, menthol, or other skin-irritating ingredients.
  • Many of the products contain fragrances and perfumes that can irritate sensitive skin.
  • Clean & Clear products are among the least effective products available for fighting acne.
  • Instead, we recommend a skincare line that is paraben- and sulfate-free, gentle on the skin and proven to work.

Clean & Clear Soft Purifying Cleanser

Unlike most other Clean & Clear products, it would be fair to rate Clean & Clear Soft Purifying Cleanser at “not all that bad.” It contains alpha-hydroxy acids that can exfoliate dry skin, opening tight pores, and salicylic acid that can open clogged pores on oily skin, although not in very high amounts, and in not in a formulation that will keep them on your face long enough to do you much good. This cleanser is completely fine, but nothing special.

Instead, we recommend a Facial Cleanser that combines salicylic acid with pure natural extracts. Specifically, this Facial Cleanser from Exposed Skincare has pro-vitamin B5 to regulate oil production and sage extract to prevent dryness. We really like it because it’s soap-free and hypoallergenic, so skin is left cleansed and refreshed without damaging the moisture barrier.

Clean & Clear Soft Oil-Free Night Moisturizer

Clean & Clear Soft Oil-Free Night Moisturizer actually is oil-free, and suitable for normal to oily skin. It contains 3% glycolic acid, which helps remove dead skin, open pores, and even out the texture of the skin.

We like that this moisturizer is oil-free. That’s very important in keeping acne-prone skin moisturized. However, we’d rather recommend this Moisture Complex, a water-based, oil-free gel moisturizer that hydrates without clogging pores. It’s gentle, non-toxic and paraben- and sulfate-free, so it won’t further irritate the skin.

Clean & Clear Soft Oil-Free Day Moisturizer SPF 15

Clean & Clear Soft Oil-Free Day Moisturizer SPF-15 is a light lotion that uses avobenzone to protect the skin from harmful UV-A rays, and contains antioxidants.

Because the antioxidants are listed in alphabetical order, it is not possible to ascertain just by looking at the label which antioxidants may be available in higher amounts and which are present only in trace amounts. The SPF 15 sun protection is perfect for a summer day on the beach in Scotland, but not strong enough even for winter sun protection in much of Australia and the southwestern United States.

Clean & Clear Soft-In Shower Facial

Clean & Clear Soft-In Shower Facial is a slightly creamy soap containing plastic beads that are supposed to do the work of microdermabrasion in a one-minute application used in the shower. The product also contains a tiny amount of alpha-hydroxy acids that are supposed to exfoliate the skin, but the soap in the product changes the pH so the alpha-hydroxy acids won’t work, and they just get rinsed off the skin in a few seconds, anyway.

If you are looking for an exfoliating scrub, we have a better recommendation. We love this Microderm Scrub that uses tiny corundum crystals to polish away dead skin cells. This helps improve overall skin texture for a smoother, radiant complexion while using chamomile extract to soothe skin and grape seed oil to repair damaged skin.

Clean & Clear Morning Burst Oil Absorbing Sheets

Clean & Clear Morning Burst Oil Absorbing Sheets are squares of polyethylene plastic used to mop up excess oil from the face. Most users find that the face is still shiny even after use of the sheets. These create a lot of waste and may not really work.

Clean & Clear Morning Burst Detoxifying Cleanser and related products

Clean & Clear Morning Burst Detoxifying Cleanser promises to oxygenate the skin. It really can’t, and that’s a good thing, because free radicals of oxygen are highly toxic to the skin. The products in this line include Morning Burst Detoxifying Cleanser, Morning Burst Facial Cleanser, Morning Burst Shine Control Facial Cleanser, Morning Burst Detoxifying Facial Scrub, and Morning Burst Facial Scrub.

All of these products leave your face feeling tingly because they contain menthol. That tingle is an allergic reaction that reddens the skin and increases irritation inside pores, trapping bacteria inside even when oil is not present in excess. We do not recommend anything that increases skin irritation. This line should be avoided.

Clean & Clear Deep Action and Deep-Cleaning Products

This is a group of products that includes:

  • Deep Action Cream Cleanser, Oil-Free
  • Deep Action Cream Cleanser, Sensitive Skin
  • Deep Action Refreshing Gel Cleanser, Oil-Free
  • Deep Cleaning Astringent
  • Deep Cleaning Astringent, Sensitive Skin
  • Deep Action Exfoliating Scrub

Let’s start with the product that is almost usable. Deep Action Exfoliating Scrub might be OK for non-sensitive skin if it did not contain menthol, but like we said, menthol causes redness and irritation in most skin types.

Deep Cleaning Astringent for Sensitive Skin also might not be all that bad except for the fact that the alkali in the soap cancels out the exfoliant ability of the salicylic acid added to the product. The product is at least not harmful to the skin. Deep Cleaning Astringent also has salicylic acid in a high-pH product that  neutralizes it, along with alcohol that can dry out the skin.

The remaining products in this group all contain so much menthol (or menthol derivatives) that they can inflame the skin. If you use them, you will certainly notice irritation.

If you are hoping to use an astringent, we have a better choice. We like the Exposed Skincare Clearing Tonic, a powerful facial toner that rebalances the skin. The key ingredient here is azelaic acid, which prevents bacteria and redness. This Clearing Tonic absorbs impurities, prevents blackheads and whiteheads, and protects the skin. Bonus: It doesn’t contain skin-irritating parabens, sulfates or synthetic fragrances.

Clean & Clear Advantage Invisible Acne Patch

At first glance, Clean & Clear Advantage Invisible Acne Patch seems like a great way to zap a zit, especially on oily skin. The tiny patch contains just a dab of salicylic acid, enough to stop inflammation and remove redness overnight. The problem is that the patch not only contains salicylic acid that removes redness, it also contains cinnamon oil that can cause redness. If you are allergic to cinnamon, definitely do not use this product.

Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Cleanser

The Advantage Acne Cleanser contains the important skin care ingredient salicylic acid, in a mixture of ingredients that neutralize it. Even if the product had been formulated to maintain salicylic acid at the pH that helps it break up hardened oils in clogged pores, this important skin care ingredient would only stay on the face a few seconds before it was washed away. Plus, this product uses sodium olefin sulfonate for its main cleansing ingredient. Sodium olefin sulfonate dries out even oily skin, making it wrinkle, but usually leaving oil in pores.

Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment

Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment is gel used to zap zits individually. The problem with the treatment is that it is mostly made of alcohol, which dries out the skin. The alcohol can kill acne bacteria on the surface of the skin, but the drying action of the alcohol may trap other acne bacteria inside pores.

For a spot treatment, we have a few other recommendations that actually work.

  • Acne Treatment Serum: This serum contains 3.5% benzoyl peroxide, penetrating deep into pores to kill acne bacteria.  This serum is powerful without being too harsh. Use this in the morning after cleansing and toning.
  • Clear Pore Serum: This lightweight gel serum uses 1% salicylic acid to unclog and shrink pores, clarify and balance the skin and help reduce dark spots. Use this in the evening before you go to bed to wake up to brighter skin.
  • Clarifying Mask: Yes, this is meant to be a facial mask used once or twice a week, but we also love it as a spot treatment. It’s made of 3% sulfur, plus resorcinol, active charcoal and bentonite. These ingredients absorb excess oil, detoxify and rebalance—perfect to spot-treat blackheads.

Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control Kit

Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control Kit looks like a bargain with its US $20 price tag. The problem with the Acne Control Kit is that it contains all of the skin-irritant ingredients mentioned above, and a few more. Like many, many kit products, it is designed to give you just enough improvement in your skin to keep you using it. It won’t “get the red out,” and the harsh, irritant chemicals will cause new whiteheads to break out just as soon as pimples heal.

If you like the convenience of a kit, then you need to try Exposed Skincare’s pre-made kits. These kits make it really easy to stick to a consistent, proven skincare routine, and the prices fit any budget. The kits are cost-effective, especially if you become a member.

We recommend Exposed Skincare a lot because they are the only product line that we’ve reviewed that achieves consistent results. Here are a couple of the pros of Exposed Skincare:

  • The brand uses lower levels of acne-fighting actives, meaning you aren’t destroying your skin while trying to fight acne.
  • Exposed products are SLS- and paraben-free, use naturally-sourced ingredients and are made in North America.
  • The company offers a money-back guarantee. You can return your kit within a year and get your money back, which is almost unheard of in the skincare industry.
  • We’ve seen the results. Click here to see some before-and-after photos of Exposed users.
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