facetheory Clarifying Cleanser C2 – for grown-ups | Doctors Review



Exfoliating cleansers like the facetheory Clarifying Cleanser are often a good alternative for those that don’t tolerate leave-on exfoliants, as they are basically a form of short-contact therapy that might not be as effective as leave-on, but reduces the risk of irritation and can often be used more frequently.


a pot of facetheory Clarifying Cleanser standing in front of white flowers on a dark background
facetheory Clarifying Cleanser


The reasons why your skin gets easily irritated are many, it might just be your genetics or, like in my case, a prescription that you are using. It might also be a temporary thing, due to the seasons changing or a change in your hormones that make you more prone to irritation, whatever the reason, it is good to have options.



What the facetheory Clarifying Cleanser C2 claims

Our bestselling clarifying cream cleanser contains a powerful trifecta of acids at a low pH to benefit oily, congested, and blemish-prone skin. Contains 2% salicylic acid, to penetrate deeply into the pores to remove trapped dirt and reduce the appearance of blackheads. Formulated with glycolic acid (4%) and lactic acid (1%) to exfoliate skin, removing dead skin cells and improving the overall texture and appearance.


Facts about the facetheory Clarifying Cleanser C2

Prize and size

One pot contains 170 ml and is available for 16 € on the website here. You can get it in the scent Mandarin and in Unscented, out of which I have only tried the unscented version. I have tried another of their cleansers in Mandarin though (More info: facetheory Vitamin C Cream Cleanser Review) and can tell you it smells divine. (More info: Is fragrance in your skincare dangerous?)

All facetheory products are vegan.


Texture and smell

Sometimes unscented stands for “smells unbearable”, but here that isn’t the case. It really has barely any scent of its own. There is a faint whiff of cream, something slightly nutty, but barely noticeable.

Unlike other acid cleansers I know this one is no gel, but has a cream texture, which surprised me.


Close up of the facetheory Clarifying Cleanser
The facetheory Clarifying Cleanser is a cream, not a gel, which surprised me.


How to use the facetheory Clarifying Cleanser C2

You are supposed to wet your face first, but the cleanser applies smoothly both to wet and to dry skin. I experienced no tingling or redness, but made sure to stay clear of my eyes – this is not supposed to take off your makeup, it is a second or morning cleanse.

When rinsed with water, my skin felt soft and smooth, never tight, but if you have oily skin and crave that “clean skin” feeling you might prefer using a washcloth with it.

Depending on the sensitivity of your skin, you could use it every night, the acid concentration isn’t extremely high, but I always suggest being cautious when it comes to exfoliating acids, especially when you, like me, use other potentially irritating actives in your routine. (More info: The best way to exfoliate when you are on retinol)


Ingredients of the facetheory Clarifying Cleanser C2

Aqua solv, Dimethyl Isosorbide (Sugar Based Solvent) solv|vc, Glycolic Acid (4%) exf|buff, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil emo 0 12, Cetyl Alcohol (Naturally Derived Non-Drying Coconut Fatty Acid) emo|vc 2 2, Glyceryl Stearate (Emulsifier) emo|emu 0 12, Salicylic Acid (2%, BHA) exf|aacne|so|pres, Polyglyceryl-6 Stearate (Emulsifier) emo|emu, Sodium Glycolate (Salt Of Glycolic Acid) buff, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Kernel Oil emo 0 13, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil aox|emo 0 03, Lactic Acid (1%, AHA) exf|h|buff, Glyceryl Caprylate (Emollient) pres, Sodium Lactate (Salt Of Lactic Acid) buff|h, Polyglyceryl-6 Behenate (Natural Emulsifier), Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose (Plant-Derived Thickener) vc, Xanthan Gum (Vegan Rheology Modifier) vc, Sodium Salicylate (Salt Of Salicylic Acid) pres

Hover the mouse over an ingredient for short explanation. Read more on INCIDecoder.
The acids used are Glycolic Acid at 4%, which is on the medium to low level concentration wise, Salicylic Acid at 2%, which is the maximum concentration available in cosmetics, and then Lactic Acid at 1%, which is a very low concentration.

The oils used are the same as they are in their Vitamin C Cream Cleanser which explains why they feel so similar in texture: Apricot Kernel, Sweet Almond and Avocado Oil, then emulsifiers and that is basically it.

(More info: How to read the ingredient list in skincare products)


Does it live up to its claims?


It is great for congested and more oily skin, just like any Salicylic Acid Cleanser would be.


How does it compare to…


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


elf Blemish Breakthrough Acne Clarifying Cleanser

The elf version is the improved version of the cleansers I grew up with: gel, foaming and not really the best for mature skin, but not as harsh and stripping as the ones we had back in the 90s were. It is very different to the facetheory one in texture, more like I expect an exfoliating cleanser to be, and it also only contains 1% Salicylic Acid and no other exfoliating acids, making it more of an everyday option.

You can read my full review of the elf Blemish Breakthrough Acne Clarifying Cleanser here.


pixi Clarity Cleanser
pixi Clarity Cleanser


pixi Clarity Cleanser

Another foaming gel option and another one that is probably more aimed at younger skins. pixi doesn’t disclose the Salicylic Acid concentration, but also pairs it with Glycolic and Lactic for exfoliation both on the skins surface and inside the pore. Again I couldn’t use it daily as that would have been too harsh, but more as a treatment cleanse when my skin was feeling congested.

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

Murad has by far the strongest and most stripping version of an exfoliating cleanser and I would definitely recommend it for occasional use, not as daily cleanser. That of course depends on your skin type, but the concentration of  acids paired with a physical scrub component would be too much for almost everyone used daily. It leaves the skin baby soft though.

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 don’t use exfoliating cleansers on a regular anymore – at least not on my face, I love them for my body on the areas I have Keratosis pilaris (More info: How to deal with Keratosis pilaris or chicken skin) If I needed regular exfoliation and wouldn’t be able to use leave-on, the facetheory Clarifying Cleanser would be among my favorites due to it’s creamy texture. It feels more grown up than the gel cleansers you usually get, so mature and congested skin will like it a lot. While it isn’t hydrating, it should work equally as well for dry skins when paired with a hydrating serum afterwards.


facetheory Clarifying Cleanser Review
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