A lot of women struggle with discolorations so any product claiming to correct this appearance-diminishing issue is going to get attention. Of course, it also helps that Clinique's promotional machine is firing on all cylinders to get the word out that Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector is here and ready to help.
The most significant claim being made for Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector is that its efficacy is comparable to prescription products formulated with 4% hydroquinone. As Clinique stated in their press release for Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, hydroquinone is the current gold standard treatment for skin discolorations—a fact most cosmetic dermatologists would agree with.
Apparently, Clinique has developed a blend of five ingredients they've labeled CL-302 complex. The blend consists of exotic plant extracts (because, of course, a well-known plant such as aloe just isn't that exciting when you're heralding a "breakthrough" product) along with salicylic acid, a form of stabilized vitamin C (ascorbyl glucoside) and a type of black yeast.
Clinique maintains their clinical trials validated that their botanical-based complex provided "prescription level results". As expected, Clinique hasn't published their study on this product's alleged efficacy, and it isn't available for public scrutiny. Therefore, we can't know how reliable the results were—we don't even know the protocols of the study. The results sound impressive, but what if Clinique only included results from study participants who had marked improvement? What about the ones whose discolorations didn't improve or, more importantly, saw greater improvement with hydroquinone?
Regardless of the protocol, what we know for certain is that hydroquinone has over 50 years of research attesting to its efficacy and safety. In contrast, the ingredients Clinique chose have a comparably modest track record (Sources: American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, July 2006, pages 223-230; Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, May 2006, Supplemental, pages 272-281; Cutis, March 2006, pages 177-184; Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, September-October 2005, pages 592-597; Journal of Dermatological Science, August, 2001, Supplemental, pages 68-75; Journal of Cosmetic Science, May-June 1998, pages 208-290; and Dermatological Surgery, May 1996, pages 443-447).
The form of vitamin C in Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector has minimal (but growing) research demonstrating its efficacy, and earlier studies paired with niacinamide, an ingredient absent from this Clinique lightener (Source: Skin Research and Technology, May 2006, pages 105-113).
One ingredient in this product deserves further explanation: dimethoxytolyl propylresorcinol. This ingredient, with its chemical-associated name, isn't mentioned in any of the press releases for Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, well, at least not directly. It turns out it’s a chemical compound from the Dianella ensifolia plant, which is what Clinique chose to refer to in their marketing information for this product. This ingredient is known to inhibit tyrosinase, which is the enzyme in skin that spurs melanin production. There are many ingredients research has shown to inhibit the action of tyrosinase, as this is believed to be a fairly efficient way to control hyperpigmentation. Examples of such ingredients are various types of mushrooms, grape seed, 1-propylmercaptan, and arbutin. To date, these is no conclusive research proving that dimethoxytolyl propylresorcinol is the best one, or that its efficacy is comparable to prescription-strength hydroquinone. That assertion is from Clinique, not from published, peer-reviewed research (and that's what counts for your skin).
According to research published in Drugs of the Future (Volume 33, 2008, pages 945-954), dimethoxytolyl propylresorcinol inhibited pigmentation on reconstituted human skin and animal models. How this ingredient works on reconstituted skin isn't identical to how it will work on intact human skin, but at least it gives researchers some idea of how it works and how it may be used in skin-care products. Still, this bit of information isn't a lot to go on. It's an understatement to mention that it pales in comparison to the reams of published research on hydroquinone!
Surprisingly, this ingredient was measured not against hydroquinone, but kojic acid—and ingredient with skin lightening ability but also poor stability. Lots of ingredients can outperform kojic acid, so it's not that thrilling that dimethoxytolyl propylresorcinol did better in its sole published, comparative test.
What about the salicylic acid? Although this BHA ingredient can improve skin cell turnover to help fade discolorations faster, the amount Clinique uses in this products is likely less than 1%, not to mention the pH of 5 prevents it from working as an exfoliant.
When all is said and done, there's only a tiny bit of research supporting the lightening claims made for this product. You may experience some good results from this skin lightener, but those with melasma or more widespread hyperpigmentation issues should consider (or stick with) prescription hydroquinone products along with being neurotic about daily sun protection, which is essential if your goal is reducing discolorations.
Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector was reevaluated in late April 2014 due to its higher-than-usual amount of grapefruit peel extract. Appearing as citrus grandis (grapefruit) peel extract on the ingredient list, the peel is loaded with a class of ingredients known as furanocoumarins and coumarins which are primarily responsible for what’s known as a phototoxic reaction when skin is exposed to the sun—the result can leave skin discolored (Journal of Food and Agriculture, October 2013, pages 10,677–10,684). Suffice to say, this is not the result you want when using a product promising to improve skin tone! If you opt to use this product, please make sure you're protecting your skin from UV light exposure every day, rain or shine. Forgoing this important step can make the grapefruit peel extract a potential problem that gets in the way of this being able to produce good results.
Dermatologist-developed to be safe, comfortable. Yet in clinical trials our serum was comparable to a leading prescription ingredient in creating a more even skin tone. A verified 53% improvement in skin tone. For all ethnicities: see results starting in as little as 4 weeks. At 12 weeks, see a visible reduction in dark spots, age spots, and traces of acne past.
Water, Dimethicone, Isododecane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Polysilicone-11, Butylene Glycol, Ascorbyl Glucoside, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Turmeric Root Extract, Rice Bran Extract, Grapefruit Peel Extract, Barley Extract, Wheat Germ Extract, Birch Bark Extract, Cucumber Fruit Extract, Dimethoxytolyl Propylresorcinol, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Mulberry Root Extract, Trametes Versicolor Extract, Saccharomyces Lysate Extract, Yeast Extract, PEG-6, Tromethamine, Salicylic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Cholesterol, Isohexadecane, Propylene Glycol Dicaprate, Sunflower Seedcake, Caffeine, Tocopheryl Acetate, Acetyl Glucosamine, Simethicone, Glycyrrhetinic Acid, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Hyaluronate, Di-C12-18 Alkyl Dimonium Chloride, Sodium RNA, Squalane, Sodium Sulfite, Sodium Metabisulfite, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate VP/Copolymer, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Yellow 6, Yellow 5
Clinique was Estee Lauder's first attempt to expand its market with a completely separate line and image. Shortly after its 1968 debut at U.S. cosmetics counters, Clinique became known as the indispensable line for the woman under 30 concerned with breakouts, oily skin, and fragrance-free products (meaning less likely to cause allergic or sensitizing skin reactions). That's likely just what Lauder execs had in mind, because their namesake line's image and positioning was geared more toward the mature woman.
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 evidneced 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 have some fragrant extracts in 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? The answer as to which option is easier is clear. 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 in my book or for this site, which included refusing to send us copies of the allergy studies they maintain have been performed for every product they sell. I find their unwillingness to help odd because, for the most part, I 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. They 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.
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. I 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.
In late 2008 Clinique joined forces with pharmaceutical company Allergan to launch a subset of products labeled as Clinique Medical. These products are sold only at doctor's offices, and are positioned as being scientically-designed to complement those looking for the best skin care after undergoing cosmetic corrective procedures. As expected, despite the link with Allergan and the exclusive-to-doctors retail channel, there isn't anything vastly different about Clinique Medical compared to the regular Clinique line. And the whole marketing angle is just bizarre when you consider that since Clinique's inception they've tied their claims and formulas to the expertise of their "guiding dermatologists". They're selling Clinique Medical as "best in class" skin care diminshes the regard which the company should be holding for several of their other state-of-the-art products (those rated Paula's Pick qualify as such). Needless to say, most of the Clinique Medical products are recommended, but don't think for a second that they're superior to or more professional than the best of Clinique's main line. All Clinique products are fragrance-free unless noted otherwise.
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 Paula’s Choice Research Team.
For more information about Clinique, owned by Estee Lauder, call (800) 419-4041 or visit www.clinique.com.
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. That single 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 I encountered went above and beyond to provide assistance and to answer any questions I had. Those white lab coats don't mean medical expertise, but I'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.