Hey you guys. I’m wondering which SPF you guys are using. As always, I’m on the look out for non-comedogenic SPFs that take care of the flakiness from benzoyl peroxide. They’re pretty impossible to find and while I keep trying to make one myself, I thought one of you might have a secret product that you’ve been hiding from me. If so, please reply below with the exact name of the SPF you use and tell me why you like it. If I haven’t tried it already, I’ll give it a go.


I’ve been getting requests to make a larger size AHA+ (12-16oz.) for people using the Back/Body Regimens. Anytime we make products larger we save on materials and can charge a little less per ounce. What do you think?

Larger Size AHA+

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For people using the AHA+ just for spot treatment or who just use it occasionally, a 2oz. would be less expensive. A 2oz. could also allow people who are new to alpha hydroxy acid to try it at a lower price point to decide if they like it. What do you think?

Smaller Size AHA+

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Please leave your other comments below.

I am pretty much always trying a new SPF. However, no matter how many I try, I seem to come up empty. In fact, up until now I could really only put my support behind Olay Complete All Day UV, despite its flaws.

Acne.org members and people around the office frequently ask me to trial products. A couple of weeks ago, Kent asked me to try Philosophy brand oil-free SPF30 and gave me a tube of it.

Quite suprisingly, I like it quite a bit. I actually prefer it to Olay. However, upon finding out how expensive it is, I was a bit sticker shocked. I don’t like recommending expensive products because I want the Regimen and all its components to remain accessible. The Philosophy SPF is $38 for only 2oz. However, since good SPFs come along very infrequently, I wanted to pass this along regardless of its high price. Click to read my review. If you have tried it, please add your review as well.

SPF: We have been painstakingly sourcing each ingredient from around the world in an attempt to keep the price on the SPF within reason and within reach. We’re making good progress, and it’s my goal (perhaps I should say prayer since it’s not entirely up to me) to put a sample into FDA required stability testing soon so it can be out for at least part of this summer’s season. No promises, but we’re working on it every day. Depending on certain ingredient lead times and availability, my fingers are crossed that we can make this happen sooner rather than later.

Spot Treatment: The last spot treatment we designed seemed to have everything going for it, and then wham, our testers tried it under BP. It balled up and looked like mini cottage cheese curds on the skin. At the same time, my mind got piqued regarding other potentially beneficial ingredients, and I have been reading about some of them while having a team of people gather research on others. The spot treatment appears to be more of a long term project at this point. I want to launch a spot treatment only when it is revolutionary and amazing since the AHA+ already works so well for me. However, it is very much on the radar.

Moisturizer: For quite some time now, because of my extreme schedule and inability to read through the message boards as much as I would like, Brandy and C’est La Vigne have been updating me regularly on your posts. Rest assured that if you express your concerns to C’est or Brandy, they are likely to be expressed to me. Lately, Brandy and C’est have been telling me that several of you would like me to bring the old moisturizer back. I am hearing you and understand your frustration. However, with my apologies, I’m afraid this is not possible. First, since I would not be recommending it or mentioning it on the web site, I would need to produce it in very small amounts. This is an extremely expensive proposition on several levels–small label runs & small production runs would run the cost into an entirely new “private label” placement in which prices would reflect expensive boutique brands. Next, our full-time team is swamped with current products, and we do not have the resources to relaunch a product at this time. Finally, I feel more comfortable with people using the new moisturizer. While the new formula requires more generous application (at least 3 pumps), the increased gentleness and soothing ingredients that the new moisturizer keep me steadily on board with strongly recommending it over the previous version. For those of you who are experiencing increased dryness with the new moisturizer, please read this post for my recommendation on how much to use, but keep in mind that our current batch of pumps dispense a bit less, so you will need at least 3 full pumps, not 2.

Are any of you wondering why it seems like your moisturizer isn’t working as well as it used to? You’re not alone. Every year around this time people come to me complaining that their moisturizer just doesn’t seem to be as powerful as it used to be. “Aha!,” I’ve exclaimed, in the nicest way possible of course, “It is not your moisturizer! It’s just winter.” It’s true that people experience increased dry skin in the winter. But this year I decided to do a little more digging to find out exactly why. As it turns out, there is startlingly little scientifically sound explanation to be found, and myths abound.  As is often the case, it falls to us to sift through the nonsense and make some sense of this issue.


First, let’s dispell the myths:

When weather gets cold, it gets dry. This is claimed so often and by so many “reputable sources” that I almost took it at face value myself. But when I decided to double check this pervasive claim, it completely fell apart. I looked at historical charts of humidity levels across the United States throughout the seasons.* It turns out that humidity levels show no particular trend from summer to winter. In fact, in many cities, even Northern cities, humidity levels are higher in the freeze of winter than in the bask of summer.

The winter is blustery and wind dries out the skin. Many of us can recall experiencing our share of cold, windy winter days, and could swear that we experience “windburn”, characterized by dryness, redness, and irritation after being outside on these blustery days. But a look at the evidence forces us to consider other possible causes. The only experiment I could find was performed all the way back to 1937, and was published in Popular Science. Scientists founds through using a wind tunnel that wind alone does not create “reddening or chapping” of the skin. Furthermore, upon browsing through historical wind speed charts, I found that that much like humidity levels, wind speeds show no yearly trend. There is no evidence of higher winds in the winter months. Regardless of all this evidence against the wind creating redness, dryness, and irritation, many sources not only talk about the existence of windburn, but will even explain why it occurs. The most widely used explanation is that wind removes surface lipids (oils) from the skin. Exactly how the wind performs this feat is conspicuously absent from all of these articles. Furthermore, if wind is just as strong in the summer, why don’t people seem to experience windburn as much in the summer? Another common explanation that attempts to explain windburn, which is the current explanation on Wikipedia, is that windburn is actually just sunburn caused by the wind removing surface lipids (oils) which help protect us from UV rays (another claim I am yet to find evidence to support). While the wind can remove some of these surface lipids year round, they say, the removal of the surface lipids in the winter coincides with a season when we do not protect our skin as valiantly from the sun. Thus the redness and irritation people experience is simply a sunburn. This explanation is incomplete at best, and completely misinformed at worst. Yet another explanation, albeit less frequently posited, claims that wind removes sweat, which normally helps filter UV rays. Again, how sweat helps filter UV rays is conspicuously absent.


Whew. So, now that we have gone through the myths, the fact remains that many people experience dryer skin in the winter. Why? After looking at all of the available evidence, I have a hunch it can be attributed almost entirely to:

Artificial heat: Mother nature can heat up or cool down the great outdoors while keeping humidity levels steady, but when we heat indoor areas, this lowers humidity. When you look at the science of relative humidity (I won’t bore you), this is how it works. For an everyday example, notice how when you heat your bathroom while taking a shower there is less steam in the air. Since most of us live and work in artificially heated indoor environments in the winter, it’s likely we experience long-term exposure to lower humidity environments during the winter months. This dries out the skin, causing many of us to wonder why our moisturizer isn’t working as well as it used to. Back to my original point, “It’s not your moisturizer!” And introducing my new, improved answer, “You’re living in lower humidity indoor environments in the winter!”

And what about the cold? Strangely, none of the authors or reporters writing about winter and dry skin mention the effect cold air itself has on the skin. However, I have a hunch extreme temperatures may figure into a complete explanation of why some people experience dry skin in the winter. When we expose our skin to freezing temperatures, the skin reacts through natural protective methods, most prominently by withdrawing blood from the surface of the skin to protect core temperature. This is the first step which ultimately leads to the skin freezing which causes frost bite and cell death. My hunch is that perhaps even during shorter duration exposure to freezing temperatures which people sometimes experience on cold days, the skin still reacts through a more mild form of cell death. This mild cell death, while not as apparent as the blisters caused by frostbite, is evidenced by flakiness or dryness as the dead cells flake off. The redness experienced by many people after exposure to winter weather, while it would require further research for me to be more definitive, could be the result of cell death or simply the body returning blood to areas where it has been withdrawn.


So, what can we do about it?

1.  Humidify your home/workplace. Install a humidifying system into your central heat. Alternately, if you use wood burning stoves or kerosene heaters, you can place pots of water on top and let the water evaporate, then repeat. You can always boil a large pot of  water on the stovetop as well, being careful to keep a close eye on it of course. There are commercially available electric stand-alone humidifiers as well. 60% humidity is a good general goal to shoot for. You can measure humidity with widely available humidity measuring devices which are available at most hardware stores, or you can be more relaxed about it and just notice how you–and your skin–feel. When the humidity reaches a comfortable level you will feel less dry and generally more comfortable. You should also notice less static electricity, less shocks, and less frizz to your hair. An easy way to tell if you’ve gone too far and over-humidified your space is if your windows start to pool water at their bases.

Perk: Adequately humidified air feels warmer than dry air at the same temperature. In other words, you can get away with heating to a lower temperature.

2.  Use more moisturizer: An extra pump or two of moisturizer each time you apply should help.

3.  Add jojoba oil: Since jojoba oil does not evaporate, 5-6 drops of jojoba oil added into your moisturizer each time you apply it will provide a boost of all-day moisture support.

*Yes, I know. There is more to the world than the United States, but…well, okay fine, I have no excuse. I’ll make a note to look outside the U.S. for my next research-related blog. :-)

Shaving Cream AcneHistorically, soap was used as shaving cream. Soap remained the mainstay in shaving technology for centuries, until the mid 20th century when modern chemistry introduced us to the products we see in drugstores today which combine cleansing ingredients with soothing emollients (moisturizers, oils). I’ve personally always shaved using the lather from a gentle cleanser as shaving cream and been happy with it. But I know a lot of guys like to use a modern shaving foam/gel/cream, so I decided to launch an experimentation–try as many shaving preparation products as I can and see if there is a good one out there to recommend. I tried 12 products over the past several months, and made sure to include a variety of foams, gels, and creams.

Foams/Gels (come in metal pressurized cans): These are normally made with stearic acid and/or palmitic acid (used in soap making), triethanolamine (a “surfactant” a.k.a. cleanser), and an emollient (a moisturizing agent such as glycerin). They all provided me with a good shave, but I tended to prefer the foams over the gels. Almost all shaving foams and gels are made with high amounts of stearic acid or palmitic acid. From what I have learned in cosmetic ingredient classes, frequent use of these ingredients at high concentrations can negatively affect the skin’s barrier. In my product testing, I personally noticed that the stearic/palmitic acid shaving foams and gels left my skin with a slight but disconcerting sting. While I do appreciate the intense foaming these ingredients provide, I recommend that acne-prone people avoid using products with high concentrations of these powerful foaming agents.

Creams (come in pump bottles and tubes): Since stearic and palmitic acid were a dealbreaker with all of the foams and gels, that left me with creams. Some creams also contain stearic/palmitic acid, albeit usually further down on the ingredient list which indicates they are used at a lower concentration. The creams which gave me the most comfortable shave without a stinging afterfeel happened to be the two which did not contain these ingredients–Kiss My Face Moisture Shave and Neutrogena Men Skin Clearing Shave Cream. The Kiss My Face cream, however, contains coconut oil as the 6th ingredient which may or may not present an issue for acne-prone skin. When dermatologists tested ingredients on rabbit ears for comedogenic (pore clogging) potential, coconut oil presented as a 4 (out of 5). While these comedogenicity tests are imperfect in several ways, nonetheless I personally choose to avoid ingredients above a 3 on comedogenicity tests unless they are listed far down on a product’s ingredient list. That leaves us with the Neutrogena Men Skin Clearing Shave Cream. It contains 1% salicylic acid and is advertised as “Skin Clearing”. Salicylic acid, while it is FDA approved as an acne medication and thus allows retailers to claim “skin clearing” in their marketing, in reality will not do a great deal to help clear acne. However, the nominal amount in this product should not present any problems. It would be my pick if I were to shave with an over-the-counter shaving prep product.

Still the best is: After my product trials, I find that I am still the happiest when shaving with the lather from the Acne.org cleanser. Since I would rather people not add in external variables to the Regimen, I still strongly urge people to shave with the lather from an approved cleanser (Acne.org Cleanser, Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser, Purpose Gentle Cleanser or Basis Sensitive Skin Bar/Purpose Cleansing Bar if money is tight and you must). Simple cleanser, which was the mainstay of shaving technology for centuries, is still the safest, most effective option I have come across. If lots of people on Acne.org review the Neutrogena Men Skin Clearing Shave Cream and give it the green light, that could be a nice option as well. I’ve gone ahead and added this Neutrogena product to the reviews pages. If you have tried it, please leave your feedback.

For years, one of the drugstore cleansers I recommended was Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash. It has a strong scent, but it does the trick. Then, a member emailed me and let me know that it is the same exact product as Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser, Sensitive Skin. Both are by Johnson & Johnson. Well, lo and behold, it is.

Companies sometimes package the exact same product under different brands. In some cases, like in this case, they charge significantly different amounts. In this case $.30-$.40 per ounce difference.

Since I understand that perception is everything, I can’t come down on these companies for giving consumers what they want, but I can point it out, just so we know never to pay more for the same product! If you are currently using Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash, you may as well switch over.

We’re getting ready to fill the new, improved moisturizer. It should be for sale sometime in mid September if all goes well.

Overview: I tell people if it’s not the best moisturizer they’ve ever tried, I’m not happy. Usually it does end up being the best they’ve tried. I have seldom felt so confident about any product release. I have been using it for about six months very diligently every evening and have not found any issues in the short term or long term. I have also sent out about 100 samples and received lots of responses. Feedback is almost entirely positive, with some people begging me for more. I think you guys are going to be completely in love. I’m bursting at the seams waiting to get it out to you guys.

What’s different about it: It has a completely new ingredient list, carefully chosen for non-comedogenicity as well as effectiveness and gentleness. I chose to rebuild it from the ground up in order to completely resolve the old issue of stinging that some people experienced. This issue should be completely resolved with this new formula. It also has none of the “tack” that people sometimes experienced with the old moisturizer. In other words, it will not leave an afterfeel. Your skin should just feel great.

It just goes on smoothly and absorbs quickly. The new formula is slightly thicker than the old formula due to the new ingredients. This thicker feel takes a little getting used to and requires a bit of extra care during application to avoid irritation.

It contains licochalcone, the licorice root extract we use in the AHA+, and is thus has a yellow color. This yellow color does not show on the skin. As many of you know, I love licochalcone for how it soothes and calms acne-prone skin.

Lastly, the new moisturizer is best when used generously. I recommend two full pumps. It is so good that in my experience it actually improves my skin, both my skin’s ability to stay perfectly clear as well as my skin’s overall feel and tone. I’m going to want everyone to be generous with it and receive all its benefits.

Price: I’m pricing out each ingredient now, and as always I’ll charge as little as I can. Some of the new ingredients are expensive–licochalcone in particular–but you guys have been asking for me to put it into the moisturizer for years now, and I agree that it’s worth it. The price will almost certainly need to go up from the previous formula, but I will do everything I can to price it affordably.

Pros: It has a very light feel to it and feels good going on. I really enjoyed its “payoff” as they call it in the cosmetics industry–it’s been formulated to really feel nice upon application.

Cons: Small bottle (25mL, .8oz) is gone before you know it. Dries white in patches. This whiteness goes away after moisturizing, but the whiteness can come back after perspiring, much like other creamy lotion based BP.

Bottom Line: Superior to Neutrogena On-The-Spot, Inferior to a gel based benzoyl peroxide.

Recommended: Yes. If you’re in Canada and need a 2.5% BP in a bind, this one will work fine.

Review Spectro AcneCare 2.5% benzoyl peroxide