Review: Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Acne Hydrating Treatment

By Voxy  

neutrogena 3-1 oil free acne stress controlLongest. Product. Name. Ever.

Also, really not digging the orange-on-teal color scheme. Yeesh. The product may attempt to reduce your stress, but the packaging screams “Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!”

All ribbing aside, Neutrogena [yadda yadda] Hydrating Treatment is an inexpensive and effective BHA product that can help keep pores unclogged. AHAs work on the surface of the skin to speed cell turnover there. But because they are not lipid-soluble, a clogged pore presents an obstacle to exfoliation of the walls of the pore. BHAs, however, are lipid-soluble, and they work by penetrating into the pore through the natural oil it contains and speeding the turnover of cells in the pore wall. If the pore is clogged with material, then getting rid of some of the dead skin cells in the walls of the pore can help loosen the clog and allow the dirt and oil to move to the surface of the pore for removal. (BHAs also do some exfoliation on the surface of skin.)

An effective BHA product requires both a reasonable level of BHA (between 1 and 2%, depending on what your skin can handle) and an effective pH, which is harder to come by, because pH is not usually listed on the package. According to Paula Begoun, BHAs are most effective at a pH between 3 and 4, losing efficiency as the pH of the product rises above 4. As she points out, you could always bring some pH testing strips along with you to your local drugstore if you want to test the pH of BHA products, but since most people don’t want to endure the curious stares of CVS or Target employees, they’d rather someone else do the testing. (I have to admit that this is the sort of geeky thing I would do. I should get my hands on some pH testing strips.) While I don’t always agree with Paula’s assessments on the qualitative aspects of products, there’s no question that her research is dead-on, so I trust her math when she says that the pH of this Neutrogena … Treatment is within optimal levels.

BHA products don’t work overnight. Well, they do, of course — it’s not like they gather round the water cooler between 9 pm and 7 am and chat about what happened on last night’s episode of The Office rather than going to work on your pores. But it takes several days for them to really start to produce results. Therefore, while BHAs are of some use during a breakout or when you have a particularly annoying blackhead, their real value is as preventive agents.

The Neutrogena … Treatment is a very thin, light, almost translucent lotion with a slight but noticeable cucumber scent that goes on easily and dries relatively quickly. It would be a good idea to wait a few minutes until the product is fully absorbed before putting either a moisturizer or makeup on where you’ve applied the … Treatment. BHA products should be applied to clean skin before you put on any other products. If the BHA product is emollient enough, you may not need to put a moisturizer on over the areas in which you’ve applied BHA. If your skin gets too dried out, flaky, or irritated, either reduce the frequency with which you use the product and/or switch to a product with a lower concentration of BHA.


Neutrogena Oil Free 3-in-1 Acne Stress Control Acne Hydrating Treatment: ~$8 on

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (drugstore: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good

Purchase again? Yes

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  1. avatar Indianalitchick
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    I have been using this product every night for about three weeks, and so far it has kept my skin clear. It is a much more affordable alternative to the prescription cream I was using.


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted November 19, 2009 at 8:59 am | Permalink | Reply

      Yes, I think it’s quite a good product, and I also appreciate that it’s a drugstore price rather than a couture one!


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