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.