AcneFree Sensitive Skin System (Discontinued)

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AcneFree's Sensitive Skin System includes three products: Corrective Cleanser (4 fl. oz.), Oil-Free pH-Balancing Moisturizer (1.5 fl. oz.), and Terminator Spot Control Gel (1 fl. oz.). All are meant to be used as a daily skin-care routine to treat and prevent acne.

Corrective Cleanser contains the anti-acne ingredient salicylic acid, but in a cleanser it is just rinsed down the drain. This also contains sodium tetradecene sulfonate, also known as sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, which is a very drying, irritating cleansing agent that is definitely too strong for sensitive skin or any type of skin for that matter.

Next is the Oil-Free pH-Balancing Moisturizer, which claims to allow pores to remain open so your skin can "breathe," which isn't possible because pores don't breathe. As for the formula itself—despite a silky, lightweight texture suitable for normal to oily skin, it contains a fragrant plant oil and a form of the potent skin irritant camphor. This formula will not make sensitive skin feel better, and runs the risk of making redness from acne (and red marks left behind) worse. In fact, any irritating ingredient can increase oil production.

Also, although it contains the anti-acne ingredient salicylic acid, the pH of this moisturizer is too high for it to work as an exfoliant; salicylic acid is a pH-dependent ingredient.

The only product of interest in this kit is the Terminator Spot Treatment Gel. This clear gel contains 2% benzoyl peroxide to kill acne-causing bacteria, and the formula also gets an antibacterial boost from tea tree oil (although the benzoyl peroxide is doing the brunt of the work). Also great is the inclusion of soothing agents to reduce redness—too bad the other products in this kit didn't follow suit!

  • Inexpensive.
  • Terminator Spot Control Gel is a good topical disinfectant for acne-causing bacteria (note that this product can be purchased separately).
  • The cleanser and moisturizer put sensitive skin at risk of further irritation because it contains irritating ingredients.
  • Cleanser contains a drying cleansing agent that can leave skin feeling tight.
  • Moisturizer is medicated with salicylic acid, but this acne fighter cannot exfoliate because the product's pH is too high.

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The moisturizer in this kit is supposed to allow pores "to remain open and breathe," but your pores don't open and close like window blinds and they don't breathe. Acne is really about whether the pore lining is clogged or unclogged. A clogged pore (which is one cause of acne) can be construed as "closed" because the opening is blocked with excess oil and dead skin cells. Once this blockage is cleared, via a well-formulated BHA (salicylic acid) exfoliant and/or by absorbing the oil and extracting the clog, the pore becomes "open" again because then the oil can flow freely to the skin's surface, which is the goal.

Corrective Cleanser: This cleanser purifies, gently exfoliates dead skin cells and removes pore clogging dirt, oil and impurities, leaving skin feeling fresh and clean. Fights acne-causing bacteria with a microencapsulated Salicylic Acid formula while Vitamin E and botanical Tea Tree extract soothe the skin.

Oil-Free pH Balancing Moisturizer: This oil-free moisturizer is formulated to soothe and hydrate. Allows pores to remain open and breathe while a patented microencapsulated continuous-release Salicylic Acid formula fights the progression of acne, leaving skin smooth, soft and healthy-looking.

Terminator Spot Control Gel: This microencapsulated Benzoyl Peroxide formula works deep within pores to reduce sebum production and fight acne-causing bacteria. This formula is so effective, most pimples are terminated overnight!
Corrective Cleanser Active: Salicylic Acid (2%), Other: Water, Sodium Tetradecene Sulfonate, Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Acrylates Copolymer, PPG-2 Hydroxyethyl Coco/Isostearamide, Tocopheryl Acetate , Retinyl Palmitate, Phospholipids, Limmonoids, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Extract, Flavonoids, Disodium Lauriminodipropionate Tocopheryl Phosphate, Calendula Officinalis (Marigold) Flower Extract, Beta-Caryophylene, Beta Glucan, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C Palmitate), Argania Spinosa Kernel (Argon) Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch Octenylsuccinate, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, Lauryl Glucoside, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Tetrasodium EDTA, Blue 1 Oil-Free pH Balancing Moisturizer: Active: Salicylic Acid (1%), Other: Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, Squalane, Butylene Glycol, Polysorbate 60, Tocopheryl Acetate , Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate), Phospholipids, Lactic Acid, Calophyllum Tacamahaca Fruit (Tamanu Nut) Oil, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Steareth-21, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Behenyl Alcohol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Steareth-2, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch Octenylsuccinate, Algae (Seaweed) Extract, Artemisia Vulgaris (Mugwort/Armoise) Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Cinnamomum Camphora (Camphor) Leaf Extract, Tetrasodium EDTA, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Disodium EDTA, Diazolidinyl Carbamide Terminator Spot Control Gel: Benzoyl Peroxide (2%), Other: Water, Butylene Glycol, Methylpropanediol, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Extract, Triethanolamine, Carbomer, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Bisabolol, Allyl Methacrylates Crosspolymer, Algae (Seaweed) Extract, Disodium Lauriminodipropionate Tocopheryl (Vitamin E) Phosphate, Artemisia Vulgaris (Mugwort/Armoise) Oil, Triclosan, Willow Bark Extract, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Diazolidinyl Carbamide

AcneFree is a small group of skin-care products sold in sets. As you may have guessed from the brand name, this is a line that's all about treating acne. You'll find this brand in most major drugstores, but it's not the acne treatment system to beat!

Owned by University Medical Pharmaceuticals, you'd think these products would be a slam-dunk for acne, but they're not. Although the kits contain some good products, all of them feature at least one product that's not effective for its intended purpose or contains irritating ingredients that will make your acne worse.

Just because the company claims these kits (systems) are the #1 best-selling in America doesn't mean they work; rather, it means that a lot of consumers with acne are buying the wrong products. We understand the frustration of struggling with breakouts. You want something that works to get rid of them, and the faster the better. It would be great if AcneFree could make good on all of its promises, but it simply doesn't, at least not 100%.

For more information about AcneFree, call 1.800.321.4576 or visit

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Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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