Is the New Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer Plus Really Better than the Original?


Clinique took a gamble changing its original Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. After all, the original formula has spent the last 45 years with somewhat of a beauty cult following. So, reformulating it seemed to defy the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But, honestly, I think Clinique made a good decision. In the changing landscape of the beauty industry and the changing environment of, well, the earth, the company is wise to bring their iconic square-bottled yellow lotion up to date. After all, we’ve learned a lot about beauty products since the 60s, and it was time for the company’s cornerstone product to enter the 21st Century.

Clinique claims that the additional ingredients in Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion Plus ($26, increase the skin’s moisture barrier by 54%. So what’s new?

Ingredient List Comparison


Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion (Original) Ingredients

Water, Mineral Oil, Sesame Oil, Propylene Glycol, TEA Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Lanolin Alcohol, Petrolatum, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Yellow #5, Yellow #6, Red #33

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion Plus (New) Ingredients

Water, Mineral Oil, Glycerin, Petrolatum, Steric Acid, Glyceryl Sterate, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Oil, Urea, Lanolin Alchohol, Triethanolamne, Hordeum Vulgare (Barley) Extract/Extriat D’Orage, Cucumis Savitus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Helanthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seedcake, Propylene Glycol, Dicaprate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Trisodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Yellow 6 (CI 15985), Yellow 5 (C1 19140), Red 33 (C1 17200)

Important Additions: Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Urea

One look at the list of Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion Plus makes it clear that there have been quite a few additions to it. In particular, they’ve added something of a greatest hits list of moisturizing ingredients, namely: Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, and Urea.


glycerin in clinique lotion

Glycerin improves skin barrier function by accelerating cell maturation.

Glycerin is one of my absolute, hands-down favorite moisturizing ingredients, and I’m glad Clinique jumped on the bandwagon. For the sake of brevity, here are just a few highlights amongst its many benefits.

Glycerin is a natural moisturizing factor (NMF), mimicking the skin’s structure and function, as well as a humectant moisturizer, binding with several times its weight in water from the environment (Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D.). It strengthens the skin barrier by speeding up skin cell maturation through residual transglutaminase in the strateum corneum (SC) (International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2003). It increases the hydration state of skin, and makes the skin less vulnerable to transepidermal water loss (TEWL) by expanding both the corneocytes and intercellular lipids (Treatment of Dry Skin Syndrome: The Art and Science of Moisturizers).

Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyluronate

hyaluronic acid clinique lotion

Hyaluronic acid is known for being able to bind water many times in excess of its weight.

Glycerin isn’t the only water-binding NMF in this batch. Hyaluronic acid, a major component of the extracellular matrix, is known for being able to bind moisture in spectacular excess of its own weight in the skin (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2004). Better yet, it works particularly well in both high and low humidity conditions (In-Comsetics).

Studies have shown that it improves the wound healing process as well as the skins’s water retention (American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2005; Biologicals, 2011). That might be, in part, because it’s a free-radical scavenger that could be helpful in preventing free-radical damage to the skin (International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 2003).


urea clinique lotion

Use of lotion with urea has been shown to decrease irritation from sodium lauryl sulfate.

Urea is yet another natural moisturizing factor, binding water to the skin and promoting the production of keratin. In particular, it does an excellent job of preventing TEWL, decreasing the rates in both dry and normal skin  (Skin Research and Technology). It’s also been found to reduce skin susceptibility to irritant sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) despite being a penetration enhancer (American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003; Contact Dermatitis, 2004).

Interesting Substitutions: Trisodium EDTA and Phenoxyethanol for Parabens

It seems the parabens controversy was in the minds of the formulators of the most recent iteration of Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion (Plus). In place of preservatives Methylparaben and Propylparaben are Trisodium EDTA and Phenoxythanol.

[Read More: Are the Parabens in Skin Care Products Really Bad for You?]

Trisodium EDTA is a chelating agent — meaning it can bind to metals that are deleterious to the product — that keeps cosmetics from degrading (DOW). The Cosmetics Ingredient Review Expert Panel deemed it safe for use. While it has been shown to be cytotoxic and somewhat genotoxic in oral exposure tests on animals, studies reported no absorption of Trisodium EDTA (International Journal of Toxicology, 2002). Because it chelates calcium, it could affect the penetration of other products.

Phenoxyethanol is one of the most commonly used preservatives, next to parabens, in the cosmetics industry. In studies, it’s been shown to inactivate challenge doses of both gram-negative and gram-postive bacteria (Letters of Applied Microbiology, 1994). It’s also been shown to work against Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Microbios, 1992).

[Read More: Spotlight On: Phenoxyethanol]

I can’t say for certain that the swapped ingredients are equally as effective as parabens, but I can say that phenoxyethanol is frequently used as a preservative because it’s known for being effective. It also helps that the bottle sports an air-tight pump.


It seems that Clinique made the right move in reformulating its much-beloved lotion. For the most part, the changes take the product from something very basic to something with many of dermatologists’ favorite ingredients. In other words, it was time for a facelift. Swapping parabens for Trisodium EDTA and Phenoxyethanol might win over some more devotees, though whether the antibacterial effects are equal to the original formula is something I can’t say with certainty. The only downside I see is that some new ingredients — such as sunflower seed oil — might make it slightly more allergenic for some, but I don’t see it being a large-scale problem. Overall, though, Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion Plus is a notable improvement on the old formula.

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3 thoughts on “Is the New Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer Plus Really Better than the Original?

  1. grace says:

    It seems however that the changes will make this lotion just like every other lotion on the market. The sesame oil distinguished it and it certainly had a following. Perhaps there was a reason for the following.

  2. Natalie Bell says:

    Hi Grace!

    Thank you for commenting. The sesame oil is in both the old and new version. The formula didn’t lose much of what was in the original — save for the swapped preservatives — but it gained a few more trustworthy hydrators. Clinique’s lotion was launched in 1968 and had gone relatively unchanged since then, despite advances in skin care research. It seems to me that the skin-barrier strengthening, hydration-increasing, and well-researched additions improve the lotion and make it more effective while still keeping the frills and novelty to a minimum. However, if any Clinique devotees aren’t sold on the new formulation, as of right now the old one is still available on Clinique’s website:


  3. Pingback: Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+ for Very Dry to Dry Combination | Color N Glitter

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