Clinical Facial Lifting Wrinkle Treatment SPF 30 (Discontinued)
1 fl. oz. for $36.99
Last Updated:04.09.2012
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Review Overview

First a bit of background: Neutrogena, Aveeno, and RoC are all owned by Johnson & Johnson. Each brand sells a group of 2-product kits based on J&J’s new technology that’s supposedly capable of generating electricity to “trigger” elastin production.

Here are the basics (albeit confusing, but then this is the crazy world of cosmetics marketing):

-All three brands claim that their duos reduce wrinkles and firm skin by increasing elastin production.

-All three brands have 3 duo sets sold together: one set for the eyes; one for daytime that includes sunscreen and one for nighttime use (this contains a moisturizer with no sunscreen).

-All three sets come with a serum meant to be applied before the coordinating product (eye cream, daytime moisturizer, night cream)
-The minerals in each serum (the ones that are supposed to generate an electrical charge of some kind) from all the brands are identical (copper and zinc); the products paired with them, eye cream, sunscreen, night cream, differ slightly between the brands.

-Neutrogena Clinical and RoC Brilliance have the most similarities, but the RoC sets cost $10 more than Neutrogena Clinical, likely due to RoC’s prestige positioning.

-Strangely, Neutrogena and Roc make claims about the serum needing to be paired with each product to cause an electric charge or pulse while Aveeno's version does NOT make claims of an electric pulse, despite having the same serum and method of application. Instead, they state that the "active naturals" (dill and blackberry) stimulate elastin production in skin.

Obviously, the only real differences are each company’s marketing direction. Neutrogena has the dermatologist-recommended connection, Aveeno plays up their natural ingredients, and RoC has the European allure and professional stance against wrinkles. Aside from this marketing sleight of hand, and the emphasis on a different mix of ingredients, there is no independent research showing the micro-current triggering ingredients can have a visible effect on skin or that other ingredients can’t function the same or even better. The only certainty about these products is you will be seeing lots and lots of ads and press for them!

As referred to above, all of the Neutrogena Clinical products are sold with the same special serum, which contains the “essential ion-mineral conductors” said to generate a tiny micro-current in skin when mixed with a water-based product. We’ll explain why the concept of generating micro-currents in skin may or may not be helpful, but before we do, consider this: Not even Neutrogena believes their ion-mineral conductors are “essential.” If they did, why didn’t they include this allegedly special serum in all of their products? Wouldn’t the Ageless Intensives or Healthy Skin products also benefit from this supposedly breakthrough technology? As it turns out, Neutrogena Clinical is but one more choice for consumers when they shop for skin-care products to combat wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Here’s how this duo is supposed to work: You apply a tiny amount of the company’s gray-tinted ion2complex Gel Serum to facial skin each morning and immediately follow with the SPF 30 Activating Cream. When combined, the products are said to generate a 10-millivolt electric charge that’s supposed to stimulate collagen and elastin production in the skin’s lower layers. You won’t feel the electricity, but within a few weeks, the daily charge is supposed to increase skin’s firmness and elasticity while reducing wrinkles. And Neutrogena’s before-and-after pictures are impressive, which is further temptation to try this duo.

The concept behind this product is cell communication. The micro-current is supposed to “tell” damaged cells to stop behaving badly and start doing what they were designed for before the damage (think sun damage) occurred. However, it’s a stretch to believe that this micro-current technology is useful for aging skin. First, a 10-millivolt charge is 1/1000th of 1 volt. Using a standard light bulb wattage for comparison (although some conversion is needed because wattage is a measurement of power produced from voltage), 1 volt equals approximately 1 watt, assuming 1 ampere of power is generated. That should give you a better idea of how weak 1/1000th of 1 volt really is. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s assume this charge did have an effect on skin. How do we know the energy it generates is helping rather than harming cells? For example, what if the charge doesn’t trigger malfunctioning cells to improve, but instead stimulates destructive behavior? Neutrogena hasn’t published any research proving the minerals in their ion complex work exactly as intended. In contrast, there is a huge body of research proving that cell-communicating ingredients such as retinol and niacinamide do benefit skin because there are receptor sites on skin cells for these ingredients, but what about for “bio-electricity”? There’s also the fact that cell-to-cell communication is an incredibly complex process. There are innumerable factors involved in controlling cellular performance, so it’s silly to think that a very small amount of micro-current is going to make a positive difference. Besides, no cell-communicating ingredient can undo the age-related changes that bother many consumers, such as muscle laxity along the jaw line (causing sagging skin), the effects of gravity, or the biological fact that skin keeps growing as we age but due to bone loss it has less support scaffolding to hold it in place. Neutrogena Clinical isn’t a compelling alternative to cosmetic corrective procedures; it isn’t even great skin care.

As for the products themselves, the ion2complex Gel Serum is just silicones with zinc, film-forming agent, vitamin E, and copper. There is research pertaining to copper and its dual role in skin: wound healing and altering the matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) that contribute to collagen depletion. Applying ingredients that work against this damage is helpful, but this is not the only way to improve aging skin. Zinc is believed to play a co-factor role with copper when it comes to repairing damaged elastin in skin, but again, it’s not the only game in town (Sources: Connective Tissue Research, January 2010, Epublication; Experimental Dermatology, March 2009, pages 205–211; and Veterinary Dermatology, December 2006, pages 417–423).

The SPF 30 Activating Cream is a very basic moisturizer with an in-part avobenzone sunscreen. It’s an OK lightweight option for normal to slightly dry skin, but a lot is missing here. There are no skin-identical ingredients, antioxidants, or, surprisingly, proven cell-communicating ingredients. Moreover, the Clinical name is just marketing wordplay used to justify this product’s steep price. The formulas don’t reflect what most consumers think of when they come across the word “clinical” as it pertains to skin-care products.

One last comment: A main ingredient in the SPF 30 Activating Cream is the chelating agent tetrahydroxypropyl ethylenediamine. Guess what chelating agents do? They deactivate metal ions by making them a part of their complex ring structure. In other words, the presence of a chelating agent in the Night Activating Cream prevents the copper and zinc from exerting their ion-based energy. What a joke, right? It may be a joke, but consumers who buy into this won’t be laughing, and believe me, I understand their disappointment.

Start the day with our Facial Lifting Wrinkle Treatment, containing a silky SPF 30 moisturizer and ion2complex serum that, when combined, activate to improve the look of wrinkles, skin firmness, and elasticity—lending to greater skin resilience and a more youthful appearance. Plus, this formula helps to protect against skin-aging UVA rays with Helioplex technology.
ion2complex Gel Serum: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Trisiloxane, Silica, Zinc, Divinyldimethicone/Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Tocopheryl Acetate, Copper Powder. SPF 30 Activating Cream: Active: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (12%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (5%), Oxybenzone (3%). Other: Water, Butylene Glycol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Tetrahydroxypropyl Ethylenediamine, Silica, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Steareth-2, Glyceryl Stearate, Steareth-21, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Cetearyl Glucoside, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Arachidyl Alcohol, Peg-100 Stearate, Disodium Edta, Polyacrylamide, Behenyl Alcohol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Propylparaben, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Arachidyl Glucoside, Laureth-7, Citric Acid, Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Fragrance
Brand Overview

Neutrogena At-A-Glance

Strengths: Inexpensive; several recommended cleansers; retinol options, in stable packaging; vast selection of sunscreens, most of which offer excellent UVA protection; several fragrance-free options; many of the Healthy Skin products are state-of-the-art; the foundations with sunscreen provide sufficient UVA protection; some praiseworthy makeup items.

Weaknesses: An overabundance of overlapping anti-aging products that is perennially confusing for consumers; irritating bar soaps; lackluster to downright bad toners; a handful of bland moisturizers and eye creams; some sunscreens too much alcohol or problematic preservatives; most of the Deep Clean products are terrible; mostly disappointing concealers; the lip balms with sunscreen provide inadequate UVA protection.

Johnson & Johnson–owned Neutrogena has been around for over 50 years, and they've come a long way since they launched their first transparent, bronze, detergent-based bar soap (it also contains tallow). The bars are still sold, and while we still don't recommend them (they are too drying for all skin types), the good news is that Neutrogena has come a very long way from where they started. In fact, several of their products represent truly state-of-the-art options.

Strolling the skin-care aisles of any drugstore or mass-market store reveals that Neutrogena vies for shelf space and prominence with only one other brand, Procter & Gamble's Olay. For the most part, both companies offer a similar assortment of products, with Olay being slightly more focused on anti-aging products and Neutrogena going for broader appeal, offering a nearly equal amount of antiwrinkle and anti-acne products. Regrettably the latter category presents few viable options.

Where Neutrogena really excels (and has for years) is with water-soluble cleansers, AHAs, retinol, and sunscreen products. Their Healthy Skin lineup offers some beautifully formulated moisturizers with glycolic acid, and the sunscreens offer something for everyone, including some ingenious options for those with oily skin (or anyone who finds the texture of high-SPF products as unappealing as slathering your skin with Crisco).

A recent self-proclaimed advance in sun protection came with Neutrogena's Helioplex complex. It is not the superior breakthrough Neutrogena makes it out to be. It's a good system to keep avobenzone stable for longer, but Helioplex isn't the only way to get the most out of this important UVA sunscreen. If it were, why didn't Neutrogena scrap all of their other sunscreens that don't use Helioplex technology? And why do they still offer a handful of SPF-rated products that leave skin vulnerable to UVA damage? Although they offer a proportionately greater number of sunscreens that provide excellent UVA protection, it's hard to unequivocally deem them a sun-care leader when they still sell inadequate sunscreens.

It's common to see commercials and magazine ads for Neutrogena's plethora of products designed to combat breakouts and blackheads. It's nothing short of amazing that, after all these years, the majority of these products, while well intentioned, still don't get it right. Far too many of them contain irritating ingredients such as alcohol, witch hazel, and menthol, none of which are the least bit helpful for someone struggling with breakouts. If your dermatologist recommends these products for acne without reservation, definitely consider a second opinion! Even Neutrogena's on-the-spot benzoyl peroxide product contains some potentially problematic thickening agents. Despite this, if you choose carefully, there are some great products (including a BHA lotion) that can make a positive difference.

What's most frustrating and, frankly, surprising, is that Neutrogena's enormous assortment of products represents both the best and the worst the cosmetics industry has to offer. Given their worldwide distribution and research capabilities, they really should be offering a consistent range of effective, irritant-free products to address a variety of skin types and conditions. As things stand now, healthy, protected skin is only assured if you know which Neutrogena products to look for and which ones to never put in your shopping cart.

For more information about Neutrogena, owned by Johnson & Johnson, call (800) 582-4048 or visit www.neutrogena.com.

Neutrogena Makeup

Neutrogena's "beautiful and beneficial" pronouncement is a great tag line, but most of their makeup doesn't live up to that assertion. This line was lacking in several key areas when it first hit store shelves in 1999, and although some things have improved, the number of problematic products is a bit startling. (We are not aware of any cosmetic line that uses menthol or its derivatives as often as Neutrogena.) Each product carries on about the vitamins it contains, yet compared to the leading roles played by cosmetic staples like silicones and thickening agents, the vitamins have mere cameo roles, and as such have little to no impact.

There are a few key items to seek out, especially if you're looking for makeup with excellent sun protection. We also found their lip gloss to be one of the best at any price, and a few of their foundations successfully bridge the gap between skin care and makeup.

The most frustrating aspect of this line is that almost all of it is packaged so you cannot see the color. Even worse, the color swatch on the box is a poor representation, not only of how the color looks in the compact, but also how it looks on your skin. What would truly be beneficial is for Neutrogena to offer more revealing packaging or provide testers or offer trial sizes. Their overall collection and in-store displays aren't nearly as tempting as most other drugstore makeup lines, so in most cases they're relying on their constant magazine and television ads to drive shoppers to explore the world of Neutrogena makeup, or they're relying solely on those who don't mind guessing what color they are really buying. It's obviously working, because despite the problematic elements, this is a line that has survived and is very well distributed.

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.

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