AcneFree Severe to Clear System (Discontinued)

by AcneFree  
Poor Read Member Comments
Add To Faves»

Want to buy this product?

Skin Care > Specialty Products > Specialty Skin Care Products
Last Updated:
Jar Packaging:
Tested On Animals:

AcneFree's Severe to Clear Skin System includes four products: Antibacterial Cleansing Wash (4 fl. oz.), Corrective Toner (4 fl. oz.), Maximum Strength Repair Lotion (2 fl. oz.), and Retinol Renewal Complex (1 fl. oz.). All are meant to be used as a daily skin-care routine to treat and prevent severe acne, although typically severe acne requires prescription products from your doctor, especially if it is cystic acne.

As is often the case with anti-acne kits, you're getting a mix of helpful and harmful products that, when used together, offer little hope of improving acne or its red marks. However, among the sets AcneFree sells, this one has the fewest problematic products. That's great, but the set lacks a well-formulated BHA (salicylic acid) product, which is essential for improving severe acne and blackheads.

First is the Antibacterial Cleansing Wash. Although this cleanser is medicated with benzoyl peroxide, its contact with your skin is too brief for it to effectively kill acne-causing bacteria. The fragrance-free base formula is fine for normal to combination or oily skin, but you must be sure to keep it away from the eye area.

AcneFree claims they're using "prescription grade" benzoyl peroxide, but the benzoyl peroxide used in cosmetic or prescription products is the same.

Step two is the Corrective Toner, which isn't corrective in the least, and will in fact hurt your skin due to the irritation from the alcohol and witch hazel. This irritation leads to increased oil production at the base of the pore and can make redness (and red marks from acne) worse.

This formula also contains sugar and citrus extracts, typically used as alternatives to AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid). The problem? None of these ingredients can exfoliate or refine pores the way an AHA or BHA (active ingredient salicylic acid) does. The research about AHAs and BHA is abundant, but there is very little research about these other exfoliants.

After using the toner you're directed to apply the Maximum Strength Repair Lotion. This lightweight, fragrance-free lotion is medicated with 10% benzoyl peroxide. Although it does kill acne-causing bacteria, this relatively high concentration of benzoyl peroxide can be needlessly drying, especially when used right after the Corrective Toner in this set. Research has shown that there is little benefit, and potentially negative results, from using a 10% concentration of benzoyl peroxide.

Most people with acne will find their blemishes respond best to topical disinfectants with 2.5%–5% benzoyl peroxide. If these amounts don't help, your next step should be to speak with your physician about a prescription topical product, which may be necessary anyway if your acne is truly severe.

The final product is Retinol Renewal Complex, a fragrance-free moisturizer that contains a form of retinol (retinyl palmitate) in a creamy base that likely will be too rich for those with oily, acne-prone skin. It's an OK formula, but there is no published research proving retinyl palmitate has any benefit for acne, especially in comparison to prescription-strength forms of retinol or retinol itself. You'd do better with a lightweight moisturizer or serum that contains pure retinol along with skin-repairing and antioxidant ingredients.

  • Inexpensive and all products are fragrance-free.
  • None of the four products contain salicylic acid (also known as BHA), an important ingredient for treating acne and blackheads as well as reducing inflammation.
  • 10% benzoyl peroxide can be needlessly drying for all skin types and is not preferred to lower strengths for most types of acne.
  • Toner is based on two potent irritants, alcohol and witch hazel.
  • Moisturizer has a thick, creamy texture that is unsuitable for oily, blemish-prone skin.
Antibacterial Cleansing Wash: This oil-free, refreshing cleanser rapidly kills acne bacteria and removes dead skin cells that can lead to severe acne. Prescription-grade microencapsulated Benzoyl Peroxide fights acne bacteria and leaves even the most troubled skin feeling fresh and clean.

Corrective Toner: Deficiencies in acne-troubled skin can cause infections to enlarge, last longer and heal slower. This corrective toner helps normalize skin functions, gently removes excess surface oils and leaves skin feeling soft, refreshed and perfectly toned.

Maximum Strength Repair Lotion: Patented continuous-release microencapsulated prescription-grade 10% Benzoyl Peroxide formula penetrates deep within affected areas to kill acne-causing bacteria and help reduce oil production. Promotes the repair and healing of existing blemishes and helps prevent new breakouts before they start.

Retinol Renewal Complex: This microencapsulated Retinol formula is significantly less irritating than most treatments. Stimulates cell turnover for healthy skin renewal to promote skin clarity and inspire a youthful glow. Keeps pores open and unclogged, allowing oxygen in to help prevent breakouts.
Antibacterial Cleansing Wash: Active: Benzoyl Peroxide (2.5%), Other: Water, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Glyceryl Stearate, Polysorbate 60, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Sorbitol, Cetyl Esters, Polyethylene, Cetyl Alcohol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Xanthan Gum, Propylparaben, Propylene Glycol, Methylparaben, Diazolidinyl Carbamide Corrective Toner: Water, SD Alcohol 40, Hamamelis Virginian (Witch Hazel), Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, PEG-8 Dimethicone, Copper PCA, Cetyl Triethylmonium Dimethicone PEG-8 Succinate, Sclerotium Gum, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane), Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange/Neroli) Fruit Extract, Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Disodium EDTA, Diazolidinyl Carbamide Maximum Strength Repair Lotion: Active: Benzoyl Peroxide (10%), Other: Water, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Polysorbate 60, Ethoxydiglycol, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Bisabolol, Cetyl Triethylmonium Dimethicone PEG-8 Succinate, Allantoin, Tridecyl Stearate, Isohexadecane, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Phytosterol, Xanthus Gum, Tetrasodium EDTA, Propylparaben, Propylene Glycol, Methylparaben, Diazolidinyl Carbamide Retinol Renewal Complex: Water, Polysorbate 60, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Prolatum Oil, Retinyl Palmitate, Cetyl Alcohol, Bisabolol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Allantoin, Allyl Methacrylates Crosspolymer, Cetyl Triethylmonium Dimethicone PEG-8 Succinate, Tridecyl Stearate, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Phytosterol, Hyaluronic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Methylisothiazolinone, Ethylparaben, Disodium EDTA

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

Member Comments

Write A Review»

No members have written a review yet. Be the first!

About the Experts

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:

View Media Highlights


The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

585632-IIS4 v1.0.0.367 1/29/2015 12:40:59 PM
Skip to Top of Page
20% Off AHA & BHA Exfoliants | FREE Shipping on $50+

Create an Account

Create Account»
  • »

New Customers

You will have the option to create an account after you have submitted your order.