Tested on animals:No
For $36, you should expect more than what you get from Neo-Cleanse Exfoliating Skin Cleanser. This gel-textured, low-foam cleanser contains a high amount of the alkaline ingredient sodium hydroxide. At this concentration, sodium hydroxide has a strong potential to irritate, which can leave skin feeling tight and dry (i.e., that “stripped” feeling). Over time, this type of cleanser can trigger the follicle to produce even more oil (and thus exacerbate breakouts). See More Info for the relationship between irritation and increased oil production.
What about the “exfoliating” claim? This refers to the AHA exfoliant ingredient glycolic acid that’s present in the formula. Unfortunately, like all cleansers that feature AHA or BHA (salicylic acid) exfoliants, this cannot actually exfoliate skin in this case because these chemical exfoliants must remain on the skin to do their work, which is to break down and dissolve dead skin cells and treat signs of aging. Because your cleanser is on your skin for only a short amount of time, the AHA or BHA ingredients are rinsed down the drain long before they can benefit your skin. Including AHAs or BHA in a cleanser is also problematic for stability reasons, as they work best within a specific pH range, which is lower than the pH of most cleansers.
There’s also the added risk of getting these ingredients in your eyes when they’re present in a cleanser, which is especially true for this formula given its high amount of sodium hydroxide. The tight, dry feeling this cleanser leaves (the result of its harsh nature) is probably what is mistaken for exfoliation, but in fact, all that’s removed are lipids and other substances that help keep your skin healthy.
Neocutis claims that this fragrance-free cleanser is “specially formulated to work together with Neocutis skincare,” but that would be equally true of any cleanser, so you needn’t believe this oldest of cosmetics myths. There is no reason not to mix products from different skincare lines, so long as they’re well formulated and appropriate for your skin type.
When you consider the drawbacks—irritating formula and ineffective as an exfoliant—there is no reason to consider Neo-Cleanse Exfoliating Skin Cleanser over the many better alternatives on our list of Best Cleansers. If you would like to see what a well-formulated leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliant can do for your skin, check out the Best AHA Exfoliants or Best BHA Exfoliants lists, too!
- Expensive for such a basic formula.
- Ineffective as a chemical exfoliant.
- Potentially irritating and drying base (especially if you get it into your eyes).
Irritation's Connection to Oily Skin & Breakdowns: Inflammation in skin is usually related to external factors such as irritation that damages the skin’s barrier in numerous ways, whether you can see the reaction or not. When irritation on the surface of skin happens it activates specific chemicals called neuropeptides in the brain (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2007). Those substances are specifically the kind that regulates the hormonal system of the body.
When this happens, it leads to the formation of inflammatory chemicals directly in the oil gland. These inflammatory chemicals trigger an increase in oil production, which can increase the size of the pore, and the likelihood of acne—the more inflammation that occurs, the worse the risk (European Journal of Dermatology, 2002 & Dermatology, 2003).
Bottom line: Inflammation and its resulting irritation, whether internal or external (for this discussion externally it would be due to the use of irritating ingredients, hot water, overusing scrubs, etc.), is practically a guarantee you will see excess production of oil, larger pores and more acne breakouts (Experimental Dermatology, 2009 & Dermato-Endocrinology, 2011).
That’s reason enough to avoid products with irritating ingredients, which often come in the form of fragrance including the misnamed “essential” oils.