Pro-X Clear Acne Protocol Kit (Discontinued)
Category:Skin Care > Specialty Products > Specialty Skin Care Products
Last Updated:10.07.2013
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Review Overview

With the launch of this kit, Olay is acknowledging what many consumers already know: Acne and wrinkles can and often do occur at the same time, along with other signs of aging. Being out of your teen years or never having had a breakout before doesn’t mean you’ll reach your 40s or 50s and be blemish-free; quite the contrary, as we hear from many women struggling with these distinct concerns.

So what does Olay have to offer? A 3-step kit that includes cleanser, salicylic acid (also known as beta hydroxy acid or BHA) treatment, and a moisturizer. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the kit misses the mark for addressing acne and other types of breakouts such as blackheads.

The Acne Pore Clarifying Cleanser is medicated with salicylic acid, but in a cleanser its benefit is mostly rinsed down the drain. A potential concern is the inclusion of sodium lauryl sulfate, as this can be drying. Most likely it’s not a problem because the amount is low, but there are gentler cleansing agents Olay could have included. The cleanser does an OK job of removing makeup, but salicylic acid isn’t meant for use around the eyes, so you’ll need a different cleanser to take your eye makeup off.

Next is the Acne Skin Clearing Treatment. This leave-on product contains 1.5% salicylic acid, but the pH is too high for it to function adequately as an exfoliant. This lightweight lotion feels silky, but will do little to improve acne or blackheads. One more comment: The ginger root is a potential irritant, although most likely the amount is too low to be cause for concern—but why include it in the first place?

The Complexion Renewal Lotion has a fluid, silky texture that those with normal to oily skin will appreciate, and it contains a good amount of the cell-communicating ingredient niacinamide. There is some research indicating niacinamide can help fade red marks from acne, and it offers numerous other benefits to skin, too. If only Olay had included a greater range of this type of ingredient, this product would be worth strong consideration (well, at least if it were sold separately from this kit). As is, it’s a decent option, but those looking for anti-aging benefits will do better with one of the moisturizers or serums we recommend in the Best Products section.

Ultimately, this rather expensive kit doesn’t offer much for those struggling with acne and signs of aging. Without a well-formulated BHA exfoliant, breakouts won’t improve to a great degree. Also missing is a topical disinfectant with benzoyl peroxide, which is considered the gold standard for fighting acne because it kills the bacteria that cause acne.

  • The cleanser is fragrance-free.
  • The moisturizer has a silky texture and contains the cell-communicating ingredient niacinamide.
  • Expensive.
  • Salicylic acid is wasted in a cleanser, and the leave-on product isn’t formulated in the correct pH range for it to exfoliate skin (which would help improve breakouts).
  • The moisturizer feels good, but is a one-note product when it comes to anti-aging benefits.

Pro-X Clear Acne Protocol is a complete 3-step daily skin care regimen that uses proven technology to reduce and help prevent frustrating blemishes and breakouts. Expert formulations balance moisture levels and minimize the appearance of oily skin throughout hormonal fluctuations. This protocol is also professionally designed to reduce the look of enlarged pores and uneven texture in just 4 weeks.


Acne Pore Clarifying Cleanser (2.5 fl. oz.) Active: Salicylic Acid (1.8%), Other: Water, Cetyl Betaine, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Glycerin, Stearyl Alcohol, Distearyldimonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Steareth-21, Behenyl Alcohol, PPG-30, Steareth-2, Disodium EDTA.

Acne Skin Clearing Treatment (1.7 fl. oz.) Active: Salicylic Acid (1.5%), Other: Water, Glycerin, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Dimethicone, Isohexadecane, Titanium Dioxide, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Decylene Glycol, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Glucoside, Dimethiconol, Bisabolol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Steareth-21, Polysorbate 60, Disodium EDTA, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract.

Complexion Renewing Lotion (1.7. fl. oz.) Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Pentylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Panthenol, Hydroxyethylacrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Decylene Glycol, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Isohexadecane, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Undecylenoyl Phenylalanine, Triethanolamine, Bisabolol, Dimethiconol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Laureth-4, Polysorbate 60, Disodium EDTA, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Sodium Benzoate, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.

Brand Overview

Olay At-A-Glance

Strengths: Inexpensive (mostly); several outstanding water-soluble cleansers and scrubs; boon for any consumer in love with cleansing cloths; good AHA exfoliant; all sunscreens include UVA-protecting ingredients; bountiful selection of state-of-the-art serums and some excellent moisturizers; some of the best products offer fragrance-free versions.

Weaknesses: Bar cleansers; no topical disinfectant for blemishes; random products contain menthol; more than a handful of dated moisturizers; jar packaging; several moisturizers with sunscreen don't offer skin much beyond basic sun protection; repetitive formulas within and between the sub-brands make this line confusing and tricky to shop.

Olay offers a fairly large selection of skin-care products sold at drugstores and mass-market stores. Although Olay's products are not as diversified as Neutrogena's or as attractive as L'Oreal's, Olay has come a long way from its star product being a soft pink lotion designed to make skin younger (yet it was and is just a badly formulated product that was out of date almost from the moment it was launched). Today's Olay lineup for those concerned about staving off the effects of aging skin is impressive, comprising their Regenerist, and Total Effects lines. All of these (and several other Olay products) contain the B vitamin niacinamide. As you might expect, the claims made for it are inflated, but, as explained in the various reviews below, niacinamide is a very helpful ingredient for all skin types, capable of exerting multiple benefits. It isn't the best ingredient out there (no single ingredient has that title yet, and it's unlikely that just one ever will be) and as such doesn't deserve the prominence Olay gives it (a bit of variety would have been far better, such as a mix of antioxidants and skin-identical ingredients).

Olay's sales are expected to reach $4 billion annually in the next few years, and given their global presence in stores and constant advertising in magazines and on television, that's not surprising. Much of this advertising is focused on their best products, which is attention well deserved. Just to give you an idea of the expenditure involved for these ubiquitous ads, Olay spent over $50 million to promote Regenerist in 2003. The good news is that each new range of Olay products generally improves on what came before it, offering results that, while not as impressive as the claims, are noticeable in the mirror.

For its ongoing commitment to understanding consumers and formulating products that, while not perfect, definitely offer more proof than puffery, Olay deserves consideration by any savvy skin-care shopper. And it also deserves mention that Olay is one of the few lines in this book whose entire collection of products with sunscreens provides sufficient UVA protection! (Sources for the financial figures above: The Rose Sheet, July 10, 2006, page 5; September 11, 2006, page 4; and January 1, 2007, page 5).

Olay began 2009 with the launch of Pro-X, their most expensive products to date. Not only are these products considerably more expensive than any others from Olay, the packaging, color scheme, advertising campaign, and claims have all been turned up to "max" on the cosmetics marketing dial. The amount of hype and budget thrown at these products easily explains why our Beautypedia product request e-mail inbox has been inundated with requests for me to review these products!

Whenever something this sleek-looking and pricey debuts in the mass market, lots of consumers wonder whether the extra expense is worth it. They also want to know if Olay's "Professional" designation makes these products a cut above the numerous other products they sell, including those with similar claims.

It turns out we had the same question after surveying the ingredient lists for all of the Pro-X products: How are they different from those available in Olay's Total Effects and Regenerist? Supposedly, all of those other sub-brands also have the answer to improving the telltale signs of aging, from dryness and wrinkles to loss of luminosity and unwanted discolorations. In fact, the claims on the label of these three lines are virtually identical.

It is clear from the get go that there are far more similarities than differences among Definity, Regenerist and Pro-X. All of them contain niacinamide, the B vitamin that has almost single-handedly re-energized Olay as a formidable skin-care brand. One of the Pro-X products contains acetyl glucosamine, just like several from Definity, and many Pro-X products contain peptides, just as Regenerist products do. Why should someone consider Pro-X over those other lines?

Interestingly, the folks we spoke with at Procter & Gamble didn't have a clear answer either, which isn't surprising, at least not from a formula superiority standpoint. Rather, their explanation was all about a marketing decision. This "cosmeceutical" –oriented line is supposed to give women who think that a line that looks medical must be better even if it's available at the drugstore. Pro-X was also designed to appeal to women who typically seek professional skin-care products, meaning those that are sold or recommended by a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon.

Of course there is no standardized definition for "professional skin care" and "cosmeceutical" is a bogus term. The dermatologists who consulted Olay about these new products are well-respected, but the formulas still come up short in terms of a cocktail of antioxidants and skin-identical ingredients that can repair damaged skin. As it turns out, despite the Alliance for Skin Care Innovation that Olay speaks of in their promotional materials for Pro-X, its creation had more to do with marketing than with bringing anything new to the cosmetics table.

Don't get me wrong: the Pro-X products have some commendable attributes and certainly offer multiple benefits for aging skin, but the truth is they're not different enough from Olay Regenerist or Definity products to warrant the higher price.

Pro-X's packaging is indeed sexier, the claims are more enticing, and the prices speak to a high-end consumer, but, to borrow a popular catchphrase from the 1980s, we were left wondering "Where's the beef?" The beef, as it were, is merely Olay creating products whose differences are much stronger from a marketing standpoint than from a formulary standpoint. That's not breakthrough news for your skin, and it's a fact that anyone considering Pro-X should know that other Olay products offer comparable benefits for less money. The only significant difference between Pro-X and Olay's other sub-brands is that Pro-X is fragrance-free; that's great, but you would think that leaving out an ingredient as opposed to adding one would lead to a price decrease rather than an increase. It's up to you if that point is enough to make the higher prices worthwhile.

For more information about Olay, owned by Procter & Gamble, call (800) 285-5170 or visit www.olay.com.

About the Experts

The Beautypedia 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 Begoun herself.

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