Wednesday, October 12, 2016

REVIEW: Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion

Continuing with my toner review series, today I want to talk about the Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion, an exfoliating toner, which is currently discontinued and is now replaced by the Clinique Clarifying Lotion 1.0.

Exfoliating toners
These, according to me, are necessary evils in the world of toners. They are called 'exfoliating' because they contain exfoliating acids such as salicylic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, etc.

Exfoliating toners are necessary because:
1) Lower the ph of the skin so that when a harsh cleanser is used on the skin, raising its ph value from a natural, healthy level of 5 to anywhere beyond level 6-7, the exfoliating acid brings down the ph back to its healthy level. A healthy ph level means that bad bacteria do not breed on the skin, thus reducing instances of acne.
2) Exfoliating toners also remove dead skin cells, which ordinary toners are not capable of. Removal of dead skin cells means the fresher skin cells underneath are more capable of taking in whatever skincare products you use next. In short, without exfoliation, you're just moisturising dead skin cells.

Exfoliating toners are evil because they give typically give a 'zing' to the skin, and the effective results can make you want to overuse them.

Why I purchased it
This was one of the first exfoliating toners that I had purchased mainly because noted skincare guru and UK-based blogger/vlogger Caroline Hirons lists this as a mild exfoliating toner (it claims to contain 0.5 per cent salicylic acid at a ph of 2.9) that is free of alcohol and supposedly good for someone who is new to exfoliating acids. The toner is meant for those having sensitive skin.

Note: When I tested this on a ph strip, it did not register a ph of 2.9 or 3. My test indicated a level of 4. I tested for a second time, and this time, I poured the Clinique one and another exfoliating toner (by Merumaya) side by side.

You can see how the Clinique patch (on the left) indicates a ph of 4, while the Merumaya patch (on the right) is brighter and more acidic indicating a ph of 3.

Water, Butylene Glycol, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Hydroxypropyl, Cyclodextrin, Salicylic Acid, Aloe Leaf Powder, Arginine, Peg-10 Soya Sterol, Ceteth-20, Dimethicone, Ceteth-20, Panicum Miliaceum (Millet) Seed Extract, Dimethicone, Ceteth-2, BisPeg 18 Methy Ether DiMethyl Silane, Cetyl Alcohol, Phenoxy Ethanol, Green 5, Yellow 10

Note: Cetyl Alcohol is not alcohol in the traditional sense. It is a fatty alcohol derived from natural fats and oils originating from plants/animals. It is used in cosmetics to keep an emulsion's oil and liquid from separating. 

Packaging and user experience
The product comes in a frosty plastic bottle, which thankfully allows you to see how much product is remaining. But Clinique failed majorly on one basic aspect. The mouth of the bottle should ideally have had a pump or a drop-by-drop dispenser. This one pours product out without any stoppage, which is highly inconvenient.
On using this (poured onto a cotton pad), I felt my skin getting hydrated immediately. As for exfoliation, I need something more powerful for my combination, non-sensitive skin.

Price and where to buy
I bought this from a Clinique store here in Mumbai. But if you go looking for it now, keep in mind that Clinique has already replaced this with the newer 1.0 version, which has an even less amount of salicylic acid in a base of witch hazel.

Worth the hype?
For me, this product sadly did not live up to the hype. The advertised ph claim did not hold true, at least in my ph tests. Also, since I don't have sensitive skin, I wasn't able to appreciate its benefits--but that's not Clinique's fault. If you're interested in exploring the 1.0 version, I urge you to read as many reviews as you can online and then make a decision.

In my next post, I will feature and review my current favourite exfoliating toner. Stay tuned!


  1. When I first tried the Clarifying Lotion 1.0, I was pleased to note firstly that it did not sting on application. However, shortly after application with cotton wool, I noticed that my skin felt very tight and dry. When I looked in a mirror, I noticed more redness than usual on and around my nose. As the day went on, I began to feel heat and flushing in my cheeks. When I looked in a mirror, I saw that the redness had spread out from my nose area across my cheeks in a ‘butterfly’ pattern. This was in contrast to my usual experience with Mild Clarifying Lotion, which I always found to be soothing.
    When I first read the ingredients list on the packaging, I was concerned to see that the second-largest ingredient is witch hazel water, which in some cases can be irritating and can contain alcohol. I wondered, then, why the formula was labelled as alcohol-free, and whether there was any ethyl alcohol in the formula.
    I am certainly not a cosmetic chemist, but I did make the effort to buy some proprietary alcohol testing strips. These sort of strips, I believe, are used to detect the presence of alcohol in saliva and thereby provide an approximation of relative blood alcohol concentration. I made sure that these strips would also be suitable for detecting the presence of ethyl alcohol in aqueous solutions. I shook the bottle of Clarifying Lotion 1.0 first to make sure that the ingredients would be well-mixed. I then dipped the alcohol testing strip into the Clarifying Lotion 1.0 for 8 seconds as directed, and then read the result after 2 minutes as directed.
    The colour change on the testing strip showed the presence of alcohol at the level of 0.04% relative blood alcohol concentration. So while the ingredients list certainly does not include denatured alcohol as an ingredient, I am concerned that the formula appears to have tested positive for the presence of ethyl alcohol. I am concerned, therefore, that the formula is being labelled ‘alcohol-free’ and I wonder whether this may in part account for the irritation that I have experienced.
    It was a great disappointment to learn that the Mild Clarifying Lotion was being discontinued as I have been using that product for almost thirty years now. I have searched as extensively as I can, but I cannot find any good liquid salicylic acid exfoliants, which do not contain irritating ingredients, for sale in UK retailers. This would seem to suggest that Mild Clarifying Lotion was a remarkable product, and was a unique selling point for Clinique, and that makes it all the more puzzling that they would want to discontinue it.
    It can be very difficult for people with sensitive skin and dry skin conditions to find good exfoliants that they can tolerate. I believe that the whole original concept of Clinique was to create allergy-tested formulas to cater for consumers who could not use ‘normal’ cosmetics. It would be wonderful if they would respect this heritage by reintroducing the Mild Clarifying Lotion.
    I believe that gentle daily exfoliation is so vital to a good skin care routine for maintaining and improving skin. It is so upsetting that there now seems to be no non-irritating Clinique Clarifying Lotion available for sensitive dry skins. I do hope that Clinique may be able to take the opportunity to reintroduce the Mild Clarifying Lotion or to reformulate the Clarifying Lotion 1.0.
    As far as I am aware, in order for persons with sensitive skins to benefit from the new Clarifying Lotion 1.0 in the way that they did from the old Mild Clarifying Lotion, it would be wonderful if Clinique was willing to look at these small modifications:
    • Please could the witch hazel water base be taken out to remove the potential for sensitizing reactions and irritation.
    • Please could the amount of salicylic acid content be at least 0.5%, if it is not already, like the original formula.
    • Please could a pH-adjuster be added to stabilise the formula’s pH between 3 and 4 to allow the salicylic acid to function effectively as an exfoliant.

  2. James, I'm sorry to hear about your experience with the 1.0 formula. I empathise with those having drier skin types as they are the most overlooked segment in this whole toner and exfoliant business.

    I agree that Clinique should revisit their decision about the original and the new formula. I wish I could send you my bottle of the original formula as I'm not seeing any benefit from using it on myself.

    Having said that, have you read my review of the Merumaya Gentle Exfoliating Toner? While it does not contain salicylic acid, its mix of lactic, tartaric and malic acids work wonderfully well. And most importantly, there is absolutely no sting. If you can get a sample of that, please do and see how it works with your skin. It may just fill up the void left by Clinique's original formula.