How to select the right acne treatment

A short guide on how to choose products that will work well on your skin consistently

When it comes to selecting an acne treatment there’s really 3 camps – either you select a Product (e.g the Ordinary™ Salicyclic Acid) or you select a System which is a group of products bundled together (e.g Proactiv™ combination of cleanser, mystery active (why they have to make their CombiActiv™ Technology such a mystery is a mystery) & a moisturiser which are all sold together as a System) or you select a Plan (e.g Curology™ or, without any unashamed plug, our 28 Day Skin Plan).


Generally, Plans beat Systems & Systems beat Product. Why you cry? Well it comes down to how acne forms & your skin cycle.


A product typically targets only one (sometimes two) parts of the acne forming chain (read about this chain in our blog). So Salicylic acid for example is great for unblocking pores but not so great for controlling bacteria, balancing skin oil production or reducing inflammation (it does these, but not as well as unblocking pores).

To be effective any treatment needs to target as many of the chain links in the acne forming chain as it can. It doesn’t take Einstein to point out that a single product isn’t going to do this.


So, step forward the System. Systems (bundles of products) work together synergistically to treat multiple parts of the acne forming chain. Proactiv coined the 3- step system back when mobile phones were the size of shoe boxes with an exfoliant, an ingredient to kill bacteria & a moisturiser to help the skin feel better afterwards. There are lots of Systems now the 80's are long gone, but they all still follow a similar idea – treat multiple parts of the chain. Really, any skin routine is a System – for example if you use Benzoyl peroxide in the morning and Niacinamide at night time that’s a System.


The problem with Systems is our skin cycle. New skin takes around 28 days to be born and then seen on the surface & any actives you’re using in your products (for example a retinoid) will take at least this long to be noticeable. Typically, it takes around three cycles to really be noticeable – that’s about 90 days. The way your skin is after 90 days is a lot different to the way it was when you started. This is where Systems fall down – they still apply the same treatment even though the skin is over its angry phase and getting on with its life.


So, step forward Plans.


Plans are simply a combination of products which change according to what your skin needs. A good example of why Plans trump Systems & Products is irritation. Irritated inflamed skin usually has a very damaged skin barrier and it will not tolerate high concentration actives without throwing a hissy fit. A Plan will start with the right ingredients for a damaged skin barrier and then change the ingredients (or the concentration of those ingredients) as the skin barrier improves.


Skin is the ultimate diva

This way, your skin being the Diva that skin is, will always be getting what it wants when it wants it. Move aside Katy Perry, skin is the ultimate Diva.


You don’t have to buy Plans (although our 28 Day Skin Plan rocks obvs.), you can make your own ‘changing System with time’ routine with a little know how of what you are putting on your skin and how that’s treating the each part of the acne forming chain.


So next time you shop for a treatment for your skin – think how can I make this work as a 90 day Plan rather than as a single product.


Your skin will thank you for it.