iS Clinical Cleansing Complex Is Made for Breakout-Prone Skin

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iS Clinical Cleansing Complex

iS Clinical

Courtesy of iS Clinical

What We Like
  • Light, refreshing texture

  • Non-drying

  • Lightly exfoliates the skin to keep pores clear

  • Result improves over time

What We Don't Like
  • High price point for a cleanser

  • Not Byrdie Clean

I really love this cleanser. It’s great for speeding up cell turnover and works to reduce breakouts, but it never leaves the skin tight or dry. If it’s summer or you’re prone to congestion and shine, I can’t recommend it enough.


iS Clinical Cleansing Complex

iS Clinical

Courtesy of iS Clinical

We put the iS Clinical Cleansing Complex to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.

Washing your face seems simple enough—boring even. But the truth is, a proper cleansing routine is integral when it comes to skin health. Sure, you want to remove makeup, sebum, and sunscreen, but you always want to refine the skin’s texture and get it perfectly prepped for the remainder of your routine. 

I personally love using treatment cleansers to boost my complexion. I’m going to wash my face anyway—why not spend an extra minute and really take it up a notch? Enter iS Clinical's Cleansing Complex, a lightweight gel product that contains BHAs to unclog pores and other botanicals to soothe and calm. I’m a big fan of iS Clinical already (you can read my love letter to the brand’s Active Serum here), so my hopes when testing this cleanser were high. In a nutshell, it exceeded every expectation, but of course, I detailed every single thought about it here. 

Keep reading for my thoughts.

iS Clinical Cleansing Complex

Best For: Dull, normal, oily, congested, acne-prone skin types 

Uses: As a cleanser, or a second treatment cleanse if you’re wearing makeup. It also functions as a mild exfoliant.

Hero Ingredients: White willow bark extract, chamomile, centella asiatica

Byrdie Clean? No; contains PEG-30.

Price: $44 

About the Brand: Founded in California, iS Clinical is a skincare line that uses pharmaceutical-grade ingredients in order to achieve best results for the skin. Sold in over 60 countries, the brand utilizes some of the most innovative ingredients in the market, and is known for its results-driven, scientific approach. 

About My Skin: Occasionally breakout-prone

My skin is mostly normal but prone to breakouts, dehydration, and uneven tone (fun). I’ve always been big on exfoliation to keep my skin clear and bright, specifically with beta-hydroxy acids to help clear out pores. I am also a fan of treatment cleansers—why wouldn’t you make the most of the time spent washing your face by incorporating some active ingredients? That’s why I love the iS Clinical Cleansing Complex—not only does it clean the skin but it also sloughs off surface cells and refines the texture.

The Ingredients: Pore-clearing agents

The iS Clinical Cleansing Complex is a really light, gel cleanser that foams ever so slightly when emulsified with water. It contains the surfactant disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, so it dissolves sebum without stripping. There’s also white willow bark, a source of salicylic acid (and a known BHA) to mildly exfoliate and unclog pores; centella extract to soothe; sugarcane to refine skin surface texture, and chamomile to reduce redness.

How to Use: Massage it in properly

Personally I like this as a second cleanse, because A) I wear a lot of sunscreen, so I always double-up, and B) it’s expensive, so I’d rather remove makeup with something cheaper (like Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water). But in terms of use, it’s really simple. I just work it into damp skin for a good minute, concentrating on my nose and chin, before rinsing. You can use it both morning and night, too. 

The Results: Clear skin that's not stripped

iS Clinical Cleansing Complex Results on Emily Algar

Emily Algar/Design by Cristina Cianci

What stands out to me most about the iS Clinical Cleansing Complex is that it seems to clear out pores and reduce shine without stripping the skin in the slightest (a rarity when it comes to gel cleansers). I’ve been using it consistently for months now, and I’ve definitely noticed smaller pores on my nose and chin, and fewer bumps around my hairline. I still like using a dedicated BHA, but there’s no doubt the Cleansing Complex is a fantastic second cleanser. 

Given you use it properly—that is, massage it in for at least 30 seconds, ideally a minute—you’ll get a really gentle cleanse, clearer pores, and a more refined skin texture. It definitely doesn’t have the same impact as a dedicated chemical exfoliant or clarifying serum, but it’s a great option for rough, uneven or congested skin. 

It’s also one of the few gel cleansers I’ve tried that doesn’t leave my skin feeling devoid of all moisture. Oily complexions will love it year-round, or you might prefer it during the summer months to combat excess sweat, shine, and sunscreen application.

The Value: An investment

$44 is steep for a cleanser, so if your sole purpose is to simply remove makeup, I’d probably suggest you find yourself a cheaper drugstore option. But if you want to simultaneously refine and renew, it’s worth the extra cash.

Similar Products: You've got options

Kiehl's Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment: This fresh, foamy cleanser from Kiehl's ($25) contains salicylic acid to unclog pores and help prevent acne from forming. It also contains ginger, frankincense, and witch hazel to reduce shine and refine the skin texture.

Tatcha The Deep Cleanse Exfoliating Cleanser: If you want to simultaneously exfoliate and nourish the skin, this gentle pick from Tatcha ($38) is gold class. The exfoliation specifically comes from ground luffa fruit, alongside the brand’s signature blend of algae, green tea, and rice to soothe and brighten.

Cosmedix Purity Clean: Similar to the iS Clinical option, Purity Clean ($39) contains a BHA (in the form of lactic acid) to unclog pores, whereas tea tree and peppermint calm and refresh. It offers a gentle means of resurfacing the skin, making it a great choice for uneven or rough complexions.

Final Verdict

As a huge iS Clinical fan, I’m not surprised I love the Cleansing Complex. I typically steer clear of gel formulas because I hate that uncomfortable, dry feeling, but this is the exception. I find it leaves the skin really clear and bright, plus works to reduce breakouts and congestion—especially those tiny bumps around the hairline. While pricey, I feel like the effects are noticeable enough that I’d repurchase again (and again).


  • Product Name Cleansing Complex
  • Product Brand iS Clinical
  • Price $44.00
  • Weight 6 oz.
  • Full Ingredient List Water/Aqua/Eau, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-30 Glyceryl Cocoate, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugarcane) Extract [Extrait De Canne à Sucre], Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Asiaticoside, Asiatic Acid, Madecassic Acid, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Phospholipids, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Phenoxyethanol.

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