e.l.f. Blemish Breakthrough Acne Clarifying Cleanser – Only for teenage skin? | Doctors Review



Sometimes skincare is a throwback to the olden days when I was a teenager – the elf Blemish Breakthrough Acne Clarifying Cleanser for example. I struggled with acne since my early teens, and back then skincare advice was rare. Especially qualified advice. So I did what everyone did and turned to the drugstore, where I found a variety of affordable, but usually very stripping foaming cleansers with Salicylic Acid.


A tube of elf Blemish Breakthrough Acne Clarifying Cleanser standing in front of white flowers on a dark background
elf Blemish Breakthrough Acne Clarifying Cleanser


Now not every foaming cleanser has to be stripping, but back then, they usually were. And we wanted it that way! If my skin didn’t feel tight after I finished my routine, I was convinced I had done something wrong. Again, good advice was hard to come by these days. But that has changed and now I know that stripping my skin is actually the worst I can do. And I know that not every foaming cleanser with Salicylic Acid is stripping.

Is the elf Blemish Breakthrough Clarifying Cleanser an exception to the rule? Let’s see.


Here is a video about all the elf Blemish Breakthrough products I have tried


What the Blemish Breakthrough Clarifying Cleanser claims

A gentle gel cleanser with 1% Salicylic Acid and other blemish-fighting ingredients that lather to help remove makeup, control oil and dirt, and clarify pores.


Facts about the Blemish Breakthrough Clarifying Cleanser

Prize and size

One tube contains 115 ml and is available for 10 € on the website here. Like all e.l.f. products it is vegan. Pictured above is a mini size, the original packaging comes with a pump for convenience.


Texture and smell

The cleanser itself is clear, looks and feels like your average gel cleanser, maybe a little more on the runny side, and has no scent to it.


Close up of the elf Blemish Breakthrough Blemish Clarifying Cleanser
Close up of the elf Blemish Breakthrough Blemish Clarifying Cleanser


How to use the Blemish Breakthrough Clarifying Cleanser

Like all gel cleansers you are supposed to either use it on damp skin or to mix it up with water to create lather, but even when used on dry skin this cleanser starts to froth up. When you add water to the mix, it forms a nice firm foam with tiny bubbles. Now it claims to remove makeup, but I wear the majority of makeup around my eyes, with liner, eyeshadow and mascara as daily essentials and as this did sting my eyes a little, I only ever used it as morning or second cleanse. (More info: Is Double Cleansing bad for you?)

While it rinses clean, no wash cloth needed, it felt a tad drying on my skin, which is why I think it is best suited for oily skins or for me for the summer months. (More info: Skincare changes for summer)


Ingredients of the Blemish Breakthrough Clarifying Cleanser

Hover the mouse over an ingredient for short explanation. Read more on INCIDecoder.
The ingredients targeting breakouts are the 1% Salicylic Acid – you can find up to 2% in your products, then Zinc PCA which helps with sebum control and lastly Niacinamide and Tranexamic Acid, but both at much lower concentrations than you usually get, so I wouldn’t expect too much from them in this formula. (More info: Everything you need to know about Niacinamide in skincare and Everything you need to know about Tranexamic Acid in skincare)

You will also find Glycerin for hydration and of course surfactants that are considered very effective, probably the explanation as to why I found it a little drying.


Does it live up to its claims?


I don’t find this very gentle nor very effective to remove makeup, especially as it is hard to use around the eyes without stinging.


How does it compare to…


pixi Clarity Cleanser Review
The pixi Clarity Cleanser


pixi Clarity Cleanser

Another cleanser with Salicylic Acid claiming to keep the skin congestion free, but pixi pairs it with Glycolic and Lactic for some extra exfoliation. Like the one from elf I don’t like it to remove my makeup and I don’t think it is particularly gentle on the skin, so both for me aren’t something I’d use daily.

pixi contains a lot of plant extracts, some used for skin benefits, others for perfuming, and here I think the Niacinamide, Zinc and Tranexamic Acid are actually a better choice for those struggling with oily, blemish prone skin. The additional soothing ingredients pixi has don’t really make much of a difference on how my skin feels.

You can read my full review of the pixi Clarity Cleanser here.


Murad AHA BHA Exfoliating Cleanser - travel size pictured
Murad AHA BHA Exfoliating Cleanser – travel size pictured


Murad AHA BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Now sometimes the term gentle has to be put in perspective as in “gentle compared to what?”. Because compared to the Murad AHA BHA Exfoliating Cleanser, elf is surely the gentler option. Murad pairs the Salicylic with Lactic and Glycolic Acid as well as Jojoba Beads for physical exfoliation, and while elf truly feels like a cleanser to me, Murad is despite the name more of a proper exfoliant. I wouldn’t even dream of putting it close to my eyes and have to be careful not to use it too often, once a month is usually all I need.

You can read my full review of the Murad AHA BHA Exfoliating Cleanser here.


Would I repurchase and which skin types do I recommend it to?

I think I have outgrown exfoliating cleansers and prefer to use an exfoliating toner instead, so I personally will not repurchase. The 1% Salicylic Acid makes this a good cleanser for those with oily skin and congestion though and I think it will work very well on teenage skin. (More info: Skincare tips for teenagers) Just make sure it isn’t too stripping and if it is, maybe try using it every other day instead.


elf skin Blemish Breakthrough Clarifying Cleanser Review
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