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Rodan & Fields Unblemish – Not A Pretty Pricetag

Rodan & Fields is a line of cosmetics made by the same company that also makes Proactiv. Rodan & Fields products tend to be pricey but effective, but they are not for everyone even if money is no object. Here are key facts about their most popular products.

Oily Skin
The Oil Control Lotion by Rodan & Fields is good for controlling “shine” on oily skin.


  • Rodan & Fields is a line of cosmetics made by the same company that makes ProActiv products for acne care.
  • Rodan & Fields skin lightening treatments are OK for fair skin, but can cause serious cosmetic disfigurement in some users who have Asian or African skin.
  • Rodan & Fields Unblemish Oil Control Lotion is good for controlling “shine” on oily skin, for about eight hours.
  • Rodan & Fields Blot Papers are a better option for controlling shiny skin if you don’t use makeup. The zinc in the papers may (or may not) reduce oil production in your skin after about four weeks of use. Not every user benefits.
  • Rodan & Fields Acne Treatment Sulfur Wash is not for anyone who has sensitive skin, although many users will find that it fights pimples.
  • Rodan & Fields Unblemish Dual Intensive Acne Treatment contains just a little less benzoyl peroxide than their ProActiv product that costs 33% less. Paula’s Choice, Clearasil, and Exposed Skin Care all often similar products that work just as well and cost a lot less money.

Rodan & Fields Reverse Skin Lightening Treatment, Retails For US $77.00 For 1.7 Fluid Ounces/51 ml

Reverse Skin Lightening Treatment lightens discoloration with hydroquinone1, a chemical that is very closely related to the fixing agent that used to be used to develop black and white film—turning the black in a negative to the white in the finished photograph. Hydroquinone applied to the skin can take the “brown” out of the skin leaving other natural pigments behind. Reverse Skin Lightening Treatment also contains retinol to stimulate healthy growth of the skin that keeps pores open, and lactic acid to bind water to the skin and gently loosen dead skin so it can be rinsed away.

There is just one potential downside to using Rodan & Fields Reverse Skin Lightening Treatment, and it’s a doozy. In a very few people it can turn brown skin marks dark blue2 . This effect occurs in people who have a hereditary condition known as onchronosis. In this condition, the body lacks an enzyme to process chemicals in the same class as hydroquinone. Hydroquinone accumulates as black and blue pigment in the skin wherever it has touched, but especially on the tip of the nose and on the ears. There is nothing to be done to remove the pigment once it has accumulated in the skin.

That is why people who have Asian or African skin types should just avoid lightening agents that contain hydroquinone. Products that don’t contain hydroquinone, such as Epicuren Discovery Skin Lightening Balancing Cream, are a safer alternative. The Epicuren Discovery product sells for $29.00 for a 0.5 fluid ounce/15 ml tube and is actually even more expensive, but it’s far less likely to cause devastating disfigurement as a rare side effect.

If you have Asian or African skin and you have been using the Rodan & Fields product, don’t panic. Just return it for a refund.

Rodan & Fields Unblemish Oil Control Lotion SPF-20, Retails For US $28.00 For 1 Fluid Ounce

If you have a problem with shiny skin, Unblemish Oil Control Lotion SPF-20 may be for you. This product protects your skin from sun with two mineral sunblocks3, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These minerals block all the harmful UV rays of the sun. It also contains a variety of ingredients that don’t stop oil production but keep the finish of your skin matte, with no one spot shinier than any other—for up to about 8 hours. At the end of the day, a little oil on your nose or brow might begin to shine through again. Unblemish Oil Control Lotion also contains a variety of antioxidants in small doses to help keep inflammation in check.

If you have especially dark skin, you may not want to use this product, because the titanium dioxide can leave your skin looking purple.

Rodan & Fields Blot Papers With Zincidone, Retails For US $23.00 For 60 Papers

If you have an issue with oily skin shine and you don’t wear makeup, Rodan & Fields Blot Papers with Zincidone may be a useful product. The absorbent sheets soak up excess skin oil4 with talc and clay and leave a tiny residue of “zincidone,” which is the company’s trade name for zinc pyrrolidone carboxylic acid, which is also known as zinc PCA. This form of zinc is absorbed by proteins in the skin and can also bind moisture in the skin.

Many cosmetics companies claim that zinc PCA reduces sebum production in the skin, but only the Ajimoto Company in Japan has actually tested it. Ajimoto’s research team found that applying a 1% zinc PCA solution to the skin every day for four weeks reduced oiliness and sebum production in the skin. Whether Blot Papers with Zincidone has the same effect isn’t proven by science but for US $0.40 a day you can find out for yourself.

Zinc PCA is also a proven antimicrobial agent5, but it does not kill acne bacteria. It does kill most of the other common strains of bacteria that cause skin infections, plus Candida (yeast). The anti-acne claims Rodan & Fields makes for this product are probably exaggerated, but there is no doubt that it will help take shine off your skin.

Rodan & Fields Unblemish Acne Treatment Sulfur Wash, Retails For US $41.00 For 4 Fluid Ounces/120 ml

Unblemish Acne Treatment Sulfur Wash is 3% sulfur, and sulfur is an ages-old treatment for acne and skin infections. It really works, but it can also dry out your skin6. If you want to use Unblemish Acne Treatment Sulfur Wash you need to be very careful to avoid getting the product into your eyes or nose, and you also need to use a moisturizer to prevent excessive drying and peeling of your skin.

If tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide don’t get your pimples under control, this sulfur wash is worth a try.  You always benefit by leaving the wash on your skin as long as possible, up to 5 minutes or so. Be sure to try the product on just a single pimple before using it all over your face. This product will not remove whiteheads or blackheads.

Rodan & Fields Unblemish Dual Intensive Acne Treatment, Retails For US $86.00 For 1 Fluid Ounce/30 ml

Rodan & Fields is made by the same company that makes ProActiv, and the Rodan & Fields Unblemish Dual Intensive Acne Treatment that sells for $86.00 an ounce is almost the same product as the ProActiv Advanced Blemish Treatment that sells for $54.00 an ounce ($18.00 per 0.33 ounce tube). The Rodan & Fields product is 5% benzoyl peroxide and the ProActiv product is 6% benzoyl peroxide, but both are strong enough to kill7 acne bacteria and also to cause serious irritation of the skin.

Clearasil, Neutrogena, Paula’s Choice, and Exposed Skin Care all offer gentler yet equally effective blemish formulas for a lot less money. This product works, but it is unreasonably priced.


  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Label: Skin Lightening Rodan Fields—hydroquinone liquid. DailyMed. Accessed 2019.
  2. Schwartz C., Jan A. Hydroquinone. StatPearls. 2019.
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Label: Rodan and Fields Unblemish—titanium dioxide, zinc oxide lotion. DailyMed. Accessed 2019.
  4. How to control oily skin. American Academy of Dermatology (Website). Accessed 2019.
  5. Takino Y., Okura F., Kitazawa M., Iwasaki K., Tagami H.. Zinc l-pyrrolidone carboxylate inhibits the UVA-induced production of matrix metalloproteinase-1 by in vitro cultured skin fibroblasts, whereas it enhances their collagen synthesis. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2012;34(1):23-8.
  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Label: Acne Treatment Sulfur Wash Rodan Field—sulfur liquid. DailyMed. Accessed 2019.
  7. Sagransky M., Yentzer B.A., Feldman S.R. Benzoyl peroxide: a review of its current use in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy. 2009;10(15):2555-62.
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