Nowadays the phrase “put your best face forward” isn’t just a common saying, but a cultural obsession, as hordes of consumers search for that next miracle solution to do everything from diminish fine lines and eliminate acne to firm sagging skin.
Add to that a booming cosmetic surgery industry, the rising popularity of Botox and no shortage of makeup products to conceal, enhance and accentuate, and it’s clear that putting your best face forward has become as much of a science as an art.
So what about the lowly facial cleanser?
Obviously a cleanser isn’t going to perform miracles on your skin. It won’t make you look 20 years younger, it can’t do much about wrinkles, and it won’t bring your skin from dull to dazzling with just one application.
But over time the right facial cleanser can definitely improve your skin’s look and feel, not only leaving it clean and smooth but removing dead skin skills to reveal brighter skin, while preventing blemishes and big-time breakouts. Then you can go to work with the makeup and miracle solutions.
Two facial cleansers I’ve used recently are Clean & Clear’s Oil-Free Daily Pore Cleanser, and Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Deep Clean Cream Cleanser. I was attracted to both of these products for a few reasons.
One, they’re oil-free, and my face certainly doesn’t need any more oil. (I have combination skin so my forehead, nose and chin are oily. My cheeks tend to be dry.)
At the same time both products speak to a deep-down clean, and both facial cleansers claim to be gentle enough not to dry out your skin, but effective enough to remove dead skin cells and clean pores, leaving your skin refreshed and preventing breakouts.
But we all know about advertising, and how a product’s claims are sometimes much more attractive than the product itself.
As it turns out, both of these cleansers are pretty good. The difference lies mainly in how they work, and how strong they are.
Neutrogena’s product contains Salicylic Acid, a common ingredient in skin care products for the treatment of acne, among other conditions. Salicylic Acid works by encouraging skin cells to slough off, which unclogs pores. It basically peels away the top layer of your skin. The cleanser also works by penetrating into pores to dissolve dirt, oil and makeup.
What really attracted me to the product was the “deep clean” part of its name. And when you rub it on your face, you’re not disappointed. It has a creamy, slightly grainy texture and a faintly mediciny smell that gives you the distinct impression it’s working. When you apply the cream to your skin it feels cool and it has the kind of effect on your pores that breathing in eucalyptus oil has on your sinuses and chest when you have a cold.
However, the deep clean was a little too deep for me. It left my skin feeling dried out and tight, despite the fact that I moisturized daily. This is a common side effect of Salicylic Acid, which is also known to cause irritation for some people. I didn’t have any zits, but I wasn’t overly excited about the texture of my skin.
Clean & Clear’s product, on the other hand, doesn’t contain Salicylic Acid. It has tiny micro-scrubbers that exfoliate skin to remove dirt, oil and dead skin cells that can “block pores and lead to breakouts.” It accomplishes the same thing Neutrogena’s facial cleanser does, but it’s the beads that slough away the dead skin, not the acid.
The Clean & Clear cleanser is almost like a gel, and it forms a light lather when you rub it on your skin. You can actually feel the tiny beads in the gel going to work and your skin definitely feels refreshed after you clean it, but there is no mediciny smell as with the Neutrogena product, and it is not harsh or abrasive.
After using the Clean & Clear product for several months, then switching to the Neutrogena cleanser, then using both intermittently, I’ve switched back to the Clean & Clear product for good.
I use Clean & Clear’s cleanser because it does exactly what it says it will: cleans deep down without overdrying, leaving skin soft, smooth and refreshed. That’s straight out of their sales pitch, and it actually rings true.
Even though I had minor problems with acne as a teen and was prone to a zit here and there as an adult, now that I use the Clean & Clear pore cleanser, I don’t have to worry about blemishes (knock on wood). And, I only wash my face once a day (I know, a cardinal sin) so it’s not exactly like I’m diligent about keeping my face clean.
Sometimes I try other products because they look tempting, have nice packaging and a cool name, or I’m bored and want to see what else is out there. I bought the Neutrogena product during one of those bored phases. But so far I’ve never found a better facial cleanser than Clean & Clear’s pore cleanser.
Both products are comparable in price. Clean & Clear’s cleanser comes in a 5.5 oz. tube and usually runs somewhere between $4.50 and $6, depending on where you buy it. Neutrogena’s cleanser comes in a 7 oz. tube, and usually runs between $7 and $8.
I can’t recommend either cleanser to clear up severe acne, because I’ve never used it for that purpose. But if you’re prone to the occasional breakout and/or want to brighten up your skin, either one should be a big help.
If your skin is very oily, you may have better luck with the Neutrogena product, as it is definitely stronger. For people who want something mild but highly effective, I’d say the Clean & Clear Daily Pore Cleanser is the way to go.