Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector
1 fl. oz. for $49.50
Category:Skin Care > Retinol Products > Lighteners Without Hydroquinone
Last Updated:11.26.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Review Overview

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

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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clear face

Plzzz I need a better spot corrector.

Reviewed by
Great results seen after 6 months

This product gives amazing results, but you MUST stick with it for at least 6 months. My freckles and acne scars are almost completely gone after 2 bottles. The bottle clearly states "daily sunscreen imperative," so I'm not sure why points were docked for causing sensitization to UV rays. This is hardly unique to this product & Clinique was honest. Be religious about UV protection - reapply an actual sunscreen throughout the day, not makeup or other products applied in the morning only.

Reviewed by
Amanda C.
Even better clinical dark spot corrector

I wasted my Money. I used two bottles over three months period and I did not see any change. I will not recommend this to anybody.

Reviewed by
Smooth skin

When I ran out I noticed my skin was not as smooth so I repurchased. I'm on my 4th bottle. It's very light which I like. It is expensive, but I haven't found anything yet that I like as much. I mix in my Paula's Choice Resist C15 and it seems to work even better!

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