The most popular over-the-counter (OTC) treatment for facial acne (acne vulgaris) is benzoyl peroxide, which can be found in cleansers, all-over face treatments, spot treatments, and moisturizers. Often times these products are formulated with harsh surfactants, artificial fragrance, PEGs, and other harmful and irritating ingredients. Benzoyl peroxide is allowed to be present in OTC products up to a strength of 10%, which is quite strong and can cause a number of unpleasant side effects.
Common side effects of using products with benzoyl peroxide include painful or irritated skin, redness (which can be severe), and skin peeling, flaking, itching, burning, blistering, or crusting. (source)
Additionally, benzoyl peroxide can cause an allergic reaction in some people (allergic contact dermatitis), and some scientists believe this is a more common reaction than is currently reported, and can lead to hospitalization in severe cases (source).
And while there are some gaps in the research, it is worth knowing that animal studies have found that repeated high-dose exposure to benzoyl peroxide can have harmful reproductive effects (source) and that it can promote the growth of tumors (source) since it is a free-radical generating substance. In fact, it is used in scientific research exactly for this purpose: to speed up the growth of skin tumors! Free radicals are also a cause of premature signs of skin aging.
Salicylic Acid For Gentler, Safer Acne Treatment
So what is a better, safer option? Salicylic acid (SA), which is a beta hydroxy acid that has multiple functions when used topically on the skin, including being skin-soothing, anti-acne, and an exfoliant. SA is an effective treatment for acne because it kills the bacteria that cause acne, it gently exfoliates to unclog pores, and it also reduces the overproduction of oil. (source)
Plus, salicylic acid has a long history of safe use; humans have been using it for over 2,000 years to treat various skin conditions (source). Benzoyl peroxide was only first manufactured in 1905 for use as an industrial chemical; it wasn’t used for medical purposes until 1930!
However, just like many mainstream benzoyl peroxide acne treatment products, mainstream salicylic acid OTC treatments can be formulated with the same harmful ingredients listed earlier.
Enter Countercontrol by Beautycounter. This new line includes products for a complete skincare routine designed especially for acne-prone and/or oily skin, with a cleanser, alcohol-free toner, all-over acne treatment, acne spot treatment, and oil-free moisturizer.
Why is Beautycounter’s Countercontrol safer and better for treating acne?
The salicylic acid is present at 2%, which is strong enough to be effective (see results below!) yet below the maximum allowed amount of 5% which may be slightly irritating for those with sensitive skin.
The products are formulated with beneficial botanical extracts in a proprietary blend called SkinBalance Complex, which contains rosebay willow and wintergreen (a natural source of salicylic acid). These plants are a potent source of antioxidants from polyphenols and flavonoids. Rosebay willow is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and has anti-aging properties (source), and wintergreen is a potent anti-inflammatory agent (source). The All Over Acne Treatment also contains quince extract, which is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial (source).
Like all Beautycounter products, Countercontrol is free over over 1,500 known or potentially harmful ingredients (see The Never List). Reminder: the U.S. only partially restricts 30 ingredients in skincare and cosmetics!
In an independent consumer study after four weeks using Countercontrol:
100% said skin clarity improved
100% stated skin feels healthier
95% said skin looks clearer
95% said skin looks less red
Meet the Countercontrol Products:
The entire line contains the signature SkinBalance complex to control oil production, purify pores, reduce inflammation, and address the root causes of acne.
Clear Pore Cleanser: contains soothing aloe vera and features eco-friendly biodegradable jojoba beads for gentle exfoliation.
Instant Matte Toner: eliminates excess oil and reduces the appearance of pores.
All Over Acne Treatment: gentle enough to use twice a day, every day yet effective at clearing existing blemishes and preventing future breakouts. Contains phytic acid (from green rice) for extra antioxidant activity and to refine skin texture, plus squalene (from olives, not shark livers like other brands!) which is an effective emollient (soothing moisturizer).
SOS Acne Spot Treatment: an invisible gel formula that treats breakouts without being over-drying, a must-have in everyone’s medicine cabinet for unexpected blemishes!
Matte Effect Gel Cream: this is an innovative cream-to-gel formula that is oil-free and will control oil over-production for up to 8 hours. This is also an excellent primer to use before applying makeup.
How To Use Countercontrol:
For acne: for best results, use the entire collection every day, twice a day to clear existing breakouts and prevent future breakouts from forming. You will notice the full benefits after 4 weeks. Make sure to take a before photo so you can reference it as your skin clears up!
For oily skin without acne: use the Clear Pore Cleanser, Instant Matte Toner, All Over Acne Treatment, and Matte Effect Gel Cream. The All Over Acne Treatment is beneficial and effective at controlling oil overproduction and is safe to use even when acne isn’t present.
For acne scarring: add the Overnight Resurfacing Peel into your regimen 3 times a week. Apply the peel to a clean face and let it sit for 5 minutes. Apply the Matte Effect Gel Cream over top. Do not use the toner or acne treatment on the evenings you use the peel.
Beautycounter has a 60 day no questions asked return policy, so there is no risk in seeing if these products are a safe option for you!!
Wishing you happy and healthy skin!