Medik8 Red Alert Cleanse 5.1 oz

Reviewed by Nina on December 29, 2013


For my latest trial, I’ve been using Medik8 Red Alert Cleanse ($42.50), a foaming face wash for redness prone skin. I have both acne and eczema, which has left me with broken veins on my cheeks, nose and upper lip area, so, I imagine I’m a good test subject for this “ultra gentle and calming” cleanser for skin with “broken capiliaries, hypersensitivity and redness,” that cleanses “deep within the pores.” I had high hopes for Red Alert (I adore Medik 8 Hydr8 ($80 in the shop), but I’m not won over.

Red Alert Cleanse does live up to its promise to protect sensitive skin, but it overcommits and underdelivers when it comes to clear pores. I can’t say that my capillaries are all that diminished, and I’m baffled by the ingredients, which are a self-cancelling mix of natural anti-inflammatories and lab-born allergens. Possibly, my acne-prone skin was too challenging for Red Alert (it promises clean pores, but indicates that it’s not for acne), but even if it were 100% effective, I’d prefer a gentler formulation that avoids Red Alert’s controversial ingredients. 

To its credit, Red Alert Cleanse has kept my dermatitis at bay, and so far I’ve had only one dry patch around my mouth during a season when I know to expect the worst. And as much as I’d love to be devoutly Puritan about the products I use, sometimes my decision comes down to what’s going to calm my skin, and in an eczemic pinch, that could be Red Alert.  

For more much-loved Medik8 skincare products, visit the Truth In Aging shop

I don’t recommend Medik8 Red Alert Cleanse for combination skin (which again, it doesn’t promise to help). By the time I’d hit the half-way point of my trial, I clocked in with six zits, there were few days this month that I didn’t have at least one pimple, and suffice it to say, my pores are unsightly. 

While Red Alert Cleanse is effective against dryness, I don’t love the ingredients, one of which is banned in France. Ingredient number 2, cocamidopropyl betaine, is associated with allergic contact dermatitis and is listed as a Suspected Environmental Toxin by Environment Canada. Worse yet, the American Contact Dermatitis Society voted it 2004 Allergen of the Year. (As I type this, I wonder how my eczema stayed so calm, and if I don’t owe my success to the two tablespoons of hemp oil I’ve recently added to my diet.)

It also has sodium benzoate, a controversial preservative used in food products to prevent mold and bacteria. Sodium benzoate can spur the production of free radicals and becomes toxic when mixed with vitamin C. Meanwhile, it’s so maligned in food use that in 2008, in response to consumer demand, Coca Cola phased out its use. While I admit that my standards, and those of Environment Canada and the Contact Dermatitis Society might be a bit exacting, when Coke gets fussy, you know something’s bad. 

Phytonadione (Vitamin K1) is the French non-non. It’s used to prevent blemishes related to vascular problems, such as broken veins and dark circles. It was banned after Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Produits de Santé (Afssaps) reported 12 severe allergic reactions, all eczemic, with six of the sufferers requiring hospitalization. (I guess it is the hemp oil!)

Among the better ingredients in Medik8 Red Alert Cleanse is teprenone. Teprenone slows aging by delaying the shortening of telomeres, and some suggest that it boosts the efficacy of antioxidants. It gets an all-clear from the Good Guide, and is one of the key ingredients in Renovage, which also slows telomere shortening. 

Natural ingredients include Quillaia Saponaria and Yucca Vera. Quillaia Saponaria, derived from the dried inner bark of the aptly named Soapbark tree, is a natural substitute for soap. It has a 9% concentration of saponins, and is effective against dandruff and as a gentle exfoliator. Yucca Vera is a succulent similar to aloe or agave. It prevents psoriasis, dandruff, hair loss and skins sores, has antifungal and antimicrobial properties, and suds up when mixed with water. It’s also rich in nutrients, including Vitamins A, B-complex, and C, calcium, copper, manganese and potassium.

Medik8 Red Alert Cleanse is a surprising disappointment given Medik8’s many successes, and I hate rejecting it. I hope this is just one of those trial and error flubs that happens to the best of us, even Medik8 …