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Product Review: Murad Acne Complex 30-Day Kit

I tend to spend more on a dress than I will for pants or a shirt, simply because the dress acts as both a top and a bottom.  Similarly, the Murad Acne Complex 30-Day Kit ($35.00, Amazon.com) contains a 30-day supply of the entire line, making it a value even amongst drugstore-brand products, because you're getting six pieces.  Woo!  The six products are:
  • 0.33 oz Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15-PA++
  • 0.25 oz Acne Spot Treatment
  • 1 oz Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel
  • 1 oz Clarifying Mask
  • 1 oz Skin Perfecting Lotion
  • 2 oz Clarifying Cleanser

Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15-PA++

While Murad Oil Control Mattefier SPF 15 is a solid product, it's best for those with mild to moderate oily skin. Those with more oil need better absorbers, like alumina or kaolin.
How much you will like the Murad Oil Control Mattefier depends on how much oil you have.  If you have light to medium oily skin, it could be considered a profound difference.  On the other hand, if you have very oily skin, there are no profound oil absorbers in this product like clay or alumina, as in Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer.  Instead, with Murad Oil Control Mattefier, while you're likely to dab at your face less often, you'll still have to do so.  Again - a better product for mild to moderate oily skin, not severely oily.  It's a lot like Smashbox Oil-Free Primer, for those who have tried that - a lot of lightweight, fast-absorbing silicones. You may still need to use another sunscreen over top of this product as well.  First of all, people only apply 1/3 to 1/2 of the amount of sunscreen needed for the protection listed on the bottle (Archives of Dermatology, 2002).  So, with this product, you're probably getting SPF 5-8.  Second of all, octinoxate is unstable in the presence of UV light - not a great property for a sunscreen (Inorganica Chimica Acta).  Best to play it safe with another sunscreen on top, or at least a hat.  :-) Ingredients: -Octinoxate 7.5% -Zinc Oxide 3% -Ensulizole 1% Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Bis-PEG/PPG-14/14 Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Urea, Yeast Amino Acids, Trehalose, Inositol, Taurine, Betaine, Phospholipids, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Polyglyceryl-3 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Triethoxysilylethyl Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Hexyl Dimethicone, Farnesyl Acetate, Panthenyl Triacetate, Argania Spinosa Kernel Extract, Serenoa Serrulata Fruit Extract, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Extract, Punica Granatum Seed Oil, Capryloyl Glycine, Sarcosine, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Bark Extract, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Acrylates Copolymer, Magnesium Carbonate, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Lauryl Methacrylate/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Dicaprylyl Ether, Niacinamide, Yeast Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Titanium Dioxide, Algae Extract, Corn Starch Modified, Ammonium Glycyrrhizate, Panthenol, Zinc Gluconate, Caffeine, Xanthan Gum, Acrylates Crosspolymer, Polyglyceryl-2 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Biotin, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Aminomethyl Propanol, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

Murad Acne Spot Treatment

No benzoyl peroxide here - the keys to Murad Acne Spot Treatment are 3.0% sulfur, glycolic acid, salicyclic acid, and vitamin C. An interesting combination likely to make your pimples last half as long - no injections required.
Most acne spot treatments contain benzoyl peroxide.  While the exact mechanism by which benzoyl peroxide works has not been confirmed, most dermatologists believe it works by inducing an oxidative reaction, causing the blemish to erupt and subside faster (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1981).  This theory, of course, leads to a slew of questions:  Can benzoyl peroxide cause your skin to produce damaging free radicals?  Should it be avoided for use all over the face?  Most experts say yes to both questions.  Even worse - benzoyl peroxide denatures tretinoin, so it should not be used with products containing retinoids (British Journal of Dermatology, 2002). This is all the more reason to love Murad On the Spot Acne Treatment.  It is one of the few spot treatments to not contain benzoyl peroxide - a blessing, considering not only that many people have acne in widespread patterns all over the face, but also because the rest of the kit contains a ton of retinol. Instead, Murad On the Spot Acne Treatment contains sulfur and glycolic acid, which promote cell turnover and exfoliation (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1988; Dermatologic Surgery, 1997).  Add in a vitamin C derivative and an acidic pH, and you've got a unique formulation that is likely to eliminate pimples in 3 days (the average acne pustule lasts 7 days on its own). Ingredients: Sulfur (3.0%) Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid, Sclerotium Gum, Dicaprylyl Maleate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Ceteareth-20, Glycerin, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Zinc Acetate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Salicylic Acid, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Allantoin, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben

Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel

My feelings are mixed on Murad Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel.  On the one hand, it is likely to work, with five potent anti-acne agents (salicyclic acid, glycolic acid, retinol, vitamin C [though to a lesser extent than the others], witch hazel) embedded in a fast-penetrating alcohol base. On the other hand, the ingredients in Murad Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel are more likely to work separately than together.  For instance, retinol works best at a neutral pH, and this solution is quite acidic. I also really do not like the fact that this product contains hydrogen peroxide - according to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, hydrogen peroxide induces free radical production in skin cells.  While this may be acceptable for an on-the-spot treatment, I am not in favor of using this all over the face. Still, if you're only asking, does it work?  The answer is yes.  But is it optimally formulated or good for your skin long-term?  Absolutely not. Ingredients:  -Salicylic Acid 1% Water, Alcohol Denat., Butylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Methyl Gluceth-10, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hydrogen Peroxide, Rice Amino Acids, Zinc Aspartate, Ascorbic Acid, Chitosan, Retinol, Polysorbate 20, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Zinc Acetate, Linoleic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Propyl Gallate, Disodium EDTA, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Tetrasodium EDTA.

Skin Perfecting Lotion

Of all the products in the kit, this and the mask are my favorite.  Despite what the product description reads, I'm not convinced it will make skin sufficiently less shiny on contact or protect your skin.  It will, however, reduce oil production over time, thanks to the power of retinol.  Retinol works by increasing skin exfoliation, eliminating/reducing P. acnes bacteria, decreasing sebum levels, and removing material that can clog the pores (Cosmetic Dermatology).  This product is also well-formulated, without any ingredients that interfere with one another.
Ingredients:  Water, Dicaprylyl Maleate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Butylene Glycol,Glycerin, Sorbitan Stearate, Squalane, Stearic Acid, Retinol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Flour, Spiraea Ulmaria Flower Extract , Honey Extract (Mel), Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth-20, Talc, C9-15 Fluoroalcohol Phosphate, Glycolipids, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Algae Extract, Dimethicone, Sodium PCA, Allantoin, Sclerotium Gum, Carbomer, Tetrasodium EDTA, Aminomethyl Propanol, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract.

Clarifying Mask

The secrets to the clarifying mask are both the sulfur and the kaolin.   Kaolin, a type of clay, has been established as an effective adsorbent for hundreds of years, according to The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.  The very high concentration of kaolin also provides a maximal oil-absorbing abilities that are only enhanced by the bentonite.  While this mask may be drying to anyone without oily or acne-prone skin, I can't imagine why anyone with dry skin would be using it in the first place.  Two thumbs up. Ingredients: -Sulfur 4% Water, Kaolin, Bentonite, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Titanium Dioxide, Polysorbate 20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60, Zinc Oxide, Talc, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Dicaprylyl Maleate, Salicylic Acid, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Allantoin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Camphor, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil.

Bottom Line

Other than the Murad Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel, which contains free radical-inducing hydrogen peroxide, I advise use of this kit.  Though some of the products are not optimally formulated, combining retinol with an acidic pH and such, it is likely to reduce your acne, especially if you are not using other products with these ingredients now.  It contains many of the major anti-acne agents I have seen, including retinol, glycolic acid, witch hazel, and sulfur.  Throw out the Murad Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel, and you've still got yourself a value! Product Rating:  9/10
  • High or optimized concentration of proven ingredients:  2/3
  • Unique formulation or new technology: 3/3
  • Value:  3/3
  • Sunscreen or sunscreen enhancers in daytime products:  1/1
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Date: July 16 2012 at 9:43 AM
  1. Jody
    July 16 2012 at 10:37 AM

    Doesn't the glycolic acid mixed with the retinol deactivate the retinol because glycolic acid is an AHA? I believe I read it here on this site not to mix AHAs with retinol.

  2. Nicki
    July 16 2012 at 10:41 AM

    @Jody - Exactly. It's a partial deactivation, that's the key, so it's more "suboptimal" to use them together than "pointless." That's why this kit still works. Would it have been better to have a kit where you use concentrated retinol products for a while (weeks to months) and then switch to concentrated AHA products? Absolutely, but that's not an option from Dr. Murad right now.

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