I’ve Been Dealing with Acne for Almost 20 Years, and Clearly Basics is the Only OTC Option That’s Really Worked

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clearly basics acne treatment review 4001
  • Value: 19/20
  • Functionality: 18/20
  • Quality/Ease of Use: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 19/20
  • Speed of Treatment: 16/20
  • TOTAL: 92/100

I’ve been dealing with acne since I was 10 years old. As a teenager, I figured my skin would naturally improve when I grew older and my hormones stopped wreaking havoc on my body. But alas, that wasn’t in the cards. I have used nearly every topical cream, oral option, face wash, pimple patch, in-office treatment and DIY remedy known to man, save Accutane and possibly a few newer options. And while many treatments certainly improved my skin, none of them seemed to truly clear things up, at least not long term. Then, a few weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown, I started using a new acne-fighting line called Clearly Basics, and folks, I think I finally found my fix.

After going down a deep rabbit hole on the Clearly Basics Facebook page and reading countless testimonials, reviews and blog posts about how well the products worked to clear up acne, prevent new spots from forming and speed up the skin’s repair process for dark spots and scars, I was feeling pretty good that this might really work. There are seven products in the lineup, but I decided to start with the Protective Moisturizer ($43) and Clear Out cream ($47) (there’s a discount if you buy more than one product at a time).

The Clear Out cream is the true star here, as this is what works to treat any acne you’re currently dealing with, as well as prevent new pimples from popping up. It uses a combination of medical-grade retinol and azelaic acid (also know as AZA)—which helps to calm redness, brighten your skin and improve its texture—to clear out clogged pores, whether they be whiteheads or blackheads. It’s gentle enough for everyday use (although if you’re totally new to retinols or chemical exfoliants, you should start by using it only every other day) and goes on smooth with no lingering scent, stickiness or burning sensation.

Of course, one of the main concerns with any acne product is how quickly it will get rid of those pesky pimples. When it comes to Clearly Basics, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that I noticed a true difference in the appearance of my skin after just one week, both with regard to old spots going down and a lack of any new flare ups. That said, other reviews had warned me that I would likely experience at least one, possibly two, breakout periods as old gunk, oil and bacteria were pushed to the surface of my skin. And that’s exactly what happened a little over two weeks into using the Clear Out cream, then again another two to three weeks after that. It can be super frustrating working with a product that makes things get worse before they get better, but that is true for a multitude of acne treatments. Being mentally prepared for a new crop of bumps before they appear is incredibly helpful for dealing with those frustrations and keeping with an acne-fighting program rather than abandoning it as faulty.

As for the Protective Moisturizer, it too went on smooth and scent-free, leaving my skin feeling fresh and hydrated but not heavy. It’s packed with powerful antioxidants like resveratrol (which help protect your skin from UV rays and pollution), peptide to help prevent fine lines and improve skin elasticity, and aloe vera which, as anyone who has ever had a sunburn can tell you, works to calm, hydrate and heal your skin like gangbusters. 

Going into week nine of using this power duo, I can confirm that the only pimples I’ve had to deal with have been a direct result of picking at my skin (what can I say? Old habits die hard). I haven’t had any unsightly whiteheads or painful under-the-skin cystic bumps in weeks, and I’ve noticed my blackheads and clogged pores growing steadily clearer and clearer. And while some might be concerned by the price tag, I find this duo to be well worth it for the spectacular results. Plus, each of the products I tested is intended to last three months, working out to just about 15 dollars a month for each.

At some point in my skincare journey, I came to the conclusion that it would be easier to simply come to terms with and accept my acne-prone skin or learn to stop being so embarrassed, ashamed and effected by a few pimples, red spots or scars. And while I still think destigmatizing acne is important for the mentally well-being of pimple poppers of all ages, I’m over-the-moon excited that I finally found something that works and that I don’t need a prescription from a dermatologist to obtain. My skin will likely never be perfect, but Clearly Basics has gotten me pretty damn close thus far. 

Buy the set ($90; $83) 

The 10 Most Effective Products for Adult Acne



Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...