Clearasil: Clear Skin or Compromised Moisture Barrier?
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Clearasil produces inexpensive and easily accessible acne treatments, but are they really effective acne treatments?
Clearasil is one of the best known names in acne care. Clearasil was the most popular acne care product in the 50s, 60s and 70s. In fact, it was the only acne care product for decades before other treatments reached the market.
If you've got acne it's pretty likely that if you've never used it, you've at least heard of it.
I used Clearasil wipes for years even when my skin was clear, just because it was super "effective" at cleansing dirt off my skin. However, I never really compared it to anything else - and I'm sure a gentle cleanser would have done just as good of a job. However, there's something satisfying in using a wipe and seeing all the dirt it pulls off of your face. That's probably why I liked them so much and used them for so long.
Regardless, I stopped using Clearasil products and products like Clearasil years ago. Let me tell you why.
While skin care products need to be thoroughly evaluated on a case-by-case basis, I am going to speak mostly generally about Clearasil products as a whole. You can evaluate each product for your own use if needed.
I have a lot of issues with Clearasil, so let me lay them out for you here.
1. Clearasil products are made to "smell good" so that there is a lot of consumer appeal. People tend to be extremely caught up with the scent of things, and if it doesn't smell like sunflowers and daisies people are completely turned off. The problem is that fragrances can irritate the skin, synthetic or otherwise. When people buy products for their scent appeal they're usually buying products with damaging and irritating ingredients.
2. Many of Clearasil's creams and leave-on products famously contain benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide has been used for a long time in acne skin care products because it is effective at killing acne-causing bacteria, and it doesn't induce a bacterial resistance like antibiotics do. This makes it a viable alternative. However, BPO is equally effective at concentrations of 2.5, 5.0 and 10%. However, a concentration-dependent irritant dermatitis can occur with higher concentrations, and Clearasil products generally contain a 10% concentration of BPO. This is why Clearasil products often cause irritation that results in itching, peeling, burning and stinging.
Not to mention, bacteria is seldom the problem for people with acne. While acne-causing bacteria are generally always present on everyone's face (even people without acne), its presence itself isn't a problem - it's when our sebum is the right composition to feed those bacteria, when we have hyperkeratinization and inflammation that trap bacteria, etc. that it becomes a problem. So benzoyl peroxide may be drying and damaging to your skin, while not really doing anything beneficial for it, anyway. Benzoyl peroxide may effectively clear some people's skin, but once you stop using the product the acne should come right back. This is because benzoyl peroxide is only treating the symptom, not the problem.
And, to add further insult to injury, benzoyl peroxide has also been shown to reduce antioxidant status. We need antioxidants in our bodies and on our skin to protect it and keep it healthy - and when we use products that reduce antioxidants, especially when we already have a state of oxidative stress or damage, we aren't doing our skin any favours.
In conclusion, if you find benzoyl peroxide works for you, opt for the lower concentrations of 2.5% or 5%, and consider using it in conjunction with topical antioxidants.
3. Clearasil Pore Cleansing Pads also use sodium hydroxide (lye) as an ingredient to remove dirt and makeup (which is why mine worked so well at getting the crud off my skin), which just so happens to be a very strong alkaline. Our skin is slightly acidic, roughly a 4.5-6.5 (although generally healthy skin is closer to a 4.5), and applying alkaline products to our skin can not only damage the moisture barrier, but it can result in more acne. For more information on this, check out my video here. This product also contains alcohol and menthol in high enough concentrations to further irritate skin, and over-dry it. This results in parched and damaged skin that may end up producing more sebum.
4. Some of their products may even burn the skin with a very low (acidic) pH. In this video I explain why pH matters, and how products that have too low of a pH can actually burn your skin.
It's for these reasons that I would avoid Clearasil products. There are better options for your skin, options that won't dry out and damage your moisture barrier. Clearasil products may be "geared" toward oily, acne-prone skin because of how drying their products are; however, the solution to oily skin is not to dry your skin out with topical products, as this can further exacerbate our oily skin (oily skin can be damaged, too!). Sensitive skin, oily skin - whatever your skin - there are better options for you.
For just a little bit of extra effort and money, you can get gentle and effective products that won't dry your skin out or damage it. In the long run, isn't that worth it?