Effaclar AI Intensive Acne Spot Treatment
0.5 fl. oz. for $29.90
Last Updated:12.23.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Review Overview

The sole point of intrigue for this anti-acne product is its claim of being the first such product to blend benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in a single product, but that isn’t what they’ve created. As much as we agree that it would be a convenience, there are formulary drawbacks that prevent such a marriage from being harmonious. The reasons come down to pH and stability. We know that for salicylic acid to be an effective exfoliant, the pH should be 3–4. In contrast, according to several cosmetic chemists we’ve questioned, benzoyl peroxide requires a higher pH (typically around 5.5) to remain stable and maintain its efficacy. La Roche-Posay must know this, too, because the sole active ingredient in this product is 5.5% benzoyl peroxide, and the pH is just above 5. Salicylic acid is not on the active list and the form of salicylic acid they included is not the anti-acne form as per the FDA or Health Canada monograph. That means this is a good topical disinfectant for acne, but not a unique 2-in-1 product for those struggling with breakouts. The price ends up being absurd for what you get, as there are many well-formulated benzoyl peroxide products that cost a fraction of what this does. It is fragrance-free and it doesn’t contain unneeded irritants, which is nice, but not unique. Keep in mind you will need to use this with a separate, pH-correct salicylic acid product, as is, it does not have a one-two punch for breakouts.


This highly potent treatment is the first and only product that blends a derivative of salicylic acid with 5.5% micronized benzoyl peroxide. The oil-free formula works deep within the pores to heal and prevent acne breakouts while micro-exfoliating, allowing the skin to take on a smoother texture and more even skin tone. It reduces inflammatory blemishes by 60%, prevents skin discoloration and reduces breakout occurrence, all without causing irritation or discomfort.


Active: Benzoyl Peroxide (5.5%), Other: Water, Isostearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Silica, Carbomer, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Tocopheryl Acetate, Acrylates/C10-30, Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Disodium EDTA, Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract.

Brand Overview

La Roche-Posay At-A-Glance

Strengths: A few good cleansers; anti-aging formulas tend to be stably packaged to get the most out of the air/light-sensitive ingredients; many fragrance-free options; a unique lip moisturizer; some praiseworthy specialty products.

Weaknesses: Some problematic, overly irritating exfoliants; several ho-hum moisturizers and sunscreens; ineffective skin-lighteners; disappointing toner.

L'Oreal-owned La Roche-Posay has a pharmaceutical lineage based in France, and the company speaks of their thermal spring water as the cornerstone of their commitment to dermatological skin care. Sound familiar? L'Oreal-owned Biotherm makes similar claims for the water in their products, yet their marketing niche is spas, while La Roche-Posay caters to doctors and consumers interested in effective, no-frills skin care. Regardless of the source of their water, or how many minerals there may be in it, or the other benefits they assert it has, water is water and skin can't tell the difference. Even if the water were somehow "special," it takes a lot more than water to create and maintain healthy skin. This is something La Roche-Posay is aware of, because they do offer a fairly broad range of products to address the various needs of skin.

Their thermal spring water is said to be a rich source of selenium. Selenium is a nonmetallic element that has potent antioxidant ability. However, almost all of the research surrounding its benefits pertains to dietary or supplemental consumption, not to topical application. According to the research, selenium is absorbed into skin and helpful when applied topically only when applied as l-selenomethionine (Source: Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, July 2004, pages 149–155). It is unknown whether the water La Roche-Posay uses contains this form of selenium, but we wouldn't bank on it for a unique benefit.

For a dermatologist-oriented line like La Roche-Posay, most of the products are surprisingly devoid of state-of-the-art or other interesting ingredients. There are some standout products, such as those with retinol and stabilized vitamin C; however, most of them are one-note options that offer the help of their promoted ingredient but don't commingle it with anything else of value to skin. It's ironic that although there's not a jar package to be found in this line, most of the moisturizers lack light- or air-sensitive ingredients, so jar packaging actually wouldn't be a problem. In fact, most of the moisturizers are downright monotonous. For the money, these products will leave your skin wanting more.

If you steer your way to the well-formulated products La Roche-Posay offers, you will find some first-rate options. They're not as varied as what many other lines offer, but for a pragmatic, no-frills approach to serious skin care, they'll do just fine. In fact, among all of the L'Oreal-owned skin-care lines, La Roche-Posay comes closest to successfully competing with the best of the best. It's up to you to decide if "close" is good enough. However, if you need to avoid fragrance and a range of potentially irritating plant extracts prevalent in the products of many brands, this line may suit your skin to a T.

Note: La Roche-Posay is categorized as a brand that tests on animals because its products are sold in China. Although La Roche-Posay does not conduct animal testing for its products sold elsewhere, the Chinese government requires imported cosmetics be tested on animals, so foreign companies retailing there must comply. This requirement is why some brands state that they don’t test on animals “unless required by law.” Animal rights organizations consider cosmetic companies retailed in China to be brands that test on animals, and so does the Paula’s Choice Research Team.

For more information about La Roche-Posay, owned by L'Oreal, call (888) 577-5226 or visit www.laroche-posay.com.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
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Different in Canada

I believe this product has a different formulation in Canada. The only active ingredient is a small concentration of Salicylic Acid. Benzoyl peroxide is not listed in the ingredients at all. Unless there are different guidelines here in Canada for listing ingredients, this is definitely different.

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Same as the Duo Dual action??

I have not tried this product but was looking at the reviews on this and on the Effaclar Duo Dual Action acne treatment and saw that the ingredients are EXACTLY the sam and in the same order, which (if I'm not mistaken) means that these two products are exactly the same? I wonder however if this really is the case or if maybe the PC team has mixed the products and the reviews up somehow? I really hope PC will have a look at this as I want to know if there is any difference between the products.

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