Ask a Dermatologist: Is Noxzema Bad for Your Skin?

woman in face mask

@thevicstyles / Design by Camden Dechert

Certain beauty products hold a special space in our childhood memories. Whether you knew it as a multitasking cleanser and cold cream that first became iconic in the 50s, or you associate it forever with the fresh face of Rebecca Gayheart circa early '90s, Noxzema is one of those skincare classics. For generations, the cobalt blue jar full of thick, white cream was in every American household, followed by years filled with the little white anti-blemish pads. But over the last few decades, the beauty industry has undoubtedly evolved, and consumers have made the switch from old favorites to the latest and greatest formulas. So we have to ask: how has Noxzema held up over time? Is it now, like so many other products of the past, deemed bad for your skin? We talked to dermatologists Rachel Nazarian, MD, and Debra Jaliman, MD, to find out the answer.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and expert in cosmetic and medical dermatology. She practices in NYC where she provides customized care to her patients.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Rachel Nazarian is a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC. She is an expert in various aspects of dermatology, including cosmetic treatments, skin cancer, and dermatologic surgery.

According to the experts, Noxzema products are good for cleansing and exfoliating your skin but may cause irritation in those with sensitive skin because of the fragrance in the formulas. With that said, let’s dive deeper to understand exactly how the products work, shall we? Keep scrolling to find out if Noxzema lives up to its original hype or if it’s time to switch to something new.

What Is Noxzema?

Although the brand now has a range of products that includes a face wash and a scrub, when you think of Noxzema, the Original Deep Cleansing Cream ($15) first comes to mind. Five key ingredients are found in both the original deep cleansing cream and the moisturizing cleansing cream: camphor, menthol, eucalyptus, linseed oil, and soybean oil. Let’s take a further look at each of these ingredients.

Key Ingredients

Eucalyptus oil is an essential oil distilled from the leaf of an evergreen tree native to Australia but can also be found in other parts of the world. It's commonly used to help alleviate chest congestion and ease cold symptoms, though in skincare, it eases inflammation and promotes moisturization.

Noxzema Classic Clean Original Deep Cleansing Cream
Noxzema Original Deep Cleansing Cream $15.00

Made by distilling the bark and wood of the camphor tree, camphor decreases inflammation and reduces pain topically, according to Nazarian. You can credit menthol for the tingly cool feel. "Similar to peppermint, menthol has a cooling sensation when applied topically to skin," says Nazarian. It's often used in after-sun creams to relieve pain, and in lip balms and glosses to give a plumping effect, as it improves blood flow. Menthol can be derived from peppermint or eucalyptus plants, but it's also frequently synthetically made.

The eucalyptus in Noxzema also contributes to its cooling sensation, Jaliman adds. This ingredient cleanses pores and may help with acne because it’s a natural antiseptic that has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Linseed oil is a fatty oil that improves hydration and the skin barrier; Nazarian says it's calming for dry and sensitive skin. Lastly, Nazarian adds that soybean oil is high in fatty acids and antioxidants. Not only is it moisturizing and calming, but it also protects skin from free radical damage, potentially helping to prevent wrinkles and premature aging.

Arguably the second most favorite Noxzema product is the Anti-Blemish Pads ($15). These pads also contain camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus, but with the added bonus of salicylic acid 2%, which is meant to gently exfoliate the skin and unclog pores.

Noxzema Anti-Blemish Pads
Noxzema Anti-Blemish Pads $15.00

Is It Safe?

It’s important to note that the Noxzema cleansing cream contains fragrance that may cause irritation. “Because it does have added fragrance (parfum), someone with very sensitive skin might react to this cleansing cream,” Jaliman says. This product also contains propylene glycol, which is known to be a common allergen. To be on the safe side, Nazarian says to avoid applying the cleansing cream to broken, inflamed, or highly reactive skin. Otherwise, Jaliman says this hydrating cleanser is good for all skin types and cleanses without over-drying the skin, thanks to the oils in the formula.

As for the pads, Jaliman says they are safe for everyday use. “When starting these pads for the first time you might experience extra dryness or peeling,” she says. “This is normal for a product of this type. You might want to start with every other day and increase your usage over time as your skin becomes accustomed to them.” With that said, Jaliman recommends avoiding the pads if you have very sensitive skin. Similar to the cleansing cream, the anti-blemish pads contain fragrance, which might cause irritation for some. Also worth noting: These pads don’t have any ingredients that could help soothe and calm your irritated, acne-prone skin.

Can Noxzema Help With Eczema?

Rumor has it, Noxzema got its name from a customer that claimed the cream "knocked out" his eczema. (The name was a portmanteau of "no eczema," but it was also a play on the customer’s words—knocks-zema). However, the manufacturer (Unilever) states that the product has not been tested as a treatment for eczema, and they don't make this claim. Curious as to why or how some consumers have noticed positive results from using the cleansing cream on their eczema or even psoriasis flare-ups, we consulted Jaliman for her opinion. As she explains it, the cleansing cream contains linseed oil (aka flaxseed oil), which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants and benefits the health of the skin. Fatty acids keep the skin hydrated and moisturized and are also known to help with inflammation. With all of that information in mind, Jaliman says she would consider it safe for someone with those conditions. However, because it contains fragrance and propylene glycol, which are known to be irritating, it’s always important to consult your doctor to see if it’s right for you.

The Final Takeaway

All in all, Jaliman says these Noxzema products are safe for those who do not have sensitive skin that could react to the fragrance in the formula. As for the anti-blemish pads specifically, Jaliman also approves of these for everyday use on those with acne-prone skin, although you might want to start with every other day and build up over time. So what’s the final verdict? If you like the cooling, tingling sensation it gives, and you notice an improvement in your skin with Noxzema products, there’s no reason to swap out your classic favorites for the latest and greatest.

Up next: We review the iconic drugstore cleanser Pond's Cold Cream.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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  2. Sinha P, Srivastava S, Mishra N, Yadav NP. New perspectives on antiacne plant drugs: contribution to modern therapeuticsBiomed Res Int. 2014;2014:301304. doi:10.1155/2014/301304

  3. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oilsInt J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070

  4. Jacob SE, Scheman A, McGowan MA. Propylene glycolDermatitis. 2018;29(1):3-5. doi:10.1097/DER.0000000000000315

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