Another new addition to my recently beefed-up skin care routine is Clean & Clear Advantage Oil Absorbing Treatment ($6, 44 ml), a salicylic acid acne medication. I was encouraged to buy it after reading Paula Begoun's review, which touts it as affordable and effective. Having decided to switch from physical exfoliants to chemical ones, I intended for this product to be my primary BHA exfoliant and acne treatment.
If you are unfamiliar with BHA and its sister AHA, here is a brief introduction. Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) are the two major categories of chemical exfoliants. The main difference between them is that BHA is oil soluble while AHA is not. This means that BHA is able to better penetrate the skin and clean pores, making it more suitable for oily, acne-prone skin. AHA, on the other hand, is usually used to target sun damage (source). Salicylic acid is the only BHA while the most common AHA is glycolic acid.
As I have combination skin and often experience breakouts, I chose to go down the BHA route and tried out Clean & Clear Advantage Oil Absorbing Treatment. It claims to treat and help prevent breakouts with 2% salicylic acid--the highest concentration allowed in over-the-counter acne medications--as well as absorb the excess oil that causes shine on the skin. It is oil-free and won't clog pores. The box packaging, which I didn't photograph (bad beauty blogger behavior, I know), instructs the user to clean skin prior to application and to use a thin layer on affected areas one to three times a day. Salicylic acid can be drying, however, so the instructions also recommend starting with one application and increasing if necessary.
Ingredients: salicylic acid (2%), water, hydrated silica, C12-154 alkyl benzoate, isohexadecane, steareth-21, propylene glycol, cetearyl alcohol, C12-15 alkyl lactate, polysorbate 60, polyacrylate-13, isoceteth-20, polyisobutene, glycerin, cetyl lactate, phenoxyethanol, cocamidopropyl, PG-dimonium chloride phosphate, ethylene/acrylic acid copolymer, fragrance, cetyl hydroxyethylcellulose, disodium EDTA, oryza sativa (rice) seed protein, sodium hydroxide, pentaerythrityl tetra-di-t butyl hydroxyhydrocinnamate, polysorbate 20, benzalkonium chloride
Clean & Clear Advantage Oil Absorbing Treatment has a strong, immediately-noticeable fragrance. While I prefer skin care products to not contain scents, I am quite tolerant of them. However, the perfume in this is on the obnoxious side and is definitely unnecessary. Fragrance aside, the treatment has the texture of a lotion, giving it a viscous consistency that is still easily spreadable. I apply a thin layer only over problem areas (usually my forehead), morning and night, after cleanser and toner and allow it to absorb before using moisturizer. I don't experience dryness, peeling, or irritation with this product.
As Clean & Clear Advantage Oil Absorbing Treatment is a dual-action product, I will address both its claims. First, I find that it successfully controls shine for about four hours, after which oil begins to break through and I need to blot. But because my forehead is naturally perpetually shiny, I am satisfied with the improvement. Unfortunately, I am less impressed with its acne-treating properties. Having used this since April, I am still experiencing regular breakouts on my forehead. This product doesn't seem to effectively treat or prevent acne on my skin. And as I specifically bought this to target my acne, I am disappointed.
I don't completely fault the product, however. An ingredient that works for some people may not work for others, so that might be the case regarding salicylic acid and my skin. Having done more research, I am interested in trying a benzoyl peroxide product. Perhaps I'll have better luck with this other well-known acne-fighting ingredient.