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

Skin Care


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 with the new Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer Plus. 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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  • Gina

    New formula: sticky, tacky, horrible. WAS a devoted user of the original formula for over 40 years. No more.

  • Bob

    I have been using the Clinique dramatically different moisturizing LOTION since the early 1980’s. My ex wife started me on it because I worked outside construction in the South every day and she didn’t want my face to get all leathery. It’s all I ever used. Even as the price increased over the years and she began using other brands, I continued because I didn’t have any adverse reactions – UNTIL NOW ! I started getting a pimplely / rash around my right eye. The dermatologist called it something / something caused by a heavy lotion. How can that be ?? I only use Clinique for 45 years. His reply ” maybe they changed the formula “. Good old Google !! Anytime a product is new and improved means cheaper / less / bad. Coke tried that once too. So, I did not notice the ” + ” until now and have multiple bottles that I will never use again. Have started prescriptive gel to repair damage. Glad to see I was not alone by reading previous comments. SHAME ON YOU CLINIQUE !!

  • Erin kendrick

    Dramatically different lotion has been the only moisturizer I have used in last 15 years. I ran out and bought another bottle in December having new idea there was a formula change. Within a couple days I started getting a rash. Every morning after applying the lotion my face would turn bright red and I would get weird bumps almost like pimples popping up on my face throughout the day. The next morning they would be gone and then after applying lotion it all happens all over again. I didn’t even think of it being the lotion since I had used it for 15 years. After 2 months I decided to stop using to see if that was the problem. Within days I had no more rash or pimples. I don’t know why Clinique changed the formula but I sure wish someone could tell me where to get the old formula.

  • Paula Morris

    I have been using DD moisturizer since the 80’s. Lately, I notice that my eyes burn a lot. I have developed facial “bumps” now and then as well. I didn’t put 2 and 2 together until my daughter, who has been using DD for only 10 years, started reporting the same problem. I checked this webpage and was sad to realize that Clinique changed the ingredients in DD….obviously not for the better! I will have to find a new moisturizer, which is very upsetting! And btw…I can’t use ANY of the new facial doo dads….they all make my skin react immediately–redness, itching, burning! So much for “hypoallergenic.”

  • Erica

    I have used this product for 10+years and my grandma, who is 94, has used it for probably 30 to 40 years. As soon as we both got the new kind our faces broke out and it burned our skin. After reading this we know for sure this is why- we weren’t sure, but it’s definitely the lotion. Very disappointing since this has always been great for sensitive skin.

  • My mom. Had used DD moisterizing plus since the early 70’s and she noticed a change and asked me to search if the formula has changed. She has stopped using due to irritation and causing dryness. Now she uses Cetaphil moisterizing lotion. It’s more codt effective too.

  • Gail

    I used the Clinique Dramatic Moisturizing Lotion for over 25 years. It was just the right blend; it felt good on my face before applying makeup. Just recently, I bought a new bottle and immediately noticed it looked different in color and appearance,… and thought oh I hope they didn’t change the formula. As soon as I applied it to my face, it felt like a cheap hand lotion… and I thought it felt like glycerin. They must be trying to reduce costs. Very disappointing! I want to return it. I will no longer purchase the new formula. The excuse about entering the 21st Century and something about the environment? I DON’T BUY IT!

  • dee

    i quit using clinique totally since they changed the formula. i was a 35-year user. the new stuff doesn’t do anything but cause me probmes. would like to know if anyone anyone has a substitute?

  • Nicki Zevola

    @Bri — I wish they had both options too!

    • Ruth

      I too have been having problems with serious spots on my face not realising that my faithful moisturiser DD had been changed. I had tried all sorts of ways to get relief before learning just last week that Clinique had changed the formula. Since learning this I have stopped using it and the spots are clearing very slowly. I am gluten intolerant and am wondering if the addition of the barley ingredient is to blame. I hope I can get my unused bottle changed to an old formula one. Great to share my experience with you all.

  • Nicki Zevola

    @Mercedes, Kathleen, Lysbeth, Linda — I’m glad you agree! I love Clinique and a lot of their products, but I’m hoping that they will bring back the Original formula.

  • linda

    This is a great article. I found it because I googled the question ‘did dd change ingredients’ because suddenly I have hive-like welts on my face. I have extremely sensitive skin and carefully apply all product and could not understand what was causing this. It finally occurred to me that I had just opened a new bottle of dd and I am devastated to learn that this trusted product that I have happily been using for 25 years is probably the culprit.Thanks for the tip– I hope that I can get the old formula.

    • Josie

      I wasn’t wild about the idea that the formula changed, but I bought a bottle of DD+ anyway since I was running low on my supply of the original formula. After a couple of days using DD+, some welts/bumps appeared on my face. I switched back and forth between old and new formulas over the course of two months in order to confirm my suspicions. Yep, the new formula was the cause of the blemishes. After some experimentation with other products, I’m now using Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion. It was the first moisturizer that I found that didn’t cause any skin problems and kept my face from drying out (i.e. flaking) during the day. Everyone’s skin is slightly different. Overall, I think Cetaphil works better for me than DD ever did … and I had been using DD for 24 years! Best of luck to all of you who are now searching for a new moisturizer. May you find one that works even better for you than the original.

      • Nicki Zevola

        Thanks for your opinion, @Josie!

  • DD moisturizer was perfect. Why mess with it.? DD+ is nasty. Too liquid and does not absorb.

    sticky and tacky. Scary! Have used DDmoisturiser for 20 years with immense satisfaction,and cannot understand messing with such a great product.You have lost a devoted customer.

  • Kathleen

    I have used the original DD moisturizing lotion for over 40 years. I loved it, it was perfect. I hate the new formula, and am in prosses of finding a new brand. I would never buy another bottle of DDM from Clinique. Why did they not offer both and let their customers decide? I believe I know better what works for me. The new formula dries out almost instantly and become a tacky glue which causes foundation to curdle up on the skin. What a shame the company was so stupid to loose their devoted customers.

    • Bri

      I agree with you Kathleen! My mother and grandmother had been using the original formula for forever and now that they changed their formula it irritates their skin and doesn’t moisturize as well! I’ve been helping them hunt for a new moisturizer, but nothing is as good! That little plus they added on the name means a lot! Does anyone know of an alternative for the original formula?!?!

  • Mercedes

    I did not know that there was a change in formulation until yesterday, yet for the past 6-8 months or so I have been very disappointed in my Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. I was about to throw out every bottle I had (4) because when I applied it to my face it felt like I had put on some kind of glue. My skin felt ‘sticky’, and I just wanted to wash it off. I have been using the lotion for the last 52 years and I will not be purchasing any more as I don’t like the feel of it on my face. I am disappointed with the new formulation and will have to try to find another cream/lotion that works for me.

  • Natalie Bell

    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:


  • grace

    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.

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