La Roche Posay's Effaclar Clarifying Solution is a toner-like anti-acne product that's medicated with 0.5% salicylic acid. Also known as beta hydroxy acid or BHA, salicylic acid is a great ingredient to reduce breakouts and clogged pores, but it's not put to good use here due to the lower-than-usual amount and this formula's amount of alcohol.
Alcohol in this amount is likely to be an issue for all skin types, and it's the chief reason we cannot recommend this product. See More Info to learn why it's such a problematic ingredient when present in this amount, even if you cannot see or feel the damage occurring to skin.
In addition to the salicylic acid, the formula also contains the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) ingredient glycolic acid. We should note that La Roche Posay doesn't indicate how much glycolic acid is present, but if the amount is below 2%, it cannot function as an exfoliant (Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, 2010). Because the amount appears "iffy," we wouldn't put much faith in its ability to benefit your skin.
Although the alcohol mentioned above is this acne product's biggest menace, the inclusion of menthol to make skin tingle runs a close second! Menthol feels cooling on skin, but its tingle is a potential sign of irritation, not a benefit (Archives of Dermatologic Research, 1996).
Last, with any product that contains AHA or BHA ingredients, the formula's pH needs to be in the range these ingredients require to work as exfoliants. That's the case here, but the amount of alcohol plus menthol and overall low amount of salicylic + glycolic acids make Effaclar Clarifying Solution an acne treatment product we recommend leaving on the shelf. See our list of Best Anti-Acne Products for superior options.
Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: A significant amount of research shows alcohol causes free-radical damage in skin even at low levels (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 2012). Small amounts of alcohol on skin cells in lab settings (about 3%, but keep in mind skin-care 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—this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If this weren't bad enough, exposure to alcohol actually causes skin cells to self-destruct (Alcohol, 2002).
Research also shows that these destructive, aging effects on skin cells increased the longer skin was exposed to alcohol; for example, two days of exposure was dramatically more harmful than one day, and that's at only a 3% concentration (Alcohol, 2002). In fact, the effect of inflammation in the 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).
Gentle exfoliating solution that penetrates deep to remove pore-clogging debris and smooth skin texture. Removes excess dirt and dead skin cells to leave skin feeling refreshed and even. Glycolic Acid penetrates deep to unclog pores and smooth skin texture. Salicylic Acid Acne Medication helps to reduce any remaining mild imperfections.
Active Ingredient: Salicylic Acid 0.5%. Inactive Ingredients: Water, Alcohol Denat, Propanediol, Glycolic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Capryloyl Glycine, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Menthol, Tremella Fuciformis, Polysaccharide, Butylene Glycol, Ophiopogon Japonicus Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract.
La Roche-Posay At-A-Glance
L'Oreal-owned La Roche-Posay has a pharmaceutical lineage based in France, and the company speaks of their thermal spring water as the cornerstone of their commitment to dermatological skin care. In fact, the name La Roche-Posay comes from the French town that is the source of this water, which is said to be a rich in selenium. While selenium is an element that has potent antioxidant ability, it's unclear how much the water La Roche-Posay uses contains, since all water has to go through purification processes to be to used in cosmetic products.
That aside, this brand does have a number of standout products, including some good sunscreens and anti-aging treatments. Another positive: All of its skincare is packaged in containers that will keep beneficial products protected from light and air (no jar packaging here!). Unfortunately there are some missteps, namely that some otherwise-excellent products include potentially-irritating amounts of alcohol, fragrance, or other irritants. The line could also benefit from additional products that contain more state-of-the-art ingredients. Still, for a no-frills approach to serious skin care, there are some finds to be had!
For more information about La Roche-Posay, owned by L'Oreal, call (888) 577-5226 or visit www.laroche-posay.com.
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