Noxzema Acne Treatments Reviewed
The makers of Noxzema (sometimes misspelled Noxema) skin care products are the dominant forces in low-cost acne skin care. The problem with Noxzema is that its acne products just don’t work for any but the oiliest allergy-free skin.
- The distinctive pleasant smell of Noxzema products is from a mixture of camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol, antibacterial ingredients that can irritate the skin.
- Many Noxzema products contain alcohol, which dries out the skin. This might sound like a good thing, but when the skin is overdried, it can actually produce even more oil.
- Unfortunately, none of the Noxzema acne or blackhead products work as advertised.
What’s Wrong with Noxzema?
Almost all Noxzema products contain camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol. These ingredients are practically a trademark for the company. You open the jar or squeeze the tube and you instantly know it’s Noxzema.
The problem with some of these ingredients is that they irritate the skin1. Camphor is an aromatic substance made from the bark of a tree that is closely related to cinnamon. Applied to the skin, it dilates blood vessels and produces a cooling effect. The additional blood flow to the skin2, however, makes pimples redder and can trigger rosacea attacks in people who have this form of acne.
Eucalyptus oil is the ingredient in Hall’s Eucalyptus Cough Drops. It’s used in vaporizers when babies get colds. Extracted from the bark of eucalyptus trees, this oil can stimulate the skin to produce3 ceramides, the fat-like compounds that protect it from moisture. Of course, if you are trying to get rid of fat-like oils from your pores, you really don’t want to apply a product that stimulates your skin to produce other fat-like oils and seals them in. In rare cases, a strong odor of eucalyptus oil has been known to induce seizures4.
Menthol cools the skin5. It also dissolves salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, and a compound that breaks up plugs of hardened skin oils in pores on oily skin. Used without salicylic acid (and the salicylic acid has to be in the right concentration and at the right pH to do any good), however, menthol just creates a tingle in the skin that turns into a itch in the skin, as it kills healthy cells around pores. Like the other Noxzema ingredients, menthol used in the wrong way only makes skin problems worse. Now let’s look at the bestselling Noxzema acne products one by one.
Noxzema Anti-Bacterial Foaming Cleanser
This skin cleanser could be fairly rated “not all that bad” for very oily skin. It fights bacterial infection with the ingredient6 triclosan, and it contains a potassium hydroxide cleanser that can help break up plugs of sebum hardened in pores. The problem with this cleanser is that it contains so much potassium hydroxide that it can dry out and tighten all but the oiliest skin, creating about as many whiteheads as it removes. Of course, from a marketing standpoint, this is a great characteristic—it keeps customers coming back for more!
Noxzema Anti-Blemish Astringent
This toner tightens the skin with the action of alcohol, menthol, and peppermint oil. It leaves the skin feeling fresh and cool. It fights acne-causing bacteria.
So what’s not to love about Noxzema Anti-Blemish Astringent? The alcohol in this product can actually cause more blemishes! When you dry out your skin with alcohol, it protects itself by producing more oil.
Noxzema Anti-Blemish Pads
The box of Noxzema Anti-Blemish Pads looks like a real bargain. At a Dollar Store, you might get a box of 65 pads for as little as US $2.99. Even at regular retailers, the suggested retail price is just $4.49, or less than $0.07 a pad.
The problem with these pads is the same as with the Anti-Blemish Astringent. The pads contain a mixture of alcohol, camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol. The alcohol both removes oil from the skin and stimulates the skin to create more, ensuring that you always need to use the pads.
Noxzema Blackhead Cleanser
This blackhead cleanser may actually help remove blackheads on loose, oily skin. It contains tiny particles of polyethylene plastic that scrub the skin without injuring it, and it contains 2% salicylic acid7, which helps strip away the fats that hold dead skin cells to the surface and that plug pores. The problem with this and many similar cleansers is that salicylic acid has to set on the skin in order to really work8, and most people simply apply the cleanser and rinse it away before the active ingredients can do their jobs. For salicylic acid to really get into your pores to break up clogs, you need to apply this cleanser and then let it set for at least 30 seconds. Since your face is often dripping and wet, this isn’t the most comfortable experience. Salicylic acid is typically much more effective when used in a product that remains on your face all day, like a treatment cream.
Noxzema Original Deep Cleansing Cream
If you are an American over the age of 50, you probably can remember a time when the blue jar of Noxzema cleansing cream was the only product many stores carried for acne treatment. This product was the mainstay of anti-acne skin care. The cream used to be made with lye, just to make sure it got all the dirt off your face. Phenol was added to make sure it stayed fresh—and you could be sure the bacteria off your fingers met sudden death when you dipped your fingers in Noxzema.
Nowadays Noxzema cleaning cream no longer contains lye or phenol. You can’t use it to strip wax off your floors, or to prime outdoor surfaces for painting. However, the eucalyptus, menthol, and camphor that cause problems with almost all Noxzema products are still in the cleansing cream, and if you have sensitive skin, you really should avoid it. People who have especially resistant (non-sensitive) oily skin may be OK after using Noxzema, but there are better options.
The appeal of Noxzema skin care products is that they smell good and they don’t cost very much. If you can spend just a few dollars more, however, you can treat your acne with a complete skin care system like Exposed Skin Care. You may spend a few more dollars upfront, but you won’t be perpetuating your acne care problems. You just might get rid of acne for good with Exposed Skin Care. With a money-back guarantee you have nothing to lose but your zits.
- Yosipovitch G, Szolar C, Hui XY, Maibach H. Effect of topically applied menthol on thermal, pain and itch sensations and biophysical properties of the skin. Arch Dermatol Res. 1996 May;288(5-6):245-8
- Kotaka T, Kimura S, Kashiwayanagi M, Iwamoto J. Camphor induces cold and warm sensations with increases in skin and muscle blood flow in human. Biol Pharm Bull. 2014;37(12):1913-8.
- Ishikawa J, Shimotoyodome Y, Chen S, Ohkubo K, Takagi Y, Fujimura T, Kitahara T, Takema Y. Eucalyptus increases ceramide levels in keratinocytes and improves stratum corneum function. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2012 Feb;34(1):17-22.
- Mathew T, Kamath V, Kumar RS, et al. Eucalyptus oil inhalation-induced seizure: A novel, underrecognized, preventable cause of acute symptomatic seizure. Epilepsia Open. 2017;2(3):350–354. Published 2017 Jul 4.
- Park B, Kim SJ. Cooling the Skin: Understanding a Specific Cutaneous Thermosensation. J Lifestyle Med. 2013;3(2):91–97.
- Weatherly LM, Gosse JA. Triclosan exposure, transformation, and human health effects. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2017;20(8):447–469.
- Rathi SK. Acne vulgaris treatment : the current scenario. Indian J Dermatol. 2011;56(1):7–13.
- Macmillan A. Salicylic acid: should it be in your face wash? HowStuffWorks.com. 2013.
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