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Whenever anyone talks about over-the-counter options to treat adult acne, La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo invariably comes up. Back when I was still treating my product-induced breakout, but after I had discovered Clarins Lotus Treatment Oil and calmed the worst of my breakout, I was looking for something else to use to treat the stubborn zits and bumps that loved me so much, they didn’t want to get lost.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo I decided to invest in Effaclar Duo to try it out since everyone swears by it, and the reviews of it are glowing. And an investment it is! It’s about twice the price in the US of what it is in Europe—$36.95 for a 1.35-oz tube.

I will get into what it is in a minute, but let me just say that for a while there, this was going to get Holy Grail status. I almost feel like I’m being too harsh, because it worked AMAZINGLY. At first. It actually cleared up this one pimple that clogged up over and over again, about 5 times, before I got the Effaclar Duo. It also cleared up other niggling little zits and has helped to fade the redness.

In the meantime, though, I got an awful hormonal pimple, and about a month later, the raised remnants of it are still sitting on my chin, and I’m just not sure I can award Effaclar Duo Holy Grail status when it has failed to make this go away sooner/completely. As well as other niggling areas that just haven’t vanished. (Am I asking too much? But I think if you’re going to be a Holy Grail product, that should be allowed!)

Okay, backtracking, the way Effaclar Duo works, and the reason why it’s called “duo,” is that it has both a pimple fighting ingredient (micronized benzoyl peroxide*) and a micro-exfoliant (lipohydroxy acid [LHA]) to help improve the texture of skin and eliminate the remnants of the pimples.

It’s a brilliant idea, and I don’t know why no one else had thought of it. Or maybe they had, and no one plays it up? I just know that before buying this, I tried a different benzoyl peroxide treatment that was combined with essential oils, but not an exfoliant. Maybe some of the prescription versions are like this.

They claim that it visibly reduces inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne in only 3 days (and it was true at first, part of why I thought it would be Holy Grail), and have study data that says it’s as effective as the leading acne prescription.

Another “feature” of this acne treatment is that it is not supposed to be drying to the skin at all. I think that by law, benzoyl peroxide products have to say that they may cause dryness. But this treatment has not had any drying effect on me. (My skin is also used to strong treatments, so if you are coming into this with “virgin” skin, it might.) In fact, the product itself is a white cream that goes on very smoothly.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo

Now here’s where things get interesting. Obviously La Roche-Posay is a French brand, and I’ve heard of this product from a lot of bloggers in the UK and France. Another product available there but not here is Effaclar AI, which is supposed to be a more targeted pimple cream, whereas Duo is used over larger areas.

In comparing the overseas site with the US site, I’ve discovered that the ingredients in the overseas version of the Duo are different. Instead of micronized benzoyl peroxide, it has salicylic acid (a different pimple fighting ingredient—and I do generally find benzoyl peroxide is a little more effective on my skin).

I’ve read about how overseas this is viewed and used by some people as a moisturizer, and maybe it has something to do with the difference in formulas between the US version and EU version (their version is a gel, not a white cream), because it’s definitely just an acne treatment on this side of the pond. I wonder if the AI is more like what the Duo is here. I can only hypothesize at this point, but I hope to pick them both up when I’m in Europe in April to see if there’s really any difference. There’s also a new Duo+ over there! If anyone cares to weigh in, I’m all ears!

So, while I felt the need to downgrade this from a new Holy Grail product alert to a review, I’m still super happy to have Effaclar Duo in my skincare regimen. I can’t narrow it down to a specific product, but let me just tell you that I have been hormonal for a week and a half now, and I have not seen any bad pimples crop up. That is saying A LOT.

As always, remember to use sunscreen with any acne treatments, since they make your skin photo-sensitive!

Have you tried Effaclar Duo? Which version? Do you have any idea why they’re different? What do you use for your acne/pimples/hormonal breakouts?

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*What’s the difference between benzoyl peroxide and micronized benzoyl peroxide? I was wondering myself, so I did some research. The short answer is that micronized benzoyl peroxide is a more advanced form that has dramatically reduced, if not eliminated, the skin irritation caused by regular benzoyl peroxide, while possibly even increasing the efficacy. If you’re interested in the science behind it, found in this article, read on.

Benzoyl peroxide works in two ways to eliminate acne.  The first is direct contact of the benzoyl peroxide with the pimple “plug.” Contact with the pimple essentially liquefies (or oxidizes) the sebum causing the plug, opening up the pore. (Sebum is the oily/waxy matter that the sebaceous glands produce to keep the skin lubricated.) For the second, the benzoyl peroxide oxidizes the surface sebum, and this liquefied sebum migrates into the pore and works as an antimicrobial agent.

If too much benzoyl peroxide is applied to one area and not spread out enough (what the article calls being “too concentrated in one area”), all of the available sebum can be liquefied, leaving behind benzoyl peroxide on the skin’s surface. The redness and irritation that benzoyl peroxides is known for is caused when the residual benzoyl peroxide and extra oxidized sebum react with the healthy skin.

The reason why benzoyl peroxide can be left behind on the skin is because of its particle size. Micronized benzoyl peroxide has a much smaller particle size. This means it causes less irritation to the skin, since it is not left behind on the skin as much as regular benzoyl peroxide. Also, because of its smaller particle size, it can penetrate the pores more deeply and effectively.

So, if you’re in the market for a benzoyl peroxide product, it definitely sounds like you’re better off checking the ingredients for something with the micronized version!

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4 comments on “Review: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo”

  1. Interesting, I had no idea that the "local" version was different. I haven't tried either of them, but if I were to I would probably try to hunt down the salicylic acid version because I've had better overall results with that as a chemical exfoliant in the past. I've seen other foreign skincare brands brought over to the US with different ingredients (like the new-ish North American Hada Labo line) and I have no idea why that is. Maybe because it's cheaper to produce differently? 🙂
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    • I know there are also different rules for ingredients here and in the EU, so I wonder if it has something to do with that. Maybe the regulations required them to change the formula. Incidentally, it does have Capryloyl Salicylic Acid in it as an exfoliant, just not salicylic acid as an acne fighter.

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