I’m afraid on this one you’ll just have to deal with the fact that there are no photos. Because, and I’m sure you’ll understand why, I just can’t take photos of my 35 year old bad skin to plaster all over the internet. Don’t worry though, I promise I’ll describe it well. Although at 16 and 20 and even 25, I had skin like alabaster, ok not exactly, but it was still pretty good, at 30, my skin decided to finally rebel and at 31, I found myself purchasing acne products I never had to even consider in my youth. This I found highly disturbing on multiple levels. A zit or two periodically as an adult is one thing, but actual acne is something else entirely. I watch the commercials now about skin care products and there aren’t many that cater to adults with acne. There’s AcneFree (acnefree.com), Proactive (proactive.com), and the many and varied other acne related skin care products available at your local drug store, but those for the most part focus on adolescents and throw in the token adult for good measure (and of course to cover all as yet undiscovered or unsubstantiated markets). There are products for other skin conditions, but since I am only dealing with acne, I will stick to what I know best.
So at age 30 my skin started to change and I sought assistance from professionals. I, despite my somewhat better judgment decided that facials were the way to go and thought that with the facial would come some sensible advice as to what an almost middle aged woman should do about acne along her jawline. What I was told at spa #1 was basically that at 30, there is a hormone shift and that jawline and neck acne are actually very common. I wondered exactly how common since I’d never witnessed this problem on anyone else. What I was also told was that I needed to spend a lot of money on fancy spa products to fit this issue. I tried, they failed.
At spa #2 I was given the same information and a different litany of products. They worked a little better but cost the same, and I had this strange guilt about actually using products that were so expensive. Surely there was something less time consuming and less cost prohibitive that would fix this silly little problem. After all, I would have to take a second mortgage out on my house to repurchase all of the many and varied products once these ran out.
Which brings us to spa #3. There in sensible South Carolina, I was told by the facialist(?) beautician(?), cosmetic professional(?) that I had “a lot happening under my skin”. I’m not entirely sure what that means and it sounds a little frightening if you stop to think about it, but I knew she was right. “So what should I do about it?” I asked hesitantly. “Well,” she said, “have you ever heard of AcneFree?” At that time, I have to admit that I had not. She said to me “they have it at Walmart and it’s under $20”. “Ha ha,” I thought to myself, “something that is called “AcneFree” so theoretically it should keep me in such a state, and even I can afford to keep up this beauty ritual.” So off I went to Walmart to locate the ever so elusive AcneFree.
AcneFree is a 3-step cleansing system designed to free you of your unsightly acne. Each step or product comes in its own clearly numbered bottle so you do not apply Step 2 prior to Step 1. It’s a simple product to use that is not exorbitantly time consuming as some facial cleansing systems are. Most people wash their face and apply lotion regularly anyway, so the only additional step is the exfoliating, but that one is always kind of fun since you get to really see all the dirt and grease that comes off of your skin. (Am I the only one who finds the dirty cotton ball fascinating?)
The 3-step process is really pretty simple and straightforward. It doesn’t require much deviation from a standard face washing routine. It involves:
Step 1: Purifying Cleanser
Step 2: Renewing Toner
Step 3: Repairing Lotion
These products do as their name implies. The first cleans and exfoliates, the second removes excess oils and like all toners, shrinks pores and the third is a time-release Benzoyl-Peroxide product whos job it is to kill acne and blackheads.
Steps 1 and 3 both contain Benzoyl-Peroxide which for as long as I have been watching adolescent skin care commercials is the key to keeping your skin in its most purified form. Benzoyl-Peroxide is supposed to be able to kill the bacteria that causes acne by drying out the skin so that it peels. It has been used in skin care products for over 85 years and can also be used for bleaching hair and teeth. As most of us know, Peroxide is a bleaching agent (as well as the stuff that made the bubbles that your mother put on your boo-boos as a child) which could explain why all of the washcloths I used during this particular time period developed odd bleached spots. I didn’t even think about it until I washed some of those washcloths in the same laundry load with a sweater or two. Hmmm…then it occurred to me. Benzoyl-Peroxide=bleach=bleach spots. I'm not always so cleaver apparently.
The good thing about the Benzoyl-Peroxide in the products was that it did seem to have some effect on my skin. It’s constant presence managed to cause some peeling, and the peeling accomplished two tasks:
1) It peeled layers of skin off of the pimples themselves which made it easier to express them (yes, yes I pop my zits, it’s a true but disgusting part of life), and/or
2) It peeled layers off of were the pimples previously existed (i.e. scabs) thus causing them to heal more rapidly.
Additionally, the Benzoyl-Peroxide not only bleached the washcloths, clothes and several towels, but it also bleached the redness out of the pimples themselves. Thus although the pimples were still present, they were less noticeable.
An independent study of this product did find that the product was effective with statistical significance. The test group was relatively small (40 individuals) but among other findings, they did find that “global reductions in acne severity were cumulative during the first 10 days of treatment with Acne Free regimen, during which global severity was reduced by 3%, 15%, 19% and 24% at Day 3, Day 5, Day 8 and Day 10, respectively.”1 These are pretty impressive findings and certainly not to be scoffed at, but (because there is always a but) I just didn’t see it.
This is certainly not to say that the product is a dud, because clearly that is not the case. I am certain that AcneFree has many happy customers, and I wasn’t entirely unhappy. It did something. I don’t truly believe that it was the miracle that the ads say it is, but it definitely did something. There was less redness which is definitely a plus. Were there less blemishes? I don’t believe that there were, but the blemishes were less noticeable because they were not such an atrocious, angry color. Perhaps there is a reason that it works on some and not others. Maybe because mine is a “hormonal condition” it was less effective. Of this I can’t be sure. What I can be sure of is that for $20, it’s completely worth it to try, and who knows, maybe you are one of those for whom after 10 days your “global severity” will be reduced by 24%. I hope so. Personally I wish I was. I think for me however, it’s just a matter of time, another hormone shift and some really good foundation. Maybe I’ll look into those next.
1 (2004) A Double-Blinded, Cross-Over, Safety and Efficacy Comparison of Two Acne Treatment Products. Clinical Research Laboratories, Inc., Clinical Study Number CRL19304. Retrieved September 28, 2009 from http://www.acnefree.com/files/AcneFree_Study_19304.pdf