Epiduo Forte

This stuff is so powerful that it is causing me to have to temporarily forfeit like, 70% of my regular skincare regimen. On that note, I may be taking a temporary hiatus until my skin gets back on track after having used this.

This is my second go-around with Epiduo Forte. I was prescribed this in conjunction with spironolactone when I first saw a dermatologist about my cystic acne. Yep, prescription only, depending on where you live — and I think there are different variants on the name of Epiduo, depending on the strength.

The first time around was a true clear out of my extremely broken out skin. I was excited to start using this white-gel-cream product, with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide for bacteria killing and .3% adapalene for cell exfoliation. The general Internet consensus is that this stuff really does work, but I quickly realized that applying Epiduo at night isn’t exactly the same pleasant experience as slapping on a sheet mask. For the first month or two? This stuff is gonna burn like mad.

You know that phrase “if it burns, it’s working”? Ok, first of all, that phrase is terrible advice to live by, because it’s NOT true for most skincare products, except maybe this one. Even then, you will question if it really is working for the first few weeks, because it actually makes your skin WORSE. Like, a lot worse.

The first time around, my cystic acne multiplied. By a lot. It was terrible, painful, and just all around hard to deal with. Even now in my second go-around, my skin is probably the worst it’s been in about two years. Epiduo forces your skin cells to turn over more rapidly, thus bringing the bacteria to the surface and causing a break out. It doesn’t matter how diligent you are keeping your face clean — you’re still going to break out, a LOT. And in areas you don’t normally break out in, too!

I waited it out for about six weeks, the first time. My skin finally started to improve! I mean, it doesn’t PREVENT your break outs from happening, but it makes your pores quite a bit clearer, and overall the texture and condition of your skin will be brighter.

So what’s my deal with Epiduo today, 3 weeks into my second go-around? Heck, why am I even here, on a second go-around? Shouldn’t my acne be mostly cured-ish after using it the first time? Not exactly. You need to keep using it. And that’s what I stopped doing. Sure, I would use it like… every two weeks… to spot treat, but that was it.

About nine months after I stopped using it consistently, my face started to get a little more… blotchy. Not so much cystic acne as it had been before, since the spironolactone keeps a lot of that at bay. But the texture overall just wasn’t great. My dermatologist told me in no uncertain terms that I “can’t just stop using Epiduo”.

So here I am, week three. I apply Epiduo every night. The first two weeks, my skin burned like CRAZY — that’s getting a little better now, though. Peeling skin though? Non-stop. Exfoliants are risky to use, since the Epiduo is already exfoliating for me and my skin is pretty raw. I can’t use most of my moisturizers or sunscreens, since they’ll pill, even if my face is 100% clean. And my skin is still… not great. New spots are turning up every day!

I’ve gone through Epiduo before and know it works, so I’ll have to just hold out for another month or so. In the meantime, my skin care routine is minimal: Clinique’s Dramatically Different in the morning, a TINY dot of Its Skin 2pm, and CosRX Honey Ceramide Cream at night (and The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 5% if I’m feeling brave).

Hopefully my next post will contain some positive news. Hey, if the Epiduo works for me a second time around, then that will mean the product REALLY works! Unfortunately it’s a pricey venture at $375, and many insurers won’t cover the cost — although, manufacturer’s coupons will occasionally help to knock the price down if they’re available. Ah, the price we pay for clear skin… ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 3/5 (you have use it regularly)

How much I actually like this product: 3.5/5 (the burning! the purging!)

Recommended for sensitive skin: It will MAKE your skin sensitive, even if it wasn’t in the first place. Prepare for two months of total annihilation!

Clean and Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser

Clean and Clear knows their target demographic very well: teens who are struggling with acne for the first time in their lives, and their parents who don’t know much about skin care. They have what seems to be an astronomical budget for their marketing campaigns (probably because their parent company is Johnson & Johnson), which make it seem like all you need to do is put the product on, dramatically splash some water over your face, and you’ll be out the door with clear skin in no time. That’s not to say Clean and Clear is pumping their products full of stuff that doesn’t work, but it seems like their preference is to hook the consumer with loud-colored product lines instead of having them focus on the ingredients in the products themselves.

That brings me to talking about this product. This is a white-cream cleanser that you mask your face with (or your problem areas), leave it on for 20-30 seconds, and then wash it off. The idea is that the 10%(!!!!!) benzoyl peroxide should eradicate active, or about-to-be active breakouts.

The reason I bolded 10% BP is because 10% is A LOT. That is the maximum percentage benzoyl peroxide can be sold at. For me personally, a 2.5% spot treatment is enough to make my skin peel. Now that I think about it, even the prescription-only Epiduo gel is only 2.5%! I use the Clean and Clear product MAYBE twice a year, and the way I view it is kind of like a nuclear bomb — if I’ve gotten to the point of using it, that means I’ve had a very terrible breakout, and I’m prepared to accept the consequences of my skin burning and peeling to help turn over the breakout faster.

Imagine you are a teenager who is embarrassed by their first onset of acne. You walk into Walgreens, and find a cleanser that promises clear skin. You don’t really know what the 10% truly implies, but Clean and Clear is a very popular brand, and it’s cheap ($6), so you should buy it too, right? Once you use it, you notice your skin is burning and peeling, but the adage is that “if it hurts, that means it’s working”, so you keep on cleansing your face with it, hoping to see clear skin the next day.

But it doesn’t work like that — with repeated usage of this product you’ll only experience more irritation, and the dryness of your skin will likely create even more breakouts. Just because you’re washing it off after 20 seconds doesn’t mean you’ve reduced your exposure to the BP. You’ve more or less entered into a never-ending cycle, because the product simultaneously causes the problem, and also cures it.

I know that Clean and Clear is not the only brand that sells 10% BP in this form, as a cleanser. Other brands yet sell this percentage as a spot treatment, which makes a little more sense since the idea is to “target” the problem area and not put it all over your face. The spot treatment idea I can get behind, as long as the user has education about the strength that they’re using. But as a cleanser — I can’t back that as a well-intended product.

My recommendation to someone new to skincare who is struggling with acne or possibly has a limited budget is to try to stick to a basic routine. Use a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil, an oil-free moisturizer like Cerave PM, and, if you must, sparingly use a spot treatment that isn’t more than 2.5% BP. Unless you already have a very high tolerance to benzoyl peroxide, slathering 10% of it on your face is only going to lend itself to trouble. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5 (with CAREFUL use)

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No