Tested on animals:Yes
La Roche Posay's Effaclar Clarifying Solution is a toner-like anti-acne product that's medicated with 0.5% salicylic acid. Also known as beta hydroxy acid or BHA, salicylic acid is a great ingredient to reduce breakouts and clogged pores, but it's not put to good use here due to the lower-than-usual amount and this formula's amount of alcohol.
Alcohol in this amount is likely to be an issue for all skin types, and it's the chief reason we cannot recommend this product. See More Info to learn why it's such a problematic ingredient when present in this amount, even if you cannot see or feel the damage occurring to skin.
In addition to the salicylic acid, the formula also contains the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) ingredient glycolic acid. We should note that La Roche Posay doesn't indicate how much glycolic acid is present, but if the amount is below 2%, it cannot function as an exfoliant (Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, 2010). Because the amount appears "iffy," we wouldn't put much faith in its ability to benefit your skin.
Although the alcohol mentioned above is this acne product's biggest menace, the inclusion of menthol to make skin tingle runs a close second! Menthol feels cooling on skin, but its tingle is a potential sign of irritation, not a benefit (Archives of Dermatologic Research, 1996).
Last, with any product that contains AHA or BHA ingredients, the formula's pH needs to be in the range these ingredients require to work as exfoliants. That's the case here, but the amount of alcohol plus menthol and overall low amount of salicylic + glycolic acids make Effaclar Clarifying Solution an acne treatment product we recommend leaving on the shelf. See our list of Best Anti-Acne Products for superior options.
- None that can overcome this product's cons.
- Amount of salicylic acid is on the low side for those struggling with acne.
- Amount of glycolic acid is potentially too low to exfoliate.
- Amount of alcohol poses a strong risk of irritation.
- Combining alcohol and menthol increases the likelihood of irritation.
Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: A significant amount of research shows alcohol causes free-radical damage in skin even at low levels (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 2012). Small amounts of alcohol on skin cells in lab settings (about 3%, but keep in mind skin-care products contain amounts ranging from 5% to 60% or greater) over the course of two days increased cell death by 26%. It also destroyed the substances in cells that reduce inflammation and defend against free radicals—this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If this weren't bad enough, exposure to alcohol actually causes skin cells to self-destruct (Alcohol, 2002).
Research also shows that these destructive, aging effects on skin cells increased the longer skin was exposed to alcohol; for example, two days of exposure was dramatically more harmful than one day, and that's at only a 3% concentration (Alcohol, 2002). In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012 & Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).
For more on alcohol's (as in, ethanol, denatured alcohol, and ethyl alcohol) effects on skin, see the Paula's Choice Research Team's Expert Advice article on the topic, Alcohol in Skin Care: The Facts.