Clinique Clarifying Lotion Ingredient Breakdown

Hello all!

Back at it again with another Clinique post. Sorry! I can really get behind this brand but not just that, it’s because of this brand and through this brand that I’m learning so much. I spend a lot of my time looking at the ingredient lists of our products and then looking them up later (“grape seed oil? What’s that do?” “seaweed extract? But why?”). It’s great because some of these are common ingredients in a lot of skin care products from other brands, and some are what set Clinique apart.

One interesting question is that recently I was talking to my mom about the three step routine and she expressed somewhat of an interest in buying the products but she said, specifically about the Clarifying Lotion, “what is the second ingredient after water? What are the active ingredients, I don’t want to put anything on my skin that I couldn’t put in my mouth.”

Well, That’s a tall order, but thankfully my mom has great skin with almost no problems so she doesn’t have to worry much about putting things on it that she wouldn’t put in her body.

There are a few reasons why I think it’s okay to put some things on your body that you wouldn’t/couldn’t eat (this might ruffle some feathers, sorry):

  1. Acne. Acne is a skin bacterial problem and bacterial problems can need strong solutions. Acids, astringents, highly concentrated alcohol, all things you should not be putting in your mouth.
  2. Skin holes are small. Simply put, skin holes are just… small. By this I mainly mean that things that are often taken orally are way too big to be applied topically and successfully absorbed into the skin. Ever looked on your cleanser, seen a word you didn’t recognize on the ingredient list, googled it, and it was something simple that you know really well? The most likely reason why it has a different name is because it is a reformulated version that has been made literally more fine so that it can fit into the deeper layers of the skin tissue. Especially products meant for the face are made so fine and the active ingredients are in such a small amount that taking it orally every day would not make a difference to your body at all. It wouldn’t be good, it wouldn’t be bad, it would probably be unnoticeable.
  3. There are a lot of things I would put in my skin that I would NOT put ON my skin. For example: Cinnamon, hot sauce, vinegar, lemon, etc.


But, to answer moms question about the ingredients, I’ve actually researched (or had previous knowledge) about all of the ingredients. Don’t worry, it’s a short list.

Keep in mind that the ingredients vary for all four of the clarifying lotions. 1.0 is formulated with no alcohol at all for extremely sensitive skin, the second has menthol, and the last two have much higher concentrations of alcohol (for more oily skin it isn’t harmful).

Ingredients of #2 Clarifying Lotion (formulated for Dry Combination skin):

  1. Water
  2. Alcohol Denat. – Otherwise known as denatured alcohol, is simply alcohol with a denaturant added to it. A denaturant is an ingredient of extremely bitter taste, rendering the alcohol undrinkable, and therefore untaxable as alcohol. Most cosmetic alcohol is alcohol denat. as it is cheaper. You may hear people saying this and that about alcohol being so bad for your skin, and yes, it does dry out the skin, but that isn’t all bad. Alcohol in high concentrations like the toners from the ’70’s and fragrances are things that shouldn’t be put on the skin. Alcohol in a low concentration, such as in a toning product these days, is there to cleanse the skin, not over-dry it.
  3. Glycerin – a sweet tasting non-toxic viscous, odorless, colorless liquid. This is the gel part of gel pills. It is water soluble, and works wonders as a lubricant and moisturizer for the skin. It is one of the few ingredients that can be completely liquid and still hold moisture in the skin. It is extracted most commonly from soybeans.
  4. Witch Hazel – I love witch hazel! This is from the witch hazel shrub. Sometimes on ingredient lists, this just shows up under the latin name of the shrub – hamamelis virginiana. The is the most awesomest ingredient! Some people use straight up witch hazel as a toner. This ingredient is great for healing scars and microdermabrasions, tightening pores, lifting skin, smoothing fine-lines and evening skin tone. If you have sensitive skin, witch hazel is also a great ingredient to help calm down your skin and get rid of redness. No matter the toner you use, I would alway suggest one with witch hazel!
  5. Menthol – The #2 Clarifying Lotion is the only one with menthol, and it’s one of the reasons I picked this one (I should probably technically be in the #3 category). Menthol is most commonly from MINT. It’s in toothpastes, gums, mints, mouth wash, cough drops, and aftershaves. This is mostly there for the feel. It gives a slight tingle, making the skin feel more refreshed and “cleaned out”. If you have cuts on your face or acne it might burn for a second, but in the long run it will help with the wound, just like it does with aftershaves.
  6. Acetyle Glucosamine – This is the main exfoliant ingredient. It increases the production of hyaluronic acid in the skin and is used in hospitals on areas before and after surgery, as it helps speeding up the healing process. It cleans out the pores and dead skin and almost “preps” it for healthy growth and reproduction.
  7. Trehalose – This helps to speed along the dehydration/rehydration process of skin cells, allowing the cells to go through their normal life cycles without harming new cells, as it has high water retention capabilities. This means it makes production easier, smoother, and therefore quicker. Common anti-aging ingredient.
  8. Sodium Hyaluronate – I’ve learned this even since my post a few days ago, that sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid are different. Sodium hyaluronate is the small, fine, topically absorbable version of hyaluronic acid, something that is usually taken orally. Check out my hyaluronic acid post to find out more about this ingredient. Long story short: it’s great.
  9. Butylene Glycol – makes a thinner, more liquidy product, helps easier deliver other ingredients into the skin. In small amounts in most liquid makeup it is used and explained as a “skin penetrater. It helps the other things work how they need to.
  10. Sodium Biocarbinate – the last ingredient before the coloring. Often used in toothpaste to make teeth whiter, also more understandably used as a mild disinfectant. It is in baking soda and deodorant and is used as in ingredient in neti-potting. It is most likely added for it’s disinfectant properties.


And that’s it folks! (beside red 33, red 6, and violet 2). Hope you enjoyed this. This isn’t really to get you to use the product, I myself haven’t even used it that many times, so I can’t really truly recommend it. I just want to increase awareness about skin care products and ingredients. What are those long names, why are they in there, what do they mean? That’s all I’m trying to do (even though I am bad at science and tried to include as little science as possible so this would still be fun for me).


Hope that answered your question, mom


Until next time!




9 thoughts on “Clinique Clarifying Lotion Ingredient Breakdown

  1. Interesting! Do you take requests for specific beauty info? I am curious if there are any good products for under-eye puffiness. Preferably not too many mysterious ingredients. One of the names of my existence.


  2. I’m a big fan of witch hazel. It’s just about the only big shrub that blooms in mid-February and it’s gorgeous in the fall too! It’s a missouri native and we have a beautiful one next to our front door. The stuff that comes in a bottle has some pretty cool qualities as well.


  3. Great work, Michelle! Keep it up. It takes a long time to research ingredients. I want to know any negative aspects beyond what makes it beneficial to the product. Like, why would they use colorings? They are unnecessary chemicals. Kristin has some nice moisturizing lotion with an spf of 15, which would be good for me because I’m starting to get age-spots. I looked up all the unfamiliar ingredients and they were pretty benign but there was one I couldn’t accept. The brand is Yes to Carrots and it had retinyl palmitate and, according to the website, this ingredient has high hazard levels saying it has caused tumors in animal studies at low doses. Here’s the link: That’s why I end up making my own lotions, etc. Kristin let me use a toner she had here and I realized how dirty my skins still is even after I think I’ve washed it. So now I’m on the search for a toner with all good ingredients, but until then I will just use witch hazel, according to your helpful suggestion!


    1. Yeah, retanoids can be dangerous. They are just vitamin A in an ingestable and absorbable form, like what they put in 1% milk, but yeah a lot of people can’t use them. A woman came in today and made me check all the ingredients to make sure they didn’t have any retinol. Enough people have reactions to it though that none of our products contain any retinoids.


  4. This is pretty great. I use plain oil on my face and body a lot of the time but I’ve been finding that it often isn’t nearly as good at moisturizing my legs as some of the lotions I have. Even though the products I use are often organic I still see a lot of ingredients that I don’t recognize or that look suspiciously like toxic chemicals. This research is helpful. I’ve been cooling it on the SPF because I’ve been seeing quite a bit of information on how bad SPF can be for you if it isn’t in a good form. Instead I just keep my face out of the sun and let the rest of my body pretty much soak it up. I don’t have any Clinique products but I do like how even mainstream companies and brands are becoming more careful and conscientious about the ingredients in their products.


    1. Yeah, well your body has a hard time absorbing straight up oil without it clogging your pores. It usually just sits on the surface and doesn’t get absorbed very much. A lot of the ingredients in moisturizers are things that make the active ingredients more absorbable. A lot of ingredients are too big to be absorbed so they have to be reformulated or thinned.


    2. I only use natural sunscreens that use minerals but it’s hard to sort out all the other mysterious ingredients.


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