Will Clean & Clear Really Clean And Clear Your Acne Blemishes?
After reviewing the labels on Johnson & Johnson’s Clean & Clear products for acne, I was prepared to write a scathing review. But I accidentally picked up the wrong product when I went to the cosmetics counter and came home with a tube of Clean & Clear, so I tried it myself.
To my considerable surprise, Clean & Clear worked. It worked literally overnight. Since I have to be honest about what I know really works, I took a second look at the Clean & Clear product line and I think I’ve figured out why these products really work. And that’s a great thing, because Clean & Clear is one of the most affordable brands of acne care products you can find in the USA and Canada. Let’s take another look at their bestselling brands.
- Clean & Clear Mark Remover can literally get results overnight.
- Clean & Clear Acne Spot Treatment is one of the few treatments that will work on blackheads as well as pimples.
- Some Clean & Clear products aren’t advisable if you have dry or allergy-prone skin.
- For a comprehensive approach to acne skin care, try Exposed Skin Care.
The Clean & Clear Product That Worked For Me
By the time you are 56 years old, you aren’t supposed to get acne any more. I usually don’t. But once or twice a year I get whitehead or a blackhead and every year or two I get a pimple. When I do, I can treat them easily with moisturizer (to help a whitehead or blackhead pop right out on its own) or benzoyl peroxide (to stop the bacteria in a pimple). But because I live in an especially hot and sunny climate, I get brown spots that last a lot longer than blemishes.
A few days ago I accidentally picked up a tube of Clean & Clear Advantage Mark Treatment. It’s usually US $6.49 but it rang up as $4.99 at the cash register. This product contains 2% salicylic acid at a pH of 3. That is the right amount of salicylic acid1 at the right pH to gently lift and remove the top few layers of cells on pigmented skin. Because the product is made with salicylic acid instead of glycolic acid, it is good for treating red marks on the skin as well as brown marks left behind2 when acne-prone skin is exposed to the sun.
I dabbed a little bit of the mark treatment on some spots that have been on my face for about two months. I had a couple of blackheads that were easy to treat, but the day I treated them I also took a stroll down to the market in the afternoon heat.
That particular day it wasn’t just hot. The sun was so bright and strong that it literally hurt to go out in it. The air temperature was just at our all-time record high, 112° F/56° C but the temperature of exposed skin was about 165° F/73° C. That’s hot enough literally to cook your skin if you can’t sweat.
I don’t have the kind of skin that burns, so I wasn’t red when I got back from the store. But the next morning I had several brown blotches on my face where I had had the blackheads.
Fast forward two months to my accidental purchase of Clean & Clear. I still had the brown spots on the side of my face, so I decided to dab on a little Clean & Clear before I went to bed and see what happened. The next morning I looked in the mirror and they were gone.
I’ve never used any product that worked that well. I can say with absolute confidence that if you are a 56-year-old man who has olive skin tones and very mild acne Clean & Clear is the mark remover for you. And this is probably true for a lot of people who (1) are a lot younger or older than their mid-50’s, (2) have skin tones other than olive and (3) aren’t men.
The Pluses And Minuses Of Clean & Clear
I happen to have especially resistant skin. I could tour (and have toured) a sulfuric acid factory or a steel mill and not break out. But not everybody’s skin is resistant.
If you have allergy-prone or chemical-sensitive skin, the alcohol and witch hazel extract in Clean & Clear Advantage Mark Remover might be a little too much for you. The salicylic acid will still get rid of existing pigmentation, but the alcohol and witch hazel can cause new inflammation. You aren’t going to get any new blemishes that are worse than the ones you have now as long as you use the product as a spot treatment, but it’s not impossible that you would create new spots as you clear up old ones if you have sensitive skin and you don’t use sunscreen when you are using Clean & Clear’s mark remover. Some Clean & Clear products, however, are safe even if you have sensitive skin.
Safe Clean & Clear Products For Sensitive Skin
Clean & Clear makes a moisturizer that is great for sensitive skin unless you happen to be allergic to cinnamon3. The Advantage Acne Control Moisturizer Oil-Free contains just enough salicylic acid that it can break up the “glue” that holds hardened sebum in pores, but it also contains a good moisturizer that can keep the skin soft and supple. The product helps give your skin an even matte, or finish, so that rough spots are not noticeable and scars are not as prominent.
The Clean & Clear Acne Advantage Spot Treatment is also useful for all types of skin. It’s based on salicylic acid instead of benzoyl peroxide, so it works better on blackheads instead of pimples, although it can also stimulate the healing of pimples4. Again, if you have an allergy to cinnamon, you should not use this product, but it’s one of just a few acne spot treatments that you can use to get rid of blackheads without popping or squeezing.
Unfortunately, there can still be a lot of problems with other Clean & Clear products, especially if you have sensitive or oily skin. Most of them contain ingredients that can irritate or dry out the skin, and the skin repairs itself by making more sebum5 that clogs more pores. However, I’ll be testing them all systematically, and if I happen to be wrong about them, I’ll let you know through this site’s blog.
- Zheng Y., Yin S., Xia Y., Chen J., Ye C., Zeng Q., Lai W. Efficacy and safety of 2% supramolecular salicylic acid compared with 5% benzoyl peroxide/0.1% adapalene in the acne treatment: a randomized, split-face, open-label, single-center study. Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology. 2019;38(1):48-54.
- Arif T. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: A comprehensive review. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology. 2015;8:445-461.
- Isaac-Renton M., Li MK, Parsons LM. Cinnamon spice and everything not nice: many features of intraoral allergy to cinnamic aldehyde. Dermatitis. 2015;26(3):116-121.
- Zander E., Weisman S. Treatment of acne vulgaris with salicylic acid pads. Clinical Therapeutics. 1992;14(2):247-253.
- Pappas A., Johnsen S., Liu J.C., Eisinger M. Sebum analysis of individuals with and without acne. DermatoEndocrinology. 2009;1(3):157-161.
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