CliniquePep-Start Quick Cleansing Swipes
50 towelette for $14
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Brand Overview
Expert Reviews

Pep-Start Quick Cleansing Swipes are well intentioned, the cloths themselves are sturdy, and they feel soft when massaged over skin—but a trio of irritating ingredients makes these cloths impossible to recommend.

The main problematic ingredient is denatured alcohol, which will indeed de-grease skin, but it also has a stimulating effect that can trigger more oil production at the base of pores, eventually making oily skin worse.

Even without the oil-stimulating concern, applying denatured alcohol to skin can cause a host of issues, as we explain in the More Info section. Also, this type of alcohol is definitely not recommended for use around the eyes, whereas most cleansing cloths are fine for use in this delicate area.

In addition to the alcohol, there are plant-based irritants, such as witch hazel and clary. In low amounts, these two ingredients don't present too large a risk to skin, but that risk likely increases when combined with alcohol.

On the plus side, Pep-Start Quick Cleansing Swipes remove most types of makeup and the fragrance-free formula doesn't leave a residue on skin. The formula also contains some calming plant extracts and hydrating ingredients, although the amount of alcohol is greater than the amount of almost all of those, so skin isn't gaining much.

  • Soft, sturdy cloths feel soothing on skin.
  • Contains plant-based calming and water-binding ingredients.
  • Removes most types of makeup.
  • Fragrance free.
  • The amount of alcohol poses a risk of irritation.
  • Witch hazel is an additional source of irritation.
  • Formula isn't the best for use around the eyes.
More Info:

Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: Alcohol does help ingredients like retinol and vitamin C penetrate into skin more effectively, but it does so by breaking down skin's barrier, destroying the very substances that keep your skin healthy over the long term (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 2012; Journal of Hospital Infection, 2003).

A significant amount of research shows that alcohol causes free-radical damage in skin even at low levels (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 2012). In a lab setting, low concentrations of alcohol on skin cells (about 3%; skincare products contain amounts ranging from 5% to 60% or greater) over the course of two days increased cell death by 26%. It also destroyed the substances in cells that reduce inflammation and defend against free radicals; in fact, this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If that weren't bad enough, exposure to alcohol also causes skin cells to self-destruct (Alcohol, 2002).

Research also shows that the destructive and aging effects on skin cells increases the longer skin is exposed to alcohol; for example, two days of exposure were dramatically more harmful than one day, and that's at only a 3% concentration (Alcohol, 2002).

The effect of inflammation in skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012; Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).

Last Updated:08.26.2016
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Community Reviews

Helps keep skin out of trouble by removing the excess oil, dirt and debris that can clog pores. Smooths skin through mild exfoliation. Instantly moisturizes. Perfect for face, of course, but also neck, chest, upper arms, back. Preps skin for makeup. All skins benefit.


Water, Dipropylene Glycol, Alcohol Denat., Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Hammamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Gentiana Lutea (Gentian) Root Extract, Sasa Veitchi Extract, Salvia Sclarea (Clary) Extract, Cladosiphon Okamuranus Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Extract, Beatine, Acetyl Glucosamine, Trehalose, Yeast Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Dextran, Disodium Phosphate, Sodium Phosphate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorephensin.

Brand Overview

Clinique At-A-Glance

Strengths: A few excellent moisturizers and serums; excellent sunscreens; very good cleansers and eye makeup removers; unique mattifying products; impressive selection of foundations, good concealers; some remarkable mascaras; much-improved eyeshadows, lip colors and blush formulas.

Weaknesses: Bar soaps (which can clog pores and dull skin); alcohol-based toners; unfortunate choice of jar packaging for antioxidant-loaded moisturizers.

Estee Lauder-owned Clinique launched the concept of cosmetics being "allergy-tested," "hypoallergenic," "100% fragrance-free," and "dermatologist tested." Of those marketing claims, the only one with significance is "100% fragrance-free," which, for the most part, Clinique maintains (although it does add some fragrant extracts to a few products). Unfortunately, terms like “hypoallergenic” and “dermatologist tested” aren’t regulated by the FDA and can mean anything—thus, you still need to rely on the ingredient list to tell you whether their product contains any ingredients with the potential to irritate skin.

That inconvenient fact aside, Clinique is leading the way with cutting-edge, state-of-the-art moisturizers and serums, plus some formidable makeup and more than a few excellent sunscreens. While Clinique has some products that we see as missteps for reasons discussed in their reviews, more than ever, what they offer is quite good (just have realistic expectations, as some of their claims go beyond what their products are capable of).

Turning to makeup, Clinique continues to offer a vast palette of colors and textures, especially with their enormous selection of foundations—many of which feature effective sunscreens. Without a doubt, the numerous formulas offer something for every skin type and almost every skin color—though the blushes, eye makeup and lip colors are frequently not pigmented enough for deeper skin tones.

The bottom line is that, despite a few shortcomings, Clinique is one of the most comprehensive (and comparably affordable) department-store makeup lines, and it is completely understandable why they enjoy such broad appeal.

Note: Clinique is categorized as one that tests on animals because their products are sold in China. Although Clinique does not conduct animal testing for their products sold elsewhere, the Chinese government requires imported cosmetics be tested on animals, so foreign companies retailing there must comply. This requirement is why some brand’s state that they don’t test on animals “unless required by law”. Animal rights organizations consider cosmetic companies retailed in China to be brands that test on animals, and so does the Beautypedia Team.

For more information about Clinique, call (800) 419-4041 or visit www.clinique.com

About the Experts

The Beautypedia and Paula’s Choice Research teams have one mission: To help you find the best products for your skin, whether they’re from Paula’s Choice or another brand. By combining efforts, we’re able to share scientific research and remain committed to the highest standards based on our decades of experience objectively reviewing thousands upon thousands of skincare and makeup formularies in all price ranges.

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