Effaclar Anti-Blemish System: the Testers’ Verdict

acne skin care review

Lengthiest post in the world alert. Do you remember when I recruited some skin care guinea pigs to test out the new Effaclar Anti-Blemish System*? Way back when the sun was shining and we weren’t being relentlessly pelted with hailstones and cold rain? Well the results are in. Overall, the response is great. I have to say that I was slightly apprehensive about the testers only being able to use the Effaclar system; in normal life, you probably wouldn’t use a treatment like this so exclusively. Or I wouldn’t, at any rate. I was terrified that I’d get reports of dried-up skin or signs of over-exfoliation and actually, I do think that the more negative experiences with the system are due to the fact that it’s very inflexible on the skin if you’re only able to use three things, all of them from the same range. Sometimes you need more moisture, or you need to swap in a creamier cleanser or a different acid exfoliant to change things up a bit. But, as I said, the general response was overwhelmingly positive. I’ll recap my own personal thoughts at the end (I tried it too) but for now, let’s get going with the testers’ feedback.

(Just a few preliminary notes: the set consisted of a cleaner, toner and blemish treatment “moisturiser”. I asked the testers to test until the products ran out, or for around 6-8 weeks, and I also asked that they try not to mix in any other products so that we could get a fair idea of the results.)

Reviews from my two seventeen year-old testers (one male, one female) and my thirty year-old female tester were positively glowing. Harry (17) said that he had seen a “huge improvement” to his skin and that he was totally converted to La Roche-Posay – he had previously been using an American system called ProActiv. In his detailed review, Harry said that the cleanser cleansed beautifully without being stripping, the toner was “just wonderful” and that the Duo+ “really does reduce the appearance of angry red spots and prevents future breakouts”. It was great to get a male perspective on the set – Harry said that it is “easy to apply and takes no longer than brushing your teeth would.” He found Effaclar to be “gentle to apply” in comparison to the ProActiv which he didn’t have a great experience with; “the skin felt raw after every use and it was really abrasive on the skin”.

Frances (also 17) wrote me a gorgeously detailed review with a great tip about decanting the toner into a little spray bottle – something that Harry mentioned too. I think that’s a brilliant idea – Frances said “I find it easier to apply toners that way and to be honest, it’s a lot more therapeutic to spray it on.” Frances had never had acne before, but for about three months before starting the Effaclar system her forehead and T-zone had been “irritated and covered in blemishes” – her forehead was “rather red and angry all the time, especially after cleansing.” Frances found the foaming gel cleanser to be “very gentle on the skin” and said that the toner was “soothing, hydrating and sort of tightening on the pores”. Her verdict on the Anti-Blemish System? “I haven’t had any active breakouts since using the Effaclar system throughout the past 2 months! I don’t have any redness on my T zone either and my blackheads and pores haven’t disappeared, but they’ve definitely reduced visibly. I would say my skin is now combination/normal, since my skin doesn’t become shiny after 3 hours anymore. (Now it’s more like 5-6 hours) which is such an improvement and I’m really happy at the result as it’s only been about 2 months.”

skincare for acne and spots

Diana (30) also had a great experience. She said “I found that using all three products in the kit over the six week period really improved the appearance of my skin to the point that it is calm and clear. Prior to using this kit, I had regular breakouts, especially in my oily T-zone area.” Diana has fairly sensitive skin, and she said that she was “initially sceptical of the foaming gel” due to previous bad experiences, but she felt that it worked well for her, saying “even after the first use, it had a very calming effect on my inflamed acne areas.” Diana also really rated the toner, but found the Effaclar Duo+ to be a little bit drying when she used it all over her face. She took matters into her own hands (excellent!) and only applied to the areas with breakouts and said that this worked “fantastically well” for her.

I must say that I do get occasional reports of people saying that they can’t use the Duo+ all over their skin; if you don’t need it all over, then don’t use it all over! I do, and I find that it works well for me, giving my skin a kind of all-over clarifying session. But what works for me might not necessarily work for others and I do think that – as with all skin care – you need to adapt products to suit your own face.

My twenty-two year-old tester, Beth, also found that the Duo+ didn’t provide her skin with enough moisture when used all over – she said “I figured it was almost the serum/anti-blemish step before locking down my moisturiser”. (Again, nothing wrong with applying moisturiser over the top, but we do have to note that I instructed the testers to use only the Effaclar system and nothing else. Silly me with my rules!) I had Beth’s report after two weeks of Effaclar use, and at the time of her initially writing to me she hadn’t fared quite so well; she saw no reduction in her spots and had a few “under the skin monsters” that had appeared. Because of this she was swapping in her Pixi Glow Tonic for the Effaclar toner, every now and then, as she felt she needed a tried-and-tested acid exfoliant she could rely on. I emailed Beth for an update and unfortunately she had been forced to end her trial early as the set just wasn’t working out for her at all. She liked the toner step, and continued with that, but didn’t want to risk making her skin worse if it wasn’t agreeing with the Effaclar routine and so stopped using the other products.

My final tester was Andrea, aged 40. Andrea used the set and nothing else for the whole of August. She said  “I found that the good parts of my skin looked in better condition and felt smoother. However it wasn’t enough to combat my hormonal and stress related acne which is mainly concentrated around my jawline.” Andrea actually saw the bad parts of her skin worsen slightly, but put that down to the fact that she wasn’t using any additional targeted spot creams. Andrea didn’t find the Effaclar set strong enough on its own to keep her acne at bay.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+ Review and 100 Sample Giveaway

Interesting! Three excellent experiences, one reviewer who needed something more powerful and one who simply didn’t get on with the set at all. My own experience? I used the set over my “PMT days” for around a week and it worked very well. I couldn’t have really done much more time than that (which is why I recruited my testers in the first place) because I don’t have blemish-prone skin for most of the month. It’s a hormonal thing.

In terms of the individual products, it’s the toner and the Duo+ that I’m most taken with. I’m not the hugest fan of the type of foaming rinse-off cleanser that’s included in the set, preferring a cleansing balm that I can really work into the skin, but I didn’t particularly have any issues with the Effaclar one. It didn’t feel moisturising, but neither did it leave my skin feeling over-dried. I can totally understand why that’s included in the set, it works well with the other products, but perhaps my skin isn’t oily enough to really benefit! I loved the toner with salicylic acid. Lovely formula, it’s a great step to add in before your serum if you want to give your skin a little blemish-busting boost and it actually feels very soothing on angry skin. (Please note that this is NOT the same toner that gets a “poor” rating on popular website Paula’s Choice; this toner has a different ingredients list and is alcohol-free as well as containing lactic acid and zinc oxide. Altogether a nicer kettle of fish. I only add this note because quite a few people brought it up over the summer.)

If you’re a long-term reader of A Model Recommends you’ll already know my feelings on the Effaclar Duo+; I adored the original version and love this one too. For me, it was one of the only things that truly cleared my skin up in an emergency. I now use it sparingly when spots threaten and rarely get any actual blemish trouble. I think that it’s a beauty cupboard staple, really, and the feedback I’ve had from readers who’ve used it has been phenomenal. It’s actually the reason I agreed to feature a trial of the Effaclar set in the first place – I think that there’s a shortage of spot treatments that are properly effective without forming that drying protective film that you usually get with more targeted treatments. Duo+ seems to do the trick without resorting to extremely harsh, eye-watering methods.

And so the verdict? I suppose I should leave you to reach your own conclusions based on the tester findings; the toner does seem to be enormously popular and I think that there will be a few people rushing to the shelves when (if) it launches as a standalone product. (For me, it’s up there with Serozinc which is a soothing spray that helps to keep spots at bay. Not available in the UK, at present, but I’d imagine there would be stampedes for it – I really do think that there’s a real lack of good, uncomplicated spot things that don’t smell of tea tree and make your eyes cry. You can read about Serozinc over on Caroline Hirons’ blog.) As I said, the Duo has always been a winner in my books – you can browse through all of the mentions and rave posts here!

You can find the Effaclar Anti-Blemish System at Boots here (there’s 3 for 2 on across the La Roche-Posay brand at the moment) – and if you fancy just trying the Duo+ then Escentual.com have a third off all “pharmacy” skin care products this month. If you’re on the constant battle to fight down acne then it could be a nice one to try and at just over a tenner (with the discount) it won’t break the bank. Please do let me know your own feedback and comments below, I’d love to know how you’ve found the set if you purchased it last month!

*this post is the second half of a sponsored review project. For the first part please click here.

DISCLOSURE POLICY. Posts published after 24th January 2019: if the post contains gifted items or affiliate links then it is indicated clearly beneath the title. Posts published prior to this will have a disclosure within the body of the post and then an asterisk * marking all affiliate links. If the content is a paid-for AD then it is marked as an AD in the title. For more information on disclosure please read here. 


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