Even Better Essence Lotion Combination to Oily
3.4 fl. oz. for $32
Category:Skin Care > Toners > Toners
Last Updated:11.26.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Review Overview

What Clinique is calling an "Essence" is really more of a "toner" than anything else—but a rose by any name is still a rose and in this case, that's actually a very good thing. Even Better Essence Lotion for Combination Oily to Oily is a great toner for its intended skin types (and the acne-prone). In comparison to Clinique's standard toner collection (their Clarifying Lotions), Even Better Essence so far surpasses those it's almost a bit shocking—it includes a nice array of beneficial ingredients in a lightweight formula that isn't alcohol based (like most of their Clarifying Lotions). As is the case with Clinique's products in general, it is fragrance free, so this is a rose that will not irritate your skin!

Even Better Essence Lotion for Combination Oily to Oily is primarily a mix of plant-based antioxidants such as watermelon (Citrullus vulgaris), apple (Pyrus malus), cucumber (Cucumis sativus) and green tea extract—just to name a few. Tamarind (Tamarindus indica seed extract) makes an appearance as well, which has research demonstrating its potential for antioxidant, wound healing and anti-inflammatory benefit (Pharmacognosy Review, 2011).

The amount of moisture provided is slight (and this has a water-like feel on skin, too), which you would expect given this formula is meant for oily to combination skin types. Clinique included a beneficial mix of reparatives—glycerin, wheat germ, lentil extract, and sodium hyaluronate are a few—and each play roles in helping skin replenish and retain the substances that keep it smooth and healthy.

Interesting to note, Clinique added the ingredient, "saccharomyces ferment filtrate", which if you're familiar with the beauty brand SK-II, this is the yeast extract of which they refer to as "pitera". Clinique isn't making any bold claims about this yeast, which is good because there is scant published, independent research demonstrating saccharomyces ferment filtrate has any benefit beyond being an antioxidant (and not all that great an antioxidant either).

Despite all of the pros for this toner, we have to comment on Clinique's statement on the box and enclosed directions that this is "Formulated for Asian skins". Of course, Clinique never actually explains what the "special" needs of Asian skin are or what ingredients in this product fit those requirements. But even more to the point there is no research anywhere in the world showing any skin care or makeup product can be formulated based on race.

The same way there aren't medicines based on your racial background (for example vaccines and antibiotics are universal) skin is the same. Skin is the largest organ of the body and what it needs to be healthy doesn't change based upon your race—just like your heart or kidneys don't need something different to be healthy.

Forgive us if we belabor this point a bit because we find it so infuriating and ludicrous. Skin-care products aren't interested in your ethnicity. All ethnicities need ingredients like antioxidants, cell-communicating agents, daily sun protection, and regular use of a well-formulated AHA or BHA exfoliant. This marketing becomes more silly than helpful when you consider that "Asian skins" doesn't really have any meaning given the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Israel are West Asia; China is East Asia; India South Asia; and even part of Russia is Northern Asia. Encouraging this separate nation skin-care standard is probably more detrimental and misleading than helpful.

Despite the ethnic-centric marketing statement, what remains true is that this can be counted among the better skin-care products Clinique has released over the past few years, and a fine example of what a well-formulated toner should contain.

  • Contains a beneficial array of antioxidants and anti-irritants.
  • Sheer, lightweight moisturizing toner that's ideal for oily to combination skin types.
  • Fragrance-free, gentle formula.
  • This is not specially "Formulated for Asian skins" as there is no research showing that Asians need different skin care ingredients than any other ethnic background.

This astounding lotion provides both instant and long-term benefits. The rich formula plumps for softer and more comfortable skin, while moisturizing ingredients help bind water to the skin surface to improve its overall condition. Soothing botanical and cucumber extracts achieve the appearance of inner radiance.


Water\Aqua\Eau, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Citrullus Vulgaris (Watermelon) Fruit Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Lens Esculenta (Lentil) Fruit Extract, Tamarindus Indicia Seed Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Laminaria Saccharina Extract, Cladosiphon Okamuranus Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Artemia Extract, Algae Extract, Biotin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sucrose, Ergothioneine, Caffeine, Sodium PCA, Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, Trehalose, Acetyl Glucosamine, Polysorbate 20, Caprylyl Glycol, Dextrin, Hexylene Glycol, Sodium Lactate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol

Brand Overview

Clinique At-A-Glance

Strengths: One of the best selections of state-of-the-art moisturizers and serums loaded with ingredients that research has shown are of great benefit to skin; excellent sunscreens; several Redness Solutions products excel; an outstanding benzoyl peroxide product; good selection of self-tanning products; some very good cleansers and eye makeup removers; some unique mattifying products; a large and wholly impressive selection of foundations, many with reliable sun protection (and shades for darker skin tones); good concealers; some remarkable mascaras; much-improved eyeshadows; loose powder; blush products; some brilliant lipsticks and lip gloss; gel eyeliner; priced lower than most competing department-store lines.

Weaknesses: The three-step skincare routine, because of the bar soaps and irritant-laden clarifying lotions; jar packaging downgrades several otherwise top-notch moisturizers; incomplete routines for those prone to acne; skin-lightening products with either unproven or insufficient levels of lightening agents.

Estee Lauder-owned Clinique's tremendous success (the company's products are sold in over 13,000 department stores and in 110 countries) reshaped the way cosmetics lines identified themselves, sending the concept of line loyalty out to pasture. Today, cosmetics companies expand their market either by buying already established companies or by creating new ones, and Lauder has been adept at doing both. Of course, cosmetics companies keep this multiple-personality identity hidden from the consumer. If the general buying public realized that these apparently different companies were so intertwined with each other, how could they flaunt their independence and claim that their unparalleled formulations are secret or the best? It's hard to think Lauder (or any company) would, even if they could, keep secrets from one branch separate from the others. And as evidenced by the formulary similarities between brands, they don't!

The niche Clinique built launched the concept of cosmetics being "allergy-tested," "hypoallergenic," "100% fragrance-free," and "dermatologist tested." Of those marketing claims the only one with significance is "100% fragrance-free," which, for the most part, Clinique maintains (although it does add some fragrant extracts to a few products). Regarding allergy testing, unless you can see the results, what difference does it make if a product makes that claim? What if the test showed 20% of the women who used it had a sensitizing reaction, dryness, or irritation? Would Clinique highlight this, or is it just easier to default to the generic allergy-tested claim and leave such details out, figuring consumers won't ask for more? 

Moreover, "hypoallergenic" is a term not regulated by the FDA, so any product can use the word without having to substantiate the claim. "Dermatologist tested" is also bogus, because without published test results the term can easily mean nothing more than that a dermatologist picked up the product, looked at the container, and said "This looks good." And what about the dermatologists on Clinique's payroll? How do we know they're not the ones involved in testing, rather than sending the products out for independent, impartial evaluation (though how impartial can any study be that's paid for by the company making the product)?

Clinique declined any participation for this site, which included refusing to send us copies of the allergy studies they maintain have been performed for every product they sell. We find their unwillingness to help odd because, for the most part, we genuinely like most of their products. In fact, more than any other department-store line except Estee Lauder, Clinique is leading the way with cutting-edge, state-of-the-art moisturizers and serums, plus some formidable makeup. They also have their act together for sunscreens and have expanded their decades-old three-step skin-care routine to include water-soluble cleansers instead of bar soap. They also now have a second "Dramatically Different" moisturizer that's well-suited for those with normal to oily skin and FINALLY reformulated their longstanding water-and-wax yellow lotion.

The Clinique consultants, dressed in medical-looking white lab coats (Clinique's image in that sense was ahead of the times given today's plethora of doctor-designed skin-care lines), do their best to speak intelligently about skin-care routines, but for the most part they're trained to sell the products rather than to provide information about what substantiated research has shown about the skin's needs to look and feel its best.

The good news for you is that the chemists behind Clinique's arsenal of products have been keeping up on this exciting information, and formulating superior products in response. We wouldn't blindly and solely bank on Clinique as your skin-care solution, but more than ever what they offer is, despite some far-out claims and problematic products, what epitomizes advanced skin care for all ages. Shop carefully and you'll leave confident that you are purchasing products with solid science, not just marketing hype, behind them.

Turning to makeup, Clinique continues to offer a vast palette of colors and textures, especially in their huge and imposing selection of foundations, many of which feature effective sunscreens. In fact, this category has become the most compelling reason to shop Clinique's makeup collection. Without a doubt the numerous formulas offer something for every skin type and almost every skin color. The shade selection has improved considerably, with more neutrals and a broader range than ever before. You still need to use caution and watch out for peach-toned duds, but for the most part finding a natural-looking match shouldn't be a frustrating experience, and the counter personnel are happy to provide samples.

Although the foundation and powder shades take darker skin tones into account, the blush, eye pencil, and most of the lipstick shades do not. Perhaps that will change in the future, as Clinique beautifully updated their eyeshadow collection with ultra-smooth textures and deeper colors that show up on darker skin.

Compliments are also due for Clinique's updated makeup tester units. They are well-organized, labeled with product name and price, and easily accessible without a salesperson's help. And speaking of salespeople, most of the Clinique consultants we encounter go above and beyond to provide assistance and to answer any questions we had (even if we didn't always agree with their responses). Those white lab coats don't mean medical expertise, but we'll take outstanding customer service over pseudoscience any day!

The bottom line is that, despite a few shortcomings, Clinique is one of the most comprehensive (and comparably affordable) department-store makeup lines, and it is completely understandable why they enjoy such broad appeal.

Note: Clinique is categorized as one that tests on animals because their products are sold in China. Although Clinique does not conduct animal testing for their products sold elsewhere, the Chinese government requires imported cosmetics be tested on animals, so foreign companies retailing there must comply. This requirement is why some brand’s state that they don’t test on animals “unless required by law”. Animal rights organizations consider cosmetic companies retailed in China to be brands that test on animals, and so does the Beautypedia Team.

For more information about Clinique, call (800) 419-4041 or visit www.clinique.com

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
Summary of Member Comments
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I have a question for the beautypedia team; I am currently using the mild clarifying lotion as a toner, and I enjoy it because i feel as though the small amount of salicylic acid helps keep pimples at bay while not being too harsh. This is important because I have somewhat acne-prone and sensitive skin. Is this product better for my skin type than the clarifying lotion, or if acne's a (sort of mild) concern should I just stick to what I'm using now?

Reviewed by
Joey, B
Beautypedia Team Response

Hi!  Think of Clinique’s Even Better Essence as a toner (step 2, after cleansing) and the Mild Clarifying Lotion as step 3, a BHA exfoliant. You can apply both, morning and evening, one after the other, or you can experiment and use the  Essence in the morning and the Clarifying Lotion as part of you nighttime routine. Although both products have a toner-like consistency, they have different functions and benefits on skin. 

-Beautypedia Team

—Beautypedia Team
For "Pale White Skin"??

On the advice of Beautypedia I decided to try this wonderful toner. I LOVE it. I purchased it in Las Vegas last summer, and I just ran out. I wanted to replenish,and my local Ulta doesn't carry it.I'll have to check Sephora. What's funny is a Clinique brand SA at Ulta said this is sold in markets with "different" skin than mine, (I'm Medium-Olive?)...she said it's for people with "Very pale white skin". I thoughtto myself that Beautypedia would get a kick out of that crazy idea!

Reviewed by
Scarlett A.
Finally a toner worth using!

I have combination/sensitive skin and live in Alaska where it can get pretty dry. I bought the Combo/Oily toner and it is superb. From the moment I put it on my skin, it felt smooth and hydrated. I had no allergic reaction at all, which has always been a problem for me. When checking at Nordstrom's to buy it, I was told they don't carry it (because it is for Asian skins!) but I could order it online or, better yet, Sephora carries it. This is an excellent product you should check out!

Reviewed by
Pamela in AK
Lovely toner for sensitive, combination skin

I am 63 yrs old, with sensitive, combination skin that has become even more reactive with this summer's heat and humidity. I normally use Paula's wonderful RESIST Toner; but developed a sensitivity to an ingredient(s) and started searching for an alternative fragrance-free toner that would soothe, clarify, hydrate and brighten without causing breakouts. This lovely Essence Lotion for Combination/Oily skin does all that and leaves my skin refreshed and less reactive. Truly a pleasure to use!

Reviewed by
Janet C
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