Kiehl'sClearly Corrective Purifying Foaming Cleanser
5 fl. oz. for $27
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Clearly Corrective Purifying Foaming Cleanser is an ordinary formula that ends up as a resounding disappointment due to its strong potential to irritate the skin. The trouble begins with the drying, alkaline soap formula, a mix of potassium hydroxide and fatty substances, including palmitic, myristic, and lauric acids. These are hardly ideal for a cleanser designed to clean the skin and get rid of impurities "without stripping," as the marketing message promises. These ingredients indeed are stripping, and the irritation they cause can create problems for the skin.

That alone is reason enough to skip this in favor of the numerous better cleanser alternatives (even within the Kiehl's brand); however, there is also the problematic lavender oil and citrus extracts it contains to stay clear of! Though not as problematic in a rinse-off formula as in a leave-on product, these ingredients are best left off the skin altogether. See More Info for details on fragrance in skin care, as well as more on why lavender oil, in particular, is such a problem.

Clearly Corrective Purifying Foaming Cleanser is remarkably similar to the now-discontinued Garnier Nutritioniste Moisture Rescue Fresh Cleansing Foam (both Kiehl's and Garnier are owned by L'Oreal). The primary difference between the two formulas is a little over $20. In case you are wondering, the Garnier version wasn't any more "purifying" than the formula Kiehl's is selling under their Clearly Corrective line. It seems L'Oreal just moved a poorly formulated product from one of their lines to another.

Regardless of what a cleanser contains, it isn't capable of repairing the skin in the ways that Kiehl's claims because beneficial ingredients must remain on the skin to work. But, in this case, the peony and white birch extracts don't have any research showing they can improve skin color.

Rather than expose your skin to this irritating formula (both due to its ingredients, which can irritate your skin, and the overly hyped claims which are just plain irritating), check out the dozens of better-formulated alternative cleansers in the Best Cleansers (Including Cleansing Cloths) section of Beautypedia.

  • None.
  • Drying, soap-based cleanser.
  • Contains an irritating mix of fragrance, citrus extracts, and lavender oil.
  • The price is insulting, both for what little you get and for what you don't get.
More Info:

Irritation, whether you see it on the surface of your skin or not, causes inflammation and as a result impairs healing, damages collagen, and depletes the vital substances your skin needs to stay young. For these reasons, it is best to eliminate, or minimize as much as possible, your exposure to known skin irritants, especially when there are brilliant formulas available that do not include these types of problematic ingredients (Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558–563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135, and November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15–19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78–82; Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, January 2007, pages 92–105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13–S22).

Lavender Oil: Research indicates that components of lavender, specifically linalool, can be cytotoxic, which means that topical application causes skin-cell death (Source: Cell Proliferation, June 2004, pages 221–229). Lavender leaves contain camphor, which is a known skin irritant. Because the fragrance constituents in lavender oil oxidize when exposed to air, lavender oil is a pro-oxidant, and this enhanced oxidation increases its irritancy on skin (Source: Contact Dermatitis, September 2008, pages 143–150). Lavender oil is the most potent form, and even small amounts of it (0.25% or less) are problematic. Although it's fine as an aromatherapy agent for inhalation or relaxation, it is a must to avoid in skin-care products (Sources: Psychiatry Research, February 2007, pages 89–96; and www.naturaldatabase.com).

Last Updated:03.31.2015
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Community Reviews

Gentle foaming facial cleanser cleans skin and removes makeup and impurities without stripping; White Birch and Peony Extract work to facilitate the reversal of discoloration for a noticeably brighter and luminous complexion.


Aqua/Water, Myristic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Lauric Acid, Stearic Acid, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Benzyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Ceteareth-60, Myristyl Glycol, Argilla/Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Disodium EDTA, Hydroxypropyl Tetrahropyrantriol, Propylene Glycol, Lavandula Angustfolia Oil/Lavender Oil, Linalool, BHT, 2-Oleamido-1, 3-Octadecanediol, Citrus Tachibana/Citrus Aurantium Tachibana Peel Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Extract/Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, FMLA 685541/2 Code F.I.L. D48321/1

Brand Overview

Kiehl's At-A-Glance

Kiehl’s has been around for quite some time, with its origins in a New York City-based pharmacy established in 1851. The brand is perhaps best known for its apothecary-style packaging and its best-selling (and celebrity favorite) Lip Balm #1.

Though the brand claims its products are made with the finest naturally-derived ingredients, most of its formulations include synthetically-produced ingredients as well. Like most skincare companies the line contains both good and not-so-great offerings; Kiehl’s main misstep is that many of its products contain fragrance ingredients that could irritate skin, particularly sensitive skin.

Note: Kiehl's is categorized as a brand that tests on animals because its products are sold in China. Although Kiehl's does not conduct animal testing for its 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 brands 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 Research Team.

For more information about Kiehl's, call (800) 543-4572 or visit www.kiehls.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.

Beautypedia cuts through the hype to bring you product insights and recommendations you won’t find anywhere else!