Cleanance K Cream-Gel
1.37 fl. oz. for $24
Category:Skin Care > AHA Exfoliants > AHA
Last Updated:12.02.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Review Overview

This product is chiefly an AHA exfoliant meant for acne-prone skin. Although AHA ingredients can be helpful for breakouts, BHA (active ingredient salicylic acid) is preferred because it can penetrate oil to better dislodge blockages inside the pores. BHA is also mildly antibacterial and has anti-inflammatory properties, while AHAs do not have these traits. Although this product does contain BHA, it's present in too small an amount to be of much benefit.

The AHA ingredients are present in an amount capable of exfoliating, and the pH of 3.6 ensures these ingredients will exfoliate, which is the goal. Although that's helpful, as mentioned, most struggling with breakouts will get better results from a BHA exfoliant.

As for this product being a better choice for sensitive, easily irritated skin, it isn't. Not only is the amount of AHA a potential problem for extra-sensitive skin, but also the inclusion of fragrance isn't a good idea because fragrance itself can be irritating. See More Info for further details on why fragrance isn't good for skin. This product would have been far better with a selection of anti-irritants to reduce the potentially irritating effects of the AHA. This ends up being an OK but pricey option as an AHA exfoliant for normal to slightly dry skin, and a questionable option for breakout-prone skin.

  • Silky texture is easy to apply.
  • Contains an effective amount of AHAs at a pH that ensures exfoliation.
  • AHAs are not as effective for breakouts as BHA (salicylic acid).
  • Amount of salicylic acid in this exfoliant is too low to benefit skin.
  • Contains fragrance, which shouldn't be in skin-care products for sensitive skin.

More Info:

Irritation, whether you see it on the surface of your skin or not, causes inflammation and as a result impairs healing, damages collagen, and depletes the vital substances your skin needs to stay young. For these reasons, it is best to eliminate, or minimize as much as possible, your exposure to known skin irritants, especially when there are brilliant formulas available that do not include these types of problematic ingredients (Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558–563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135, and November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15–19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78–82; Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, January 2007, pages 92–105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13–S22.)


Daily treatment helps eliminate clogged pores, blackheads, blemishes to reveal a brighter, clearer complexion. Non-irritating formulations clinically proven to change the pattern of cycle causing acne breakouts, reduce excess sebum, and restore skin’s balance.


Water, Cyclomethicone, Glycolic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Polyacrylamide, Lactic Acid, Polymethylmethacrylate, Sodium Hydroxide, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Disodium Phosphate, Bisabolol (L-Alpha), Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seed Oil, Dimethiconol, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance (Parfum), Laureth 7, Polysorbate 20, Salicylic Acid, Zinc, Gluconate.

Brand Overview

Eau Thermale Avene At-a-Glance

Strengths: Some good cleansers; every sunscreen provides reliable UVA protection; an effective psoriasis cream; a couple of praiseworthy lip balms.

Weaknesses: Mostly overpriced for what you get; repetitive, unimpressive moisturizer formulas; products for sensitive skin contain fragrance or other potentially irritating ingredients; the redness-reducing products simply trade one problem for another.

Building an entire skin-care line on a single concept, however meaningless that concept may be, is often all it takes to capture the attention of consumers, just because it sounds so convincing. Such is the case with Eau Thermale Avene, a France-based line whose claim to fame is the thermal spring water in its products.

The company's history is laced with romanticized folklore of the allegedly restorative power of this water, with some tales dating back to the 1700s. Building a skin-care line around what was known (or, more accurately, unknown) about skin 300 years ago doesn't make sense, because 300 years ago no one knew anything about skin care or how skin functions; certainly no one knew about sun damage or free-radical damage. For goodness sakes, women in the 1700s were using face powders laced with lead, and who would want to emulate that? Still, the stories Eau Thermale Avene concocts must be convincing some people to buy their products or we wouldn't have been contacted several times per week by readers asking me to review this line.

Avene maintains that their thermal spring water is curative not only because of its historical proof (more anecdotes than proof), but also scientifically because of its low mineral content and pure, pristine source. The company's owner (Pierre Fabre Laboratories) claims to have conducted over 150 clinical studies. However, as you might suspect, there only a handful of published studies, and they all are related to the supposed healing power of Avene's thermal spring water when applied to skin that's been compromised by exposure to radiation or by cosmetic corrective procedures, such as light-emitting devices. Their studies showed that the water has soothing properties and that it helped damaged skin heal faster when compared with the effects of another type of spring water, the standard post-burn treatment, or randomly selected skin-care products.

As convincing as that sounds, the studies don't hold water for several reasons: first, the improvement seen from Avene's thermal spring water was nominal compared with the control; second, the studies were sponsored by Avene; and third, the studies didn't show how the spring water may have fared against numerous established topical anti-irritants or other FDA-approved skin protectants (Sources: Annals of Dermatology and Venereology, Special Edition, January 2008, pages 5–10; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2007, pages 31–35; and Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, September 2007, pages 924–928).

Avene offers additional studies on their Web site, but the majority again are published in the company's own publications; and none were peer-reviewed. Bottom line: There is absolutely no evidence that any type of thermal spring water allows skin to resist or correct signs of aging. Helping skin maintain its barrier is great, but there is abundant research showing that substances such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin do a far better job.

To its credit, Avene does offer some worthwhile products for sensitive skin. Yet they also offer products that can be problematic for sensitive skin because they contain fragrance and other potentially harmful ingredients. More important is the lack of significant anti-irritants that could have been extremely helpful for those with sensitive skin.

For the most part, unless you're a believer in the company's thermal spring water, there is little reason to get excited about their products. They offer some good cleansers, alternatives to retinol (using a similar ingredient known as retinal and retinaldehyde, which is one of the more effective derivatives of retinol), and some basic yet effective moisturizers for sensitive skin that's also dry.

Given this line's penchant for extolling antiquated skin-care fables, it shouldn't be surprising that their products lack an impressive selection of state-of-the-art ingredients whose benefits for skin are substantiated by reams of research. Interestingly, many of the claims prevalent throughout the cosmetics industry are found here, too, but without the formulas to support them and to actually deliver remarkable antiwrinkle results.

For more information about Eau Thermale Avene, call (866) 412-8363 or visit www.aveneusa.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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Reformulated one is better

I second this. The new formula, which I own, contains both AHAs (Glycolic acid + Lactic acid) and BHAs (Salicyclic acid). I feel like it is now at least a Good rating, perhaps not best but I enjoy using this exfoliator, it helps greatly with diminishing acne and improves the texture of my face.

Reviewed by
Arielle R.
New formula..

Avene has a new formula of this gel-cream. It contains 1% BHA and the pH is 3.4.. Maybe you could review this new formula for us..

Reviewed by
Firdaouss M.
Beautypedia Team Response

Thanks for the heads up on the reformulation! We'll check this out and amend the review as necessary.

—Paula's Choice Research Team
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