Article contribution by Journalist: Kira Pinard-Welyczko on

We’ve seen salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide come up a lot in our research. Are these the most important ingredients, and is there anything that gets left out of the conversation?

C2: Acne is a complex skin issue and there are many underlying issues that can cause it. Salicylic acid and Benzoyl peroxide are in many acne products because they have had  success in the past. However, these two ingredients may have other undesirable effects that can cause acne rebound, over dryness, and possibly even cancer.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit that educates consumers on safe and healthy products based on their ingredient profile. Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide are on their unacceptable list. Canada, EU and Japan also have restrictive labeling and prohibit certain concentration percentages on both ingredients.

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid and has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and works as a keratolytic by exfoliating the skin. The skin cells shed quickly and prevent pores from clogging and allow for new cell growth. The % of the salicylic acid needs to be evaluated before use, as the % dictates the amount of salicylates you will expose your skin to – the higher the % the more of an effect you will see. The main issue is the drying effects that can be irritating to your skin. Many times, those with acne have sensitive skin and may be more prone to reactions with salicylic acid. If over-drying of the skin occurs, your skin may rebound with more oil and more acne. It can sometimes set up a vicious cycle that can negatively affect your skin for the long run.  Those with darker skin may also see a discoloration with the use of this ingredient. Anyone who is allergic to aspirin, sensitive to salicylates, or has asthma should avoid products containing salicylic acid due to various side effects such as difficulty breathing, nasal congestion, itching skin, stomach pain and headaches. Breastfeeding moms should avoid salicylic acid products as the chemical could possibly be passed through in breast milk. Many manufacturers have added this ingredient to many products and consumers should check the bottles to make sure they don’t get overly exposed to salicylic acid.

Benzoyl Peroxide is part of the peroxides group. The compound breaks down into oxygen and benzoic and interacts with your skin and bacteria. What benzoyl peroxide is known for is its antibacterial effects and drying effects that causes the skin to peel and regenerate. The main bacteria it affects is P. acne which likes a low oxygen environment. Once a pore is clogged and the bacteria is present, the lack of oxygen allows the bacteria to multiply quickly and infect the area. Benzoyl Peroxide will supply oxygen and create an unfavorable living condition for the bacteria and helps to decrease the numbers. But before you jump for joy — be aware that the FDA has issued warnings and there are studies that have shown it can cause DNA damage linked to cancer. FDA warnings include: redness, dryness, light swelling, peeling and a burning sensation on the skin. Side effects range from allergic reactions, skin irritations, facial swelling, difficulty breathing, lightheadedness and life-threatening hypersensitivity to the ingredient. Studies have shown that long term exposure of benzoyl peroxide can possibly generate free radicals in the skin and cause oxidative stress on the cell and damage DNA — which may lead to cancer. Long term use has also shown that it could possibly cause premature aging of the skin due to the overdrying effects and elimination of natural oils.

In your professional opinion, are there any ingredients that should be avoided in an acne treatment?

C2: We feel benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in acne treatments might not be the right solution –  you need to feed your skin healthy ingredients and nourish it. We have a C2 Dirty 30 list for personal care products – which is a list of naughty ingredients for any skincare regimen – not just acne.



AI – Allergies & Immunotoxicity
C – Cancer
ED – Endocrine Disruption
ET – Environmental Toxicity
N – Neurotoxicity
O – Organic Toxicity, Non-reproductive
R – Reproductive Toxicity, Birth Defects

C2 Dirty 30 – Our Black List

  1. Benzalkonium Chloride [AI]
  2. Benzophenone and derivatives [C, ED, ET, R]
  3. Bisphenol A (BPA)  [AI]
  4. Butoxyethanol [C, R]
  5. BHA and BHT- [ED, ET, C, IT, O]
  6. Carbon Black [C, O]
  7. Coal Tar Dyes –[C, N]
  8. Cyclotetrasiloxane [ED, ET, N]
  9. 1,4-dioxane [AI, C]
  10. Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) [O]
  11. Ethanolamines or Nitrosamines (Cocamide DEA, Diethanolamine) [AI, C, ED, ET R]
  12. Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde -releasing preservatives  [AI, C, N, R]
  13. Hydroquinone [AI, C, O]
  14. Lead and Other Heavy Metals [AI, N, R]
  15. Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone [AI, N, O]
  16. Mercury and mercury compounds (also listed as Thimerosal) [ET,N, O, R]
  17. Oxybenzone [AI, ED]
  18. Parabens [C, ED]
  19. Fragrance, Parfum, Musk or Synthetic Fragrance [AI, ET, C, N]
  20. Petroleum Jelly or Mineral Oil [AI, C]
  21. Phthalates (BBP, DBP and others) [C, ED, ET, R]
  22. Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds) [
  23. PolyTetraFluoroEthylene(PTFE, AKA TEFLON®) [ED, ET, C, R]
  24. Resorcinol [ED, N]
  25. Retinol (Vitamin A), retinyl palmitate, all-trans retinoic acid.:
  26. Sodium laureth sulfate, SLES, SLS, sodium lauryl sulfate
  27. TALC [AI, C, O]
  28. Toluene [AI, R]
  29. Triclosan [ED, ET]
  30. Methyl cellosolve  or 2-Methoxyethanol [C, N, O, R]

We know that common acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid may be irritating for sensitive skin. What considerations should be kept in mind for readers with sensitive skin? Are there gentler ingredients they should look for?

C2: Most people with acne will eventually have sensitive skin due to all the treatments they are using and trying. We, at C2, believe that using natural, plant-based products is the best solution for treating acne and sensitive skin — and improving all skin types. We don’t want to feed our skin “junk food” – we want to use healthy ingredients that can address the issues. We developed a unique moisturizer – as even acneic skin needs hydration –  that dries matte on the skin.  It has 4 enzymatically cleaved oils, apple stem cells and rosemary. The innovative formulation leaves the top of the skin with a dry finish and then infuses the oils and nutrients into the lower layers of your skin. It’s a gentle and natural solution for acne.

Does the form of the acne treatment — ex. cream, face wash, gel — affect its function? Is any single form the best, or do they all do the same thing?

C2: The form of the product won’t necessarily affect the results but the ingredients will – so make sure you check the ingredient profile of the product. The best way to get a quick rating is to download the “skin deep” app by EWG. The app will give you toxicity ratings on various products.

How can readers identify the kind of acne they have (ex. cystic acne, papules, pustules, blackheads)?

C2: Every breakout is completely different and is probably caused by a multitude of issues. Acne ranges from mild to severe. The most common types of acne are:

  • Whiteheads– a hair follicle clogged with sebum, oil and dead skin cells. White color indicates the presence of pus.  Whiteheads are closed at the surface of the skin.
  • Blackheads – Blemishes that look like small, black dots – and are open at the surface of the skin—despite the pore being clogged. The black color comes from oxygen exposure which causes the blemishes to oxidize and turn black.
  • Papules – whitehead blemishes that are inflamed and infected. Sensitive to the touch and are hard, clogged pores that leave the skin with a pink or red appearance. Papules are associated with moderate to severe acne.
  • Pustules – whitehead blemishes that are yellow or white pus with a red ring around it. Painful to the touch. Pustules are associated with moderate to severe acne.
  • Severe acne – often last for months and has the tendency to spread. The most common type of severe acne: Nodule, Cyst and Acne conglobata
    • Nodules: large, firm, inflamed bumps that are deep below the skin.
    • Cysts: pus-filled lesion that look like boils. Infected and inflamed and are more prone to scarring.
    • Acne conglobata: highly inflammatory state that has inflamed nodules on face, neck, chest back, arms or buttocks. Can be associated with the use of steroids or testosterone.

Do different kinds of acne require different ingredients for treatment? For example, would the same formula be effective for both cystic acne and hormonal acne? If you have blackheads and hormonal acne, would one acne treatment do the trick, or would you need to combine several treatments?

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C2:  Acne in all its forms (mild to severe) basically has the same effect on the skin – clogged, infected, inflamed skin that has an overproduction of sebum. The trick for treatment is identifying the underlying issue that is causing it. It’s not an easy task. Western medicine uses various ways to diagnosis the severity of acne and culprit and then uses many pharmaceutical grade products. Many pharmaceutical products don’t nourish the skin or help with adding in hydration. Eastern medicine uses face mapping and examines the patient and then treats internal issues. Regardless of which methodology you chose to help with the diagnosis, it’s very important to find a good esthetician to help with extractions and finding a clean and natural home regimen to help your skin daily. We feel that skin treatments start with using “clean” ingredients that can truly help the heath of the skin. Our C2 acne home regimen addresses the integrity of the dermis below the skin and helps with strengthening skin cells. We focus on nourishing the skin and then providing non-comedogenic hydration that will leave the skin feeling matte and soft.

We know that acne treatments kits are very popular, but it seems like buying individual treatments would allow for more customization. Who would kits be best for, and who would do better buying individual treatments from different brands?

C2: Kits are a way to hit the masses affected by acne. More than 17 million people in the US are affected by acne and offering a bundled kit is a great way to offer a solution to many people – and most are discounted. The home regimen needs to be simple and “do-able.” At C2, we have a three-step process to help with acne and oily skin.

Everyone comes with complex issues and a unique lifestyle. Most people with acne should consult with an esthetician or dermatologist to determine their skin type and then develop a regimen that addresses that patient’s schedule and lifestyle. They should also talk to a nutritionist to address dietary issues which can be a huge acne culprit. At our C2 headquarters, we have a resident esthetician (Joan Evans) and certified nutritionist (Heynia Cooley) – as we feel your skin health is about a balanced lifestyle and getting your skin tuned up by an esthetician using clean and healthy products.

Do you have any additional tips on how to prevent or treat acne?

“In addition to incorporating clean skin care products and treatments,  it is equally important to look at the diet and nutritional deficiencies.  A diet that is high in saturated and hydrogenated fats, processed foods, and sugar, could contribute to acne.  By adopting a low-sugar eating plan that is rich in fruits, vegetables and  minimal processed foods, helps to reduce acne.  Eating a high -fiber diet is important for keeping the colon clean and riding the body of toxins.  Staying hydrated by consuming at least eight glasses of water per day is optimal for skin.  Raw foods  that contain oxalic acid such as almonds, beets, cashews, and swiss chard, will help the skin clear and heal.  Focus on eating more foods that contain zinc, which is a natural antibacterial agent, foods containing vitamins A, C, E, and essential fatty acids.  When choosing foods, always opt for organic, non-GMO varieties, especially with dairy.”   Heynia Loro-Cooley Culinary ONE Nutrition

Is there anything else about acne treatments that you think our readers should know?

ALWAYS look at the ingredients of all your personal care. Many formulations have not been revised since the 1950s and contain ingredients that are extremely harmful (endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, carcinogens and more). Become the conscious consumer. Quick solutions for acne don’t always yield great long-term results. We have seen rebound acne with many products on the market and it turns into a vicious cycle. C2 California Clean was formed by two female scientists who were determined to offer a plant-based, clinically clean skincare line. Don’t  compromise your health for beauty. Please reach out at to ask questions, get a free sample or just say hello.