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Clinique Acne Solutions™ Cleansing Gel

Acne Solutions™ Cleansing Gel

This medicated, oil-free foaming cleansing gel with salicylic acid helps clear breakouts and blackheads. It unclogs pores and helps control oil, leaving skin feeling fresh, soft, calm, and smooth. It also comforts and soothes blemish-prone skin with evening primrose and caffeine.
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Clinique Acne Solutions™ Cleansing Gel
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

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Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying. 

One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time. 

Glycerin - superstar
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant, perfuming, solvent, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • A super common, safe, effective and cheap molecule used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but knows much more: keeps the skin lipids between our skin cells in a healthy (liquid crystal) state, protects against irritation, helps to restore barrier
  • Effective from as low as 3% with even more benefits at higher concentrations up to 20-40% (around 10% is a good usability-effectiveness sweet spot)
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

Also-called: SLES | What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing, emulsifying

It’s probably the most common cleansing ingredient of all. It’s usually the Chief Bubble Officer responsible for big bubbles in cleansing products through the foam it creates is a bit airy and loose and not as dense and luxurious as the foam created by infamous SLS

As for mildness, it goes somewhere in the middle. It’s often confused with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), but they are absolutely not the same. The SLES molecule has a bigger water-soluble head part that makes it milder and much less irritating. It is considered absolutely ok in the amount used in cosmetic products, though if you are looking for a mild facial cleanser, you have better chances with a formula without SLES. For an average shower gel? SLES works just fine.  

Also-called: Salt | What-it-does: viscosity controlling

Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt

If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. The reason for this is that salt acts as a fantastic thickener in cleansing formulas created with ionic cleansing agents (aka surfactants) such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate. A couple of percents (typically 1-3%) turns a runny surfactant solution into a nice gel texture.

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If you are into chemistry (if not, we understand, just skip this paragraph), the reason is that electrolytes (you know, the Na+ and Cl- ions) screen the electrostatic repulsion between the head groups of ionic surfactants and thus support the formation of long shaped micelles (instead of spherical ones) that entangle like spaghetti, and viola, a gel is formed. However, too much of it causes the phenomenon called "salting out", and the surfactant solution goes runny again. 

Other than that, salt also works as an emulsion stabilizer in water-in-oil emulsions, that is when water droplets are dispersed in the outer oil (or silicone) phase. And last but not least, when salt is right at the first spot of the ingredient list (and is not dissolved), the product is usually a body scrub where salt is the physical exfoliating agent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Butylene glycol, or let’s just call it BG, is a multi-tasking colorless, syrupy liquid. It’s a great pick for creating a nice feeling product.  

BG’s main job is usually to be a solvent for the other ingredients. Other tasks include helping the product to absorb faster and deeper into the skin (penetration enhancer), making the product spread nicely over the skin (slip agent), and attracting water (humectant) into the skin.

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It’s an ingredient whose safety hasn’t been questioned so far by anyone (at least not that we know about). BG is approved by Ecocert and is also used enthusiastically in natural products. BTW, it’s also a food additive. 

Sucrose - goodie

A type fo sugar, usually refined from cane or beet sugar. On the skin, it has water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

The extract coming from Laminaria Saccharina, a brown algae. According to manufacturer info, it's loaded with a bunch of good-for-the-skin thingsalginates are polysaccharides (a big molecule from repeating sugar units) that are water-loving and can form a protective film on the skin. This means moisturizing, skin protecting and soothing magic properties.

The extract also contains another polysaccharide called laminarin, that has decongestant and lipid-reducing action that might be useful for combination, acne-prone skin types.

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The third major type of actives in the Laminaria Saccharina Extract are phenolic compounds that have antioxidant and soothing properties. They can also trap heavy metal ions, and give sensitive skin some protection against polluted urban air.

Caffeine - goodie
What-it-does: antioxidant, perfuming

Hello, our favorite molecule that helps us wake up in the morning and then keeps us going through the day. As a super well-known stimulant from coffee, tea and plenty of other soft drinks, Caffeine needs no introduction. So we will skip right to the part where we talk about what the hell it does in so-so many cosmetic products.

Looking at the research, we were surprised to find how versatile Caffeine is. It is a small, water-loving molecule with pretty good skin penetration abilties. Once in the skin, it has nice antioxidant properties, meaning that it reduces the formation of evil free radicals and it might even be useful in preventing UV-induced skin cancers. 

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A well-known thing about Caffeine is that it improves the microcirculation of the blood vessels. Though conventional wisdom and anecdotal evidence says that this property is helpful for dark under-eye circles and puffy eyes, we have to mention that the double-blind research we have found about a 3% caffeine gel concluded that "the overall efficacy of the selected caffeine gel in reducing puffy eyes was not significantly different from that of its gel base."  But you know, the proof is in the pudding.

Another thing Caffeine is used for in body care products is its anti-cellulite effects. In theory, it can speed up the lipolysis process (the "fat burning"  by our cells) and stimulate the draining lymph system that might lead to the improvement of cellulite. But here again, the evidence that it actually makes a measurable, let alone visible,  improvement on actual human beings is limited (we could find only some animal skin studies or caffeine being combined with other actives). 

Last, but not least, we have to write about caffeine and hair growth. The theory is that it can inhibit the activity of the 5-α-reductase enzyme that plays an important role in hair loss and allows a renewed growth phase of the hair. We have found some recent and promising research to back this up. A 2017 study compared a 0.2% caffeine liquid with a 5% Minoxidil  (an FDA approved active to treat baldness) solution and found that  "a caffeine-based topical liquid should be considered as not inferior to minoxidil 5% solution in men with androgenetic alopecia", or English translation means that the caffeine liquid was pretty much as good as the FDA-approved Minoxidil stuff. Not bad!

Overall, we think that caffeine is a very versatile and biologically active ingredient. Even though some of its effects are more hyped up than backed up, it is still a nice to have on many ingredient lists. 

What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMFhyaluronic acid (HA). If HA does not tell you anything we have a super detailed, geeky explanation about it here.  The TL; DR version of HA is that it's a huge polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) found in the skin that acts as a sponge helping the skin to hold onto water, being plump and elastic. HA is famous for its crazy water holding capacity as it can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water.

As far as skincare goes, sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid are pretty much the same and the two names are used interchangeably. As cosmetic chemist kindofstephen writes on reddit  "sodium hyaluronate disassociates into hyaluronic acid molecule and a sodium atom in solution". 

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In spite of this, if you search for "hyaluronic acid vs sodium hyaluronate" you will find on multiple places that sodium hyaluronate is smaller and can penetrate the skin better. Chemically, this is definitely not true, as the two forms are almost the same, both are polymers and the subunits can be repeated in both forms as much as you like. (We also checked Prospector for sodium hyaluronate versions actually used in cosmetic products and found that the most common molecular weight was 1.5-1.8 million Da that absolutely counts as high molecular weight).

What seems to be a true difference, though, is that the salt form is more stable, easier to formulate and cheaper so it pops up more often on the ingredient lists. 

If you wanna become a real HA-and-the-skin expert you can read way more about the topic at hyaluronic acid (including penetration-questions, differences between high and low molecular weight versions and a bunch of references to scientific literature).

An amino acid sugar that can be found in the skin and does there good and important things. One of them is that it's a precursor for the biosynthesis of superstar moisturizer, hyaluronic acid. So acetyl glucosamine itself is also an important skin-identical ingredient and natural moisturizing factor.

But that is not all, acetyl glucosamine has two other great properties proved by double-blind clinical trials. First, it's a promising ingredient against wrinkles:  2% can improve wrinkles, particularly in the eye area.

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Second, the same amount can also fade - always stubborn - brown spots. (Do not expect magic, though - the photos from the study show the difference after 8 weeks of daily use. The difference is visible, but not that big. It's always good to have realistic expectations. :))  Combined with skincare superstar niacinamide the duo is synergistic and is more effective at improving hyperpigmentation, so if you are after the skin-lightening benefit look out for products that contain both. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Sulisobenzone | What-it-does: sunscreen

A water-soluble, chemical sunscreen agent that is a secondary UVB absorber with some activity in the short UVA range as well. Being a secondary UV absorber means that its protection is weak and it has to be combined with other sunscreen filters for proper sun protection. 

More often than not, Benzophenone-4 is not used as a sunscreen agent but as a photoprotectant to extend product shelf life, or as a color-protectant for products in clear packages. 

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A Contact Dermatitis article from 2007 names BP-4 as an emerging allergen, as it was the most frequently positive chemical UV filter and third most frequently positive ingredient overall among the 35 substances patch tested in the study (13 positives of 1693 people tested).

Also-called: lye | What-it-does: buffering

The unfancy name for it is lye. It’s a solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amounts to adjust the pH of the product and make it just right. 

For example, in case of AHA or BHA exfoliants, the right pH is super-duper important, and pH adjusters like sodium hydroxide are needed.  

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BTW, lye is not something new. It was already used by ancient Egyptians to help oil and fat magically turn into something else. Can you guess what? Yes, it’s soap. It still often shows up in the ingredient list of soaps and other cleansers.

Sodium hydroxide in itself is a potent skin irritant, but once it's reacted (as it is usually in skin care products, like exfoliants) it is totally harmless.

What-it-does: chelating

An abbreviation that pops up on a lot of ingredient lists. It stands for EthyleneDiamineTetraacetic Acid and it's a famous molecule for being an excellent chelating agent, i.e. a molecule that can bind to metal ions (coming usually from water) and make them harmless in a cosmetic formula. With a chelating agent, cosmetic formulas stay nice longer.

EDTA is an acid molecule and its salt versions are even more often used, such as the super common Disodium EDTA

Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

Also-called: Butylated Hydroxy Toluene | What-it-does: antioxidant, preservative

It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.

There is some controversy around BHT. It's not a new ingredient, it has been used both as a food and cosmetics additive since the 1970s. Plenty of studies tried to examine if it's a carcinogen or not. This Truth in Aging article details the situation and also writes that all these studies examine BHT when taken orally.

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As for cosmetics, the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) concluded that the amount of BHT used in cosmetic products is low (usually around 0.01-0.1%),  it does not penetrate skin far enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream and it is safe to use in cosmetics.

What-it-does: preservative

It’s pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, but even more importantly, it’s not a feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason paraben.

It’s not something new: it was introduced around 1950 and today it can be used up to 1% worldwide. It can be found in nature - in green tea - but the version used in cosmetics is synthetic. 

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Other than having a good safety profile and being quite gentle to the skin it has some other advantages too. It can be used in many types of formulations as it has great thermal stability (can be heated up to 85°C) and works on a wide range of pH levels (ph 3-10). 

It’s often used together with ethylhexylglycerin as it nicely improves the preservative activity of phenoxyethanol.

Also-called: Ci 42090 | What-it-does: colorant

CI 42090 or Blue 1 is a super common synthetic colorant in beauty & food. Used alone, it adds a brilliant smurf-like blue color, combined with Tartrazine, it gives the fifty shades of green.

You may also want to take a look at...

what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant | perfuming | solvent | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A real oldie but a goodie. Great natural moisturizer and skin-identical ingredient that plays an important role in skin hydration and general skin health. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
It’s probably the most common cleansing ingredient of all. It’s usually the Chief Bubble Officer responsible for big bubbles in cleansing products through the foam it creates is a bit airy and loose and not as dense and luxurious as the foam created by infamous SLS.  As for mildness, it goes somewhere in the middle. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt.  If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 1
An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | soothing
A type fo sugar, usually refined from cane or beet sugar. On the skin, it is water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated.
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | soothing
Brown algae extract with moisturizing, skin protecting and soothing properties. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | perfuming
The well-known stimulant from coffee. It has nice antioxidant properties and can improve the microcirculation. Might be helpful for dark circles, puffy eyes, as well as cellulite and hair loss. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's the salt form of famous humectant and natural moisturizing factor, hyaluronic acid. It can bind huge amounts of water and it's pretty much the current IT-moisturizer. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | skin brightening
An amino sugar that helps the skin to stay hydrated, is also promising against wrinkles and can help to fade brown spots particularly when combined with niacinamide. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
what‑it‑does emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 0
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A water-soluble, chemical sunscreen agent that is a secondary UVB absorber with some activity in the short UVA range as well. Being a secondary UV absorber means that its protection is weak and it has to be combined with other sunscreen filters for proper sun protection. More often than not, Benzophenone-4 is not used as a sunscreen agent but as a photoprotectant to extend product&nb [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
Lye - A solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amount to adjust the pH of the product.  [more]
what‑it‑does chelating
An abbreviation that pops up on a lot of ingredient lists. It stands for EthyleneDiamineTetraacetic Acid and it's a famous molecule for being an excellent chelating agent, i.e. a molecule that can bind to metal ions (coming usually from water) and make them harmless in a cosmetic formula. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating | viscosity controlling
Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | preservative
It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.There is some controversy around BHT. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
what‑it‑does colorant
Synthetic colorant with smurf-like blue color. [more]