Clinique Clarifying Lotion Twice A Day Exfoliator 1.0 and all about...salicylic acid

3:49 PM

Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion has been a holy grail for me for a few years now and I was worried when I saw that it was discontinued and replaced by a new product last fall. Worried is maybe not the most appropriate word here, I should rather say that I panicked because as I said, the Mild lotion was a product I love and adore and I was really worried to see it replaced by a new lotion: Clinique Clarifying Lotion Twice A Day Exfoliator 1.0.

Why I loved the Mild Clarifying lotion that much?
It's the first leave-on exfoliating product I've ever tried and it is the product that has had the most impact on my skin so far. I has really made it smoother, helped reduce the appearance of my pores and blackheads and prevented the pimples that I used to have from time to time on my jaw lines and chin. I used it once a day at night just after washing my face.
For this review I decided to compare both products and tell you my thoughts about the new one.
WHAT IS Clinique Clarifying Lotion Twice A Day Exfoliator 1.0
According to Clinique:
"Dermatologist-developed, alcohol-free formula helps reveal fresher skin. Mild, non-drying lotion soothes, de-flakes, smooths, protects natural moisture. Leaves skin radiant and ready for treatments to follow."

The Clarifying Lotion Twice A Day Exfoliator 1.0 is actually a liquid exfoliator containing salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a β-Hydroxy Acid or BHA.

Salicylic acid - Main properties

Salicylic acid has been used topically to treat various skin disorders for more than 2,000 years. For example, in the first century AD, Pliny used willow bark (as a source of salicylic acid) to treat calluses and corns. Its ability to exfoliate the stratum corneum as well as its comedolytics activity makes salicylic acid a very popular and interesting molecule to treat or prevent acne (1).

Salicylic acid is a lipid-soluble agent, in contrast with the α-hydroxy acids (AHA such as glycolic acid), and is therefore miscible with epidermal lipids and sebaceous gland lipids in hair follicles. It has keratolytic (peeling agent) and comedolytic properties, which means it able to resolve comedones or preventing the formation of new comedones.

Without going into too many details, salicylic acid decreases adhesion of corneocytes (skin cells), and causes loosening of these cells and their subsequent detachment. This leads to skin exfoliation. As it is lipophilic, it can goes into the pores where sebum accumulates and therefore dejunk the pores. In summary, salilicy acid is interesting to

  • Exfoliate the skin and make it smoother
  • Dejunk pores, this is beneficial to treat or reduce acne and to minimize the appearance of pores
  • Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties. The concentration at which the anti-inflammatory action of SA is most pronounced is between 0.5% and 5% (w/w).
  • Salicylic acid also has antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
  • High concentrations of salicylic acid (50%) have been used with success to treat pigmentation, freckles, and photoaging of the hands (this is a crazy high percentage that should not be used at home)
  • Do not use salicylic products if you are allergic to aspirin (they belong to the same family).

The concentrations of salicylic acid used in at-home cosmetics for a mild exfoliating and acne treatmetn are comprised between 0.5-2.0% (2).

Another important point to consider is the pH of the vehichle which carries salicylic acid. The pH must be acidic to be able to works its magic and exfoliate the skin. The choice of the pH depends on the pKa of the acid. The pKa of salicylic acid is 2.97 (so let's say it's 3). This means that at a pH of 3, 50% of the salicylic acid is under its unprotonated form and 50% is protonated (active form). At pH 4, we will have 90% deprotonated and 10% protonated. And at pH 5, only 1% protonated and so on.
For salicylic acid, it must be formulated at a pH <4 to be effective. Usually we say the pH of the salicylic solution should be between 3-4.

Both the Mild Clarifying lotion and the new Twice A Day Exfoliator 1.0 are formulated at the same pH of 3-4, which is the perfect pH for salicylic acid to be able to exfoliate the skin! Good point, Clinique!
Same pH for both lotions.

So What About The Formulation and Differences of The 2 Clinique Lotions 

Mild Clarifying Lotion
Water, Butylene Glycol, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Salicylic Acid, Aloe Bardensis Leaf Powder, Arginine, PEG-10 Soy Sterol, Ceteth-20, Paicum Miliaceum (millet) Seed Extract, Dimethicone, Ceteth-2, Bis-BEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Cetyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Green 5, Yellow 10 (CI 47005)

Clarifying Lotion Twice A Day Exfoliator 1.0
Water, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Dipropylene Glycol, Biodisaccharide Gum-1, Butylene Glycol, Acetyl Glucosamine, Glycerin, Sucrose, Salicylic Acid, Caffeine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Polysorbate 20, Trehalose, Capryloyl Glycine, Disodium Phosphate, Trisodium EDTA, Benzoic Acid, Phenoxyethanol.

Concerning the amount of salicylic acid, I don't know how much there is in both formulations but it seems that the concentration of salicylic acid in the new lotion is lower, which is a bit sad. It must be something around 0.5%, this is my guess, don't quote me on this.

Butylene Glycol was replaced by Witch Hazel Water in the new lotion plus there is some new beneficial ingredients, such as acetyl glucosamine, glycerin (humectant) and sodium hyaluronate (humectant). Witch hazel is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and astringent. Paula's choice says witch hazel is not a good ingredient but after searching for information on pubmed, what I found is that witch hazel is safe and well-tollerated (even on children in this study (3)) Also I checked all the references that she listed under her claim that witch hazel is not a good ingredient but all the references link back to articles that show the antioxidant activity of witch hazel and none of them say that it can be ...yes....
But as a precaution and as I've heard some people claiming they don't react very well to witch hazel, if you have sensitive skin, it's better to patch test it before using it.


The new Clarifying Lotion 1.0 of Clinique is quite different than the Mild Lotion that it replaces. At first I was a bit worried because I really like the Mild Lotion (I went through so many bottles of it).
Except for salicylic acid (the exfoliator), the excipients and other ingredients are bit different. There is the inclusion of witch hazel (which some people like and some dislike) as well as acetyl glucosamine, glycerin, and sodium hyaluronate, these 3 ingredients being beneficial for the skin. The pH of the lotion is the same as the previous one (pH 3-4), adequate to exfoliate. Unfortunately I don't know the concentration of salicylic acid in the new lotion but it seems it's a bit lower than in the mild lotion. I hope it's still enough to exfoliate. That said, when I started using the Mild Lotion a few years ago, it was the product that made the biggest impact on my skin:
it really smoothed it and made my pores less visible by much. I used to have large and visible pores on my nose and around it but the Mild lotion really improved the apperance of them!

After switching to the new Clarifying lotion 1.0, I didn't notice that my skin was missing something or that my pores got clogged or my skin was less smooth so I guess that there is enough salicylic acid in it to work.

So overall, although I was really worried with this reformulation of my beloved Mild lotion, I'm pleased with the new Clarifying lotion and it makes the job for a mild daily exfoliation for me!

Purchase info
Clinique products can be purchased from authorized retailers (Sephora, Nordstrom, Selfriges, and Marionnaud, Douglas or Manor). You can also buy online directly from (international) or (Switzerland).

*PR Samples*

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  1. The Clarins exfoliating lotion is my favorite. You should try it in case it turns out you don't like this new lotion.

    1. Hi Maud, thank you for recommending me the Clarins one, I didn't know it and I'm always happy to discover new products!!
      I just checked but apparently it also contains AHA (which I'm less fan for a daily exfoliation, my skin prefer BHA) and it also contains alcohol, which I tend to avoid so I'll stick with the Clinique one which works great for me ;)

  2. Wow! I had never heard of a "lotion" that works as leave on exfoliant.
    Now, I will try to get this but They don't ship to my country or if they do it's expensive. I have enlarge pores and blackheads. And I must give it a try if it really helps with these two issues.

    1. Hi sweetie! :D I'm happy if you discover new products here. Were do you live? Clinique seems to be available in so many countries. For enlarged pores and blackheads, salicylic acid lotions can help so much!! Honestly my skin changed so much since I started using this type of lotion. You should definitely give it a try :)

  3. I love the research you've put into this review. I've never really considered Including Clinique into my skincare routine but I might have to try this lotion.

    1. Thank you so much! I'm so happy to read you enjoyed it ;) Clinique has a few lotions but this one is the best (with no alcohol, I think the other ones have alcohol so they can be drying).

  4. Oh where did you get the pH strips from? Good idea to use!

    1. I got them from eBay. You can also find them at your local pharmacy or in some pet stores (where they have fish and aquarium)

  5. I love chemical exfoliating products but I've actually never heard of this one! I generally use glycolic acid as my chemical exfoliant because I find that works really well for me, but I do really like salicylic acid too for my acne prone skin. Perhaps I should give this one a go!

    Tasha // shiwashiful.

    1. I came across this lotion by chance because I was looking for salicylic acid lotions and couldn't find many options here in Switzerland, I think it's the only salicylic acid lotion we have and it's nicely formulated and gentle, great for everyday use.

  6. I Love Clinique's skincare. It's been a while since I used it though.

    Ange |

    1. They do have some very nice products!! I need to try their anti-spot serum, it seems great ;)

  7. I love how technical you've gone into the review. Thank you so much for this! I haven't used Clinique cleansing products in a while and now I'm tempted to grab some.

    Lubz ||

    1. Thank you so much, my dear! I'm happy to hear you like it!

  8. Well I have never tried clinique skincare product but I have seen a lot of positive videos and reviews, I really will give them a try as soon as I finish the products I'm currently using!

    1. They have some great products, including this lotion and some of their serums are also great and there is a charcoal gel cleanser that I need to try! ;)


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