Clean and Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser

Clean and Clear knows their target demographic very well: teens who are struggling with acne for the first time in their lives, and their parents who don’t know much about skin care. They have what seems to be an astronomical budget for their marketing campaigns (probably because their parent company is Johnson & Johnson), which make it seem like all you need to do is put the product on, dramatically splash some water over your face, and you’ll be out the door with clear skin in no time. That’s not to say Clean and Clear is pumping their products full of stuff that doesn’t work, but it seems like their preference is to hook the consumer with loud-colored product lines instead of having them focus on the ingredients in the products themselves.

That brings me to talking about this product. This is a white-cream cleanser that you mask your face with (or your problem areas), leave it on for 20-30 seconds, and then wash it off. The idea is that the 10%(!!!!!) benzoyl peroxide should eradicate active, or about-to-be active breakouts.

The reason I bolded 10% BP is because 10% is A LOT. That is the maximum percentage benzoyl peroxide can be sold at. For me personally, a 2.5% spot treatment is enough to make my skin peel. Now that I think about it, even the prescription-only Epiduo gel is only 2.5%! I use the Clean and Clear product MAYBE twice a year, and the way I view it is kind of like a nuclear bomb — if I’ve gotten to the point of using it, that means I’ve had a very terrible breakout, and I’m prepared to accept the consequences of my skin burning and peeling to help turn over the breakout faster.

Imagine you are a teenager who is embarrassed by their first onset of acne. You walk into Walgreens, and find a cleanser that promises clear skin. You don’t really know what the 10% truly implies, but Clean and Clear is a very popular brand, and it’s cheap ($6), so you should buy it too, right? Once you use it, you notice your skin is burning and peeling, but the adage is that “if it hurts, that means it’s working”, so you keep on cleansing your face with it, hoping to see clear skin the next day.

But it doesn’t work like that — with repeated usage of this product you’ll only experience more irritation, and the dryness of your skin will likely create even more breakouts. Just because you’re washing it off after 20 seconds doesn’t mean you’ve reduced your exposure to the BP. You’ve more or less entered into a never-ending cycle, because the product simultaneously causes the problem, and also cures it.

I know that Clean and Clear is not the only brand that sells 10% BP in this form, as a cleanser. Other brands yet sell this percentage as a spot treatment, which makes a little more sense since the idea is to “target” the problem area and not put it all over your face. The spot treatment idea I can get behind, as long as the user has education about the strength that they’re using. But as a cleanser — I can’t back that as a well-intended product.

My recommendation to someone new to skincare who is struggling with acne or possibly has a limited budget is to try to stick to a basic routine. Use a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil, an oil-free moisturizer like Cerave PM, and, if you must, sparingly use a spot treatment that isn’t more than 2.5% BP. Unless you already have a very high tolerance to benzoyl peroxide, slathering 10% of it on your face is only going to lend itself to trouble. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5 (with CAREFUL use)

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No