Dermalogica Retinol Clearing Oil


Retinol Clearing Oil

1.00 fl. oz. for $ 80.00
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The concept behind Dermalogica’s Retinol Clearing Oil is an intriguing one, but the formula has a few flaws that make it an iffy choice. We’ll start with the highs and low of the “superstar” ingredients…

The form of retinol being used here is retinyl propionate, which is a derivative of pure retinol. Although, the research behind it isn’t as solid as pure retinol, a couple of studies point to noticeable results for improvement in wrinkles, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation—all with minimal irritation. That said, more research needs to be conducted to make a concrete assessment, but so far, this appears to be a promising ingredient.

The other superstar ingredient, salicylic acid, gives Dermalogica the ability (legally) to make claims about this formula being able to clear acne breakouts. However, because this is a waterless formula, it’s impossible to establish pH, which is a crucial formulary measure for creating an effective salicylic acid product that can work it’s pore-exfoliating magic to reduce pimples. That doesn’t mean that there’s zero chance this product can help with breakouts—the retinyl propionate may actually be able to help with that, but we just don’t know how much so without more solid research.

As far as the oils that Dermalogica highlights (rosehip, jojoba, and argan), those are beneficial for soothing skin while adding emollience to offset dryness. Each offers antioxidant properties as well, and in a smart move, the opaque packaging with dropper dispenser helps keep the formula stable.

The oil consistency of this product isn’t normally what we’d gravitate toward for breakout-prone skin, but if you have dry skin + acne, this could possibly strike a nice balance. Unfortunately, lower down on the ingredient list things take a turn for the worse with the inclusion of potential irritants tanacetum annuum flower oil (also known as blue tansy oil) and sclareolide. Both have volatile fragrant components that put skin at risk of inflammation that can make breakouts worse (see More Info for the research-backed explanation).

Ultimately Retinol Clearing Oil turns out to be an iffy solution, and there’s really no need to put your skin through the gamble when there are plenty of other effective retinol products and skin-clearing treatments without the needless irritation.

  • Retinyl propionate shows promise for tackling signs of aging.
  • Rosehip, jojoba, and argan oils are soothing antioxidants that help offset dryness.
  • Opaque packaging with dropper dispenser helps keep the formula stable.
  • Questionable efficacy for salicylic acid’s acne-fighting capability since pH cannot be established.
  • Inclusion of potential skin irritants may actually make breakouts worse.

More Info:

Not being gentle to skin can increase oily skin & breakouts: Using harsh, irritating ingredients is a serious problem for all skin types, especially for those with oily, combination, and acne-prone skin.

Research has clearly established that when skin is irritated, the oil gland at the base of each pore is stimulated to make more oil, creating a perfect environment for breakouts, white bumps, and clogged pores to get worse.

Using a product that is gentle and completely non-irritating is without question the only approach to taking the best care of your skin; doing otherwise hurts your skin—this is true even if you cannot see or feel the damage taking place.

It is also vitally important to use products that research has shown are beneficial for oily skin, clogged pores, and breakouts. The gold standard over-the-counter ingredients for these concerns are salicylic acid (BHA) and benzoyl peroxide.

References for this information:
Journal of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology, January 2016, pages 25–30
Journal of European Dermatology and Venerology, May 2014, pages 527–532
Journal of Dermatology, May 2012, pages 433–438
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, April 2011, pages 41–53
Dermato-Endocrinology, January-March 2011, pages 41–49
Experimental Dermatology, October 2009, pages 821–832
Journal of the American Medical Association, August 2004, page 764
Dermatology, January 2003, pages 17–23
European Journal of Dermatology, September-October 2002, pages 422–427

Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No

High-performance night oil combines Retinol and breakout-clearing Salicylic Acid into one skin-soothing formula. Time-released Retinol helps reduce visible signs of premature aging. Salicylic Acid helps clear breakouts. Argan, Rosehip Seed and Golden Jojoba oils actively nourish skin.

Active: Salicylic Acid (2%). Other: Coconut Alkanes, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, C13-15 Alkane, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Isopropyl Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Retinyl Propionate, Butyl Avocadate, Phenylethyl Resorcinol, Tanacetum Annuum Flower Oil, Sclareolide, Triolein, Cetyl Alcohol, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Tocopherol, BHT, Propyl Gallate.

Dermalogica At-A-Glance

According to company history, Dermalogica products came into being because founder Jane Wurwand could not find a spa-oriented skin-care line that met her criteria. She was dismayed that so many skincare lines aimed at the aesthetics market had products that contained alcohol, artificial colors, fragrance, mineral oil, and lanolin, ingredients he believed had a well-documented history of problems. That's true for fragrance and alcohol (and artificial colors to a lesser extent), but mineral oil and lanolin have no documented history of causing skin problems.

The line is positioned as a no-nonsense, no frills take on skincare, with clinically-inspired packaging that does protect its beneficial ingredients from light and air. Speaking of ingredients, Dermalogica does include a lot of beneficial ones in its skincare, though there are a number of formulas in the line that also make the misstep of including potentially-irritating fragrance ingredients.

For more information about Dermalogica now owned by Unilever, call 1-800-345-2761 or visit

About the Experts

The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.

Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.

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