Last Updated on August 7th, 2019
AcneFree Clear Skin Innovations claims it clears skin 24/7, fights acne in either three, four or five different ways (depending on which kit you choose), is quickly absorbed through the skin, and that results can be seen in as little as one to three days. But do the claims for AcneFree match the reality?
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AcneFree makes the claim that it clears skin 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year on the basis of its inclusion of time-release benzoyl peroxide as an ingredient. There is solid scientific evidence that time-release benzoyl peroxide really does make a difference in treating acne.
The kind of benzoyl peroxide that is truly “time-released” is a specialized polymer known as a microsphere1. In the 1990’s, scientists in Turkey developed a way of mixing benzoyl peroxide with a solvent that created a microscopic structure that would look something like a kiwi fruit. The outside of the pore-sized sphere was covered with benzoyl peroxide. Molecules of benzoyl peroxide broke off as the sphere was moved inside the pore by natural mechanical forces on the skin. Only a small amount of benzoyl peroxide was active at any given time, so there was very little irritation, but acne bacteria were constantly exposed to the treatment, so they died off much faster.
That isn’t the kind of benzoyl peroxide used in AcneFree. The kind of benzoyl peroxide in AcneFree is “micronized” rather than “microencapsulated.” The benzoyl peroxide in this product is ground about 60 times finer than the benzoyl peroxide used in most lotions. It does a much better job of staying inside pores—but most of the product will remain on the surface of your face between pores where there are no acne bacteria to fight.
The makers of AcneFree claim that their finely ground (micronized) benzoyl peroxide is absorbed more quickly that most other benzoyl peroxide products. This is true, but most of the product is rinsed away.
Time-released benzoyl peroxide, the makers of AcneFree tell us, is just one of up to five ways that the product clears acne-prone skin (depending on the kit you choose). AcneFree kits also contain Glycolic Acid, retinol, Cetearyl Alcohol and benzalkonium chloride. Let’s take a quick look at some of these ingredients then we’ll look a little deeper into each kit they offer.
Glycolic Acid – One form of Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs. It’s a substance that naturally occurs and is found in plants like pineapple, sugar cane and pineapples. It’s wonderful for exfoliating, but it can also be a helpful ingredient in products used for acne scars2, anti-aging, skin discoloration and in lower concentrations, moisturizing.
Retinol – A form of vitamin A used to stimulate growth of the skin, opening pores and making the skin smoother. Too much retinol, however, can cause the skin to grow too fast, resulting in itching and irritation.
Benzalkonium Chloride – An antibacterial compound that is more often used to treat sinus infections. Back in the 1970’s, dermatologists found that it was as effective as antibiotics for controlling the growth of the kinds of bacteria that cause acne and impetigo—but that is only enough to control about 20% of blemishes the first week and maybe 50% of blemishes after a month.
Cetearyl Alcohol – We talk a lot about how bad alcohol is for acne-prone skin, so if you’ve read much on Facing Acne, you probably immediately think this is a bad ingredient. But it’s not. There are actually a few types of alcohol that are actually good for the skin. They’re called fatty alcohols, and cetearyl alcohol is just one example. You might also see cetyl alcohol or stearyl alcohol. These alcohols won’t cause irritation and are actually great for dry skin and good for any other skin type in small amounts. So while generally speaking, alcohol is bad, it’s good to understand there are different types and which ones are fine.
The Original AcneFree 24 Hour Acne Clearing System
This kit contains three products: Oil-Free Purifying Cleanser, Renewing Toner and Repair Lotion. On the surface, it looks like something that may actually work. But like many other acne products out there that have good intentions, it simply isn’t the fix-all that you’re probably looking for.
Oil-Free Purifying Cleanser – Not a bad cleanser. Its active ingredient is benzoyl peroxide. With a 2.5% concentration3, it could be effective if it wasn’t washed down the drain before it has time to do much good. It’s effective at removing makeup, should rinse off easily without leaving the skin feeling stretched, tight or dry. But even though it contains ingredients meant to be nurturing and soothing, other ingredients like Farnesol could potentially cause irritation.
Renewing Toner – Here is where the biggest problem lies with this kit. Although it does have some helpful ingredients in it, such as niacinamide, they’re overrun by problematic ingredients. Alcohol denat is listed as the second ingredient. Don’t let this fool you. It’s just another way of simply saying alcohol. Denat just means that something called denaturant is added to the alcohol to give it a bad taste, which is required in many countries (including the US) if the end product isn’t a food, drink or oral medicaiton.
Alcohol in skincare is always bad (minus the fatty alcohols mentioned above) and with this being the second ingredient listed, this product has a lot of alcohol in it. It makes the toner dry quickly and weightlessly on the skin, but you can bet it will cause irritation for most people. It will dry out the skin, cause more damage and put the skin under more stress, which will almost certainly just lead to more breakouts. And if you have oily skin, it will only get oilier.
It also contains witch hazel, which is the third ingredient. You don’t want to use products with either alcohol or witch hazel, let alone both.
Repair Lotion – If it wasn’t for a few of the troublesome ingredients, this lotion might be recommended. It has a 3.7% concentration of benzoyl peroxide, which is good. Benzoyl peroxide in a product that you leave on your face is better than in a wash or cleanser that you wash off moments later. However, this lotion has some questionable ingredients, most importantly noted is the use of a preservative called methylisothiazolinone. Methylisothiazolinone is being scrutinized4 more and more as cases of sensitization are on the rise. Big companies like Johnson & Johnson are starting to remove it from their products. Bottom line? You can easily find other leave-on, topical treatments with benzoyl peroxide without potentially irritating or dangerous ingredients.
It also contains an ingredient that can easily cause irritation – ginger root extract.
Severe Acne Clearing System
The AcneFree Severe kit contains four products: Anti-Acne, Antibacterial Cleansing Wash, Corrective Toner, Maximum Strength Repair Lotion and Retinol Complex.
Anti-Acne Cleansing Wash – This wash contains 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, which is fine, but because you wash it right off it isn’t doing any big favors for your skin. Also keep in mind that it has a potentially irritating ingredient in the form a fragrance called farnesol.
Corrective Toner – The inclusion of glycolic acid here would otherwise be good, if it wasn’t combined with irritating ingredients like witch hazel and alcohol. It’d be better if glycolic ac id (an AHA) was replaced with salicylic acid (a BHA) and the alcohol and witch hazel were removed. With this combination, your skin will likely become oilier, causing more blemishes, and worsen red spots and overall redness. Not recommended.
Maximum Strength Repair Lotion – This powerful lotion has 10% benzoyl peroxide, which is very high. Yes, it will kill the acne-causing bacteria on the skin, but it’s also going to cause excessive dryness. If you consider the fact that this is supposed to be used after the corrective toner above that has alcohol and witch hazel, this is not a good move. And that’s besides the fact that there’s very little evidence to support the need and benefits of using this strength of concentration of benzoyl peroxide.
Retinol Complex – This isn’t a particularly bad product, but there are far better options out there. It doesn’t contain fragrances, that’s good. But it’s likely too heavy and creamy for acne-prone, oily skin. It also contains ginger root extract, which we wouldn’t recommend. Lastly, and again, it has the sensitizing preservative methylisothiazolinone.
Sensitive Skin 24 Hour Acne Clearing System
The AcneFree kit for sensitive skin contains three products: Corrective Cleanser, Alcohol-Free Acne Toner and Hydrating Acne Repair Lotion + Spot Treatment
Corrective Cleanser – A decent water-soluble cleanser for sensitive skin containing salicylic acid, though the benefits of this are minimal since it doesn’t stay on the skin. The only real downside here is the use of ginger root extract. While it’s known to be helpful for inflammation5, it’s also known that it can cause irritation.
Alcohol-Free Acne Toner – This is a decent toner for normal and oily skin, assuming that your skin isn’t sensitive. Unfortunately, it’s included in a kit specifically meant for sensitive skin. There are a number of very good, beneficial ingredients here including niacinamide6 that acts as an anti-inflammatory that reduces sebum production, increases skin moisture and reduces redness and pigmentation for a better complexion. It also has anti-irritants and antioxidants – all which are good for the skin. Unfortunately, this might all be undermined by the many potentially irritating ingredients, namely all the citrus extracts found in this product.
Hydrating Acne Repair Lotion + Spot Treatment – Again, it’s another example of a potentially great product undermined by needless, possibly troublesome ingredients. The 3% benzoyl peroxide is a good amount even for sensitive skin since it acts mainly as a spot treatment. They do recommend using it only a spot treatment to see how your skin reacts and give it time to adjust to the benzoyl peroxide. It also has anti-irritants, which is a good thing considering that yet again, it contains ginger root extract.
It also contains methylisothiazolinone and as mentioned above, using products with this preservative isn’t recommended.
AcneFree also claims that its product is “ten times more gentle” (or causes 10% less irritation) as other benzoyl peroxide products. There are no independent studies to confirm this claim.
How you respond to AcneFree has a lot to do with the severity of your acne when you start treatment.
Whether you have mild, moderate, or severe acne, always test any new acne treatment on a small area of skin before you put it all over your face. It’s important to know whether you are allergic to a product before you put it all over your face. If you get itchy or burning skin after using AcneFree and there is not enough money in your budget to buy another acne care product, try using it as a spot treatment for pimples rather than all over your face. You will limit the side effects but still get some benefit from your purchase.
Or better yet, return unused product for a money-back refund.
No acne treatment product clears up your skin in 24 hours. The very best acne treatment systems may get rid of most of your blemishes in about 30 days. A more reliable acne treatment system that is likely to be a lot easier on your skin is Exposed Skin Care.
To be your most trusted ally in your pursuit of clear, healthy skin.