Why do people hate the new formula of Neutrogena Deep Clean Cream Cleanser?

About a year ago, people suddenly started complaining about this cleanser. Why? My dad dissects some interesting clues.

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For many years, I was an avid fan of Neutrogena Deep Clean Cream Cleanser, because it made my face feel nice and cool after I rinsed it off. Recently, I was shopping for a new face wash, and I decided to check out my old favorite, to see if I wanted to try it out again after many years of absence.

I was surprised to see that, about a year ago, many of the product reviewers started complaining about the same issue. The face wash had changed—it wasn’t as great as it used to be. People hypothesized that the formula had changed, and pretty much everyone agreed that this change was for the worse. Many reviewers mentioned that the new formula appeared to contain hard bits of plastic, almost like aggressive microbeads, which caused irritation.

The company has responded in a generic manner to each of the reviews, apologizing for the bad experience and requesting more information. But one of the company responses mentioned a tidbit of info that wasn’t included in any of the other responses: “Our Deep Clean Cream Cleanser was reformulated in 2016, to remove gelatin from the ingredients.” Interesting. Gelatin is also included in Clean and Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser, and probably helps thicken the formula so that it creates a thick, creamy texture.

Neutrogena Deep Clean Cream Cleanser ingredients (old version)

According to this Reddit thread, this is the old ingredient list:

water, cetyl alcohol, ppg-15 stearyl ether, methyl gluceth-20, steareth-21, salicylic acid, gelatin, steareth-2, polysorbate 60, potassium cetyl phosphate, menthol, fragrance, disodium edta

Neutrogena Deep Clean Cream Cleanser ingredients (new formula)

water, cetyl alcohol, ppg-15 stearyl ether, methyl gluceth-20, salicylic acid, steareth-21, gelatin, steareth-2, potassium cetyl phosphate, menthol, polysorbate 60, disodium edta, fragrance

These are the ingredients listed on Neutrogena’s website. Despite the message from the company representative about the formula change (the removal of gelatin), the website still lists gelatin in the ingredient list. This leads me to conclude that one of two things occurred: either the company didn’t update the ingredient list after making the formula change, or this company representative wrote the wrong message.

Both versions of the ingredient list are quite similar, just in slightly different order. It turns out that the menthol helped create the cooling sensation that I loved so much in college. This is also how Clean and Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser creates its cooling sensation.

I sent my dad both ingredient lists along with the company’s claim that it had removed gelatin from the ingredient list. Here’s what he had to say.

My Dad the Chemist’s review of Neutrogena Deep Clean Cream Cleanser Formula Change

Dear Emily, If they removed gelatin, the customer won’t feel anything hard. I think it may be from gelatin , it may crystallize at 95F (35C) and May become rubbery (like the Gummy Bear), but should be too hard. But if it’s Is really hard/ sharp, that must from the tiny plastic pieces that came from inside the bottle (or tube) from their supplier and they didn’t know and filled formula into these contaminated tube. These plastic pieces can cause irritation upon rubbing on the face.

Love,
Nicky mouse detective

My dad doesn’t think that removing gelatin could be responsible for hard plastic pieces in the new formula. Even if the gelatin were added in the new formula, instead of removed, it would only become rubbery, not hard.

He does think that maybe the fault lies in the plastic packaging. It’s possible that plastic bits may have started coming off the inside of the packaging from a bad supplier, and they filled the formula in the defective tube (thereby mixing the plastic bits into the formula). However, this is just a guess. We really have no way of knowing what could be causing customers to complain about hard bits of plastic or scratchy microbeads in the new formula. Neutrogena has only responded that the company changed its formula to remove gelatin (perhaps to make it vegan?), but if that truly was the only change, it still wouldn’t explain why people started experiencing irritation with the new formula.

By the way, did you notice that my dad signed his letter “Nicky mouse detective?” This is a typo for “Mickey Mouse Detective.” Detective Mikey Mouse was a Little Golden Book that I read as a kid. Whenever someone in my family misplaced something and I diligently set out to look for it, my parents used to jokingly call me “Detective Mickey Mouse.” I took it as the highest form of praise.

I guess I was being sort of detective-like when I was browsing through those customer reviews. I find it very interesting that a company as large as Neutrogena hasn’t really gotten to the bottom of these customer complaints. It’s not like the customers would all decide to start complaining about the cleanser around the same time, without some legitimate (negative) change that prompted them to do so.

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