Product Review: La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid

Reviews, Skin Care

LaRoche Posay Efflacar KIf you have tried everything for oily or acne-prone skin and nothing has worked, then look no further than La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid ($15.35,  The cream contains three proven acne fighters – salicyclic acid, retinyl linoleate, and LHA – which synergistically work together to improve cell turnover, resulting in improved texture, cleaner-looking pores, and (best of all!) fewer breakouts on average.   Here’s the breakdown of the science behind it:


Skinceuticals LHA Solution
Skinceuticals LHA Solution, also under parent company L’Oreal, contains LHA for the same purpose: to help fight acne.

I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a LOT more about LHA in the future.  LHA has been shown to stimulate the skin in a manner similar to retinoids, i.e., by increasing cell turnover (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology, 2009).  Although LHA is undoubtedly weaker in this effect than, say, 1.0% retinol or prescription retinoids, its exfoliating action is potent enough to make a difference in the skin.

With acne or oily prone skin, LHA has the bonus effect of killing bacteria within the pore, according to the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.  This effect is enhanced when used in conjunction with salicyclic acid (as seen in La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid), according to the same study.

Unfortunately, we probably won’t be seeing LHA in drugstore products any time soon.  That is because the rights to LHA are currently owned by L’Oréal, the parent company of both Skinceuticals and La Roche-Posay.  We’re likely to see a trickle-down effect in the next 5-10 years from “medical-grade” cosmeceuticals to regular cosmeceuticals to the drugstore.  In the meantime, LHA can be found in the following products of L’Oréal-owned brands:

Salicyclic acid

Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash
Salicyclic acid works well, but it has been found to work even better when combined with LHA.

Salicylic acid works in part by softening keratin, a protein that forms part of the skin structure. Once keratin is softened, dry, scaly skin is loosened, resulting in increased cell turnover and more refined skin over time.  Salicyclic acid is often used in acne treatments to cleanse and prevent clogging of the pores.

If you’ve tried treatments with salicyclic acid in the past and they haven’t worked, don’t despair.  The most common reasons for salicyclic acid not working are a.) too low concentration and b.) the wrong pH.  The ideal concentration is 1% to 2%, and the ideal pH is 3 to 4.  While La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid has a slightly higher pH than this, its salicyclic acid concentration is sufficient (from my best estimate) to make this product quite effective.

What about the old formulation?

Within the past 2-3 years or so, La Roche-Posay reformulated La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid to include an “anti-relapse” ingredient, and also reformulated the product to make it lighter and thinner.  In truth, I think the ol’ adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here – most consumers really seemed to like it better before.  It works less like a spot treatment now, and more like a full-face preventative serum.

Though LaRoche-Posay has generated in-house data suggesting their “anti-relapse” ingredient helps to prevent the reoccurrence of acne even six weeks after use (LaRoche Posay website),  the truth of the matter is, acne is still eventually going to recur.  Bacteria are living organisms.  The idea “survival of the fittest” applies, with the bacterial strains that are the most resistant to medication surviving, reproducing, and eventually taking over.  The result is that most anti-acne treatments, including La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid, will help you for weeks to months, but eventually stop working.  Still, as far as treatments go, La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid is solid – reformulation and eventual bacterial resistance and all!

Bottom Line

If you’ve tried everything for your acne or oily-prone skin, La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid may be a great bet.  It’s got hard-to-find LHA, plus salicyclic acid and retinol linoleate, all of which will increase cell turnover and help your skin look smoother, more refined, and less broken out over time.  While I wish it was still the old formulation, I still recommend this to anyone with oily or acne-prone skin that has grown resistant to salicyclic acid/retinoid-only treatments.  With that said, keep in mind that the effects of any acne treatment are not likely to last forever, including this one!

Product Rating:  8/10

  • High or optimized concentration of proven ingredients:  3/3
  • Unique formulation or new technology: 3/3
  • Value:  2/3
  • Sunscreen: 0/1

Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid 1.5%, LHA 0.4%. Other Ingredients: Water, Isononyl Isononanoate, Propylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Ammonium, Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Octyldodecanol, Zinc PCA, Sodium Hydroxide, Retinyl Linoleate, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Cetyl Alcohol, Pentaerythrityl, Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Fragrance.


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