Aveeno's Clear Complexion Daily Cleansing Pads have gotten a formulary revamp since the last time we reviewed them; unfortunately, the changes don't amount to upgrades!
These pads, which come in a tub of 28, are designed to cleanse and exfoliate oily and acne-prone skin, but they simply don't quite have the goods to deliver in that regard.
For starters, this contains a relatively low amount (0.6%) of salicylic acid. While salicylic acid is the gold standard for reducing acne breakouts, it works far better when the concentration is at least 1% but 2% is really best. The pH of this product is also on the high side to be as effective as it could be, so even if there were more salicylic acid present, it wouldn't make this a great product.
The issues above aren't the only problems these pads present: The solution they're soaked in contains sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, which is a very drying cleansing agent, more so than other options, and drying out skin isn't good for acne (or skin in general, for that matter). This also contains fragrance, which can trigger irritation that in turn encourages more acne breakouts, not fewer.
Another disappointment is that even though this is a leave on product, the pads produce a copious amount of foam and leave a sticky residue behind. That's not good, especially considering there are no instructions to rinse after using them (but salicylic acid works best when left on skin so we aren't recommending rinsing—actually we're not recommending this product at all). There are far better anti-acne solutions on our list of Best Acne & Blemish Treatments.
Note: This product claims to be noncomedegenic, which means it doesn't clog pores. That's largely a marketing term (there is no accepted scientific definition of what it means), so it's not a reliable way to shop for products that won't cause breakouts.
Strengths: A few good cleansers and sunscreen products; fantastic Skin Relief Healing Ointment and soothing bath wash products; a handful of well-formulated baby-care products.
Weaknesses: Well-intentioned but ineffective anti-acne products; reliance on a single showcased ingredient (typically soy) that makes their anti-aging products less enticing than the competition; ineffective products to address hyperpigmentation; formulas packaged in a jar won’t remain stable.
Beginning with its first product in 1945, Soothing Bath Treatment, still sold today as part of the company's Baby line of products, Aveeno has prided itself on using natural ingredients. In some ways, they were a pioneer in the field, though for years the only natural ingredient of note in their products was oatmeal. Consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson purchased the brand in 1999, and wasted almost no time expanding it. A handful of bar cleansers and bath products were spun off into complete collections of facial-care products and an ever-growing number of body lotions and washes, not to mention shaving gels (Aveeno is one of the few companies whose shaving gels are truly fragrance-free).
Not surprisingly, many of the facial-care products from Aveeno are similar to those from Johnson & Johnson–owned Neutrogena. The differences typically lie in the natural ingredients each brand promotes. A cornerstone ingredient for Aveeno is soy, while Neutrogena has experimented (with varying degrees of success) with copper, retinol, salicylic acid, and melibiose. Overall, Neutrogena has a much larger and more comprehensive selection of products, though their formulas are also more problematic. Aveeno would do well to diversify a bit, or at least acknowledge that it takes more than a single star ingredient to provide superior skin-care products. As is, most of their anti-wrinkle products don't compete favorably with the more well-rounded options, not just from Neutrogena but also from Olay, Dove, and, in some respects, L'Oreal.
Getting back to the issue of soy, you'll see from the reviews it is indeed a helpful ingredient for skin—just not in the same multifaceted, does-everything manner Aveeno touts on each soy-containing product's package. A big proponent for Aveeno's use of soy is dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf. She is quoted on Aveeno's web site, stating that "It is now clear that the ability of natural soy to deliver multiple benefits to skin plays a lead role in high performance skin care." That sounds great but it doesn't explain why Aveeno ignores research on countless other antioxidants, skin-identical ingredients, or cell-communicating ingredients, all elements Dr. Graf uses in her separate, namesake product line. Interestingly, with Graf's own products relying on a blend of efficacious ingredients, including soy, it's a good question why she decided to endorse Aveeno's one-note soy products.
The bottom line is that when it comes to shopping for skin-care products at the drugstore, Aveeno, for all its talk of being a leader in "Active Naturals," doesn't have the all-inclusive product assortment needed to take the best possible care of your skin. However, paying attention to their top offerings is time (and money) well-spent!
For more information about Aveeno, owned by Johnson & Johnson, call (866) 428-3366 or visit www.aveeno.com.
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