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Does Sensiclear Really Clear Acne?

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

Sensiclear is an acne treatment that promises to clear up blemishes in three sensible steps with three separate products.

Sensiclear acne treatment
Unfortunately, the salicylic acid in SensiClear is in the wrong form to help acne-prone skin.


  • Sensiclear is a product that promises to remove up to “200%” of acne blemishes, presumably removing blemishes you didn’t even have.
  • The method of using Sensiclear is a sensible program of cleansing, toning, and spot treatment.
  • The active ingredient in Sensiclear is salicylic acid, which is useful for breaking up dead skin that blocks pores1 —when it is used in the right concentration.
  • The problem with Sensiclear is that all it offers is salicylic acid (plus a stabilizer for vitamin A that it, oddly, does not include in its formulas), and the salicylic acid is in the wrong form to help acne-prone skin.
  • People who have chin acne may actually look worse after using Sensiclear because it contains sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • A more effective and less expensive approach to acne care is Exposed Skin Care.

The Sensiclear Products

Sensiclear provides a purifying cleanser. It gently removes excess oil and makeup and loosens skin debris so they can be rinsed off the skin with warm water.

The second Sensiclear product is a balancing toner. Applied with a cotton ball, this treatment reaches into pores to remove mats of dead skin that can keep oil and acne bacteria from flowing to the surface.

The third Sensiclear product is a “blemish-free acne lotion.” It is used not just on the face but also on the neck and back and other blemish-prone skin. It’s meant to be left on the skin for at least several hours, and may be applied up to three times a day.

How well does Sensiclear work? The makers of Sensiclear claim that their tests show that the product:

  • Removed 50% more whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples than Proactiv during the first three days of use,
  • Reduced the number of acne lesions by 70% in 28 days,
  • Increased skin brightness by 92% in 28 days, and
  • Reduced skin redness by 200% “just 28 days,” which seems to imply that Sensiclear can eliminate more redness than is even on the skin.

Maybe it relieves redness from the skin of your friends and family members. It’s hard to interpret that last claim. And the company also claims in its FAQ that users have 200% fewer blackheads (presumably a negative number of blackheads) when they use Sensiclear. But let’s take a look at the other advertising claims made for Sensiclear.

Removing Acne Fast

One of the key claims for Sensiclear is that it removes 50% more acne in the “critical first three days” than the competing product Proactiv. However, the makers of Sensiclear also warn that their product can “purge” the skin of impurities and cause even worse breakouts after 7 to 10 days of use.

“Anytime you begin a new acne regimen, you may experience a purging of your pores. This is a natural process whereby the acne causing impurities in your skin rise to the surface and are released from your pores causing an increase in breakouts. This process can take 7-10 days and should not be painful or accompanied by cystic flare ups. Once the purging process is complete, you will be on your way to a healthy, radiant, acne-free complexion with continued use of SensiClear.”

So which is it, fewer blemishes in 3 days or more in 7 to 10? There aren’t any scientific studies of Sensiclear so there is no way to know for sure, but there is a great deal of information about one of its main ingredients, salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid, if it’s used in the right concentration and at the right pH, breaks up the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together2. An overabundance of skin cell production in the lining of pores is what causes acne in the first place. As these cells eventually die, they stick together and clog skin pores. Salicylic acid breaks up the proteins that cause them to adhere to each other and allows them to be more easily cleansed away.

There’s nothing about salicylic acid that causes breakouts of acne. If you use too much, however, you can have an allergic reaction3 (which will cause general redness but not pimples) or your skin might try to repair itself by making additional sebum (which will cause new whiteheads but not blackheads or pimples). If you really do break out in new pimples within two weeks of starting an acne treatment, it’s not working for you!

The Secret Ingredient In Sensiclear

Sensiclear says that its treatment is better than the dozens of other less expensive products that use salicylic acid because of the addition of Retextra, which it identifies as “Hydroxyanasatil Retinoate” and for which it claims to have a patent pending. There is not any chemical by that name, although this name would be an out-of-date way of identifying a real chemical called butylated hydroxyanisole. This chemical is added to vitamin creams and retinol to keep them from oxidizing4 when the container is opened. It really can’t preserve vitamin A in products that don’t contain vitamin A.

While the application of butylated hydroxyanisole isn’t unique to Sensiclear, it is possible that the company uses it in a unique amount in the product. Perhaps the company is seeking to patent the use of a vitamin A stabilizer in a product that doesn’t contain any vitamin A. But isn’t it odd that the important active ingredient in an “all-natural” skin care product is a synthetic chemical? And this isn’t the only chemical in Sensiclear.

Taking A Closer Look At The Lists Of Ingredients

Sensiclear’s cleanser, the list of ingredients on the label tells us, is made with sodium lauryl sulfate, also known as SLS. While many people do not react to SLS, up to 80% of adult women who have acne around the mouth or on the skin can clear up their blemishes just by avoiding all products that contain the chemical. Additionally, a study shows5 that younger adults are more prone to SLS-induced irritation in the face. For many people who have acne, the Sensiclear cleanser is as likely to cause acne (in the form of small red pimples) as it is to stop it.

The main ingredient in Sensiclear’s toner is salicylic acid. The problem with using salicylic acid in a toner is that you rinse it off your skin almost as fast as you put it on your skin. Salicylic acid needs several hours to work well. You’d do a lot better with a $5 product like Johnson & Johnson Clean & Clear Acne Mark Remover than with this product.

The spot treatment for Sensiclear consists primarily of yet more salicylic acid. The company proudly advertises that its products do not contain benzoyl peroxide—which actually can irritate the skin6 —but neither does it contain any other ingredient that can fight acne bacteria. There’s nothing in Sensiclear that does more for fighting acne bacteria than treating your skin with nothing at all.

And if your choices for acne treatment are Sensiclear and nothing at all, you are probably better off going with nothing at all. For a systematic acne treatment system that makes sense, however, you are better off with Exposed Skin Care.


  1. What can treat large facial pores?. American Academy of Dermatology (Website). Accessed 2019.
  2. Arif T. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: A comprehensive review. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology. 2015;8:445-461.
  3. Zander E., Weisman S. Treatment of acne vulgaris with salicylic acid pads. Clinical Therapeutics. 1992;14(2):247-253.
  4. Verhagen H., Schilderman P.A., Kleinjans J.C. Butylated hydroxyanisole in perspective. Chemico-Biological Interactions. 1991;80(2):109-134.
  5. Marrakchi S., Maibach H.I. Sodium lauryl sulfate-induced irritation in the human face: Regional and age-related differences. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. 2006;19(3):177-180.
  6. Sagransky M., Yentzer B.A., Feldman S.R. Benzoyl peroxide: A review of its current use in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy. 2009;10(15):2555-2562.
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