Product Review: Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Acne Therapeutic System

Skin Care

With an estimated seventeen million Americans suffering from acne, it’s no wonder that there is a plethora of acne medications and treatments. One of the latest is the Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Acne Therapeutic System, which contains 5% benzoyl peroxide in the second step. It claims to “clear, soothe, and protect your skin” in one convenient system. But is the system worth $105.00 (, with each of the three steps sold for $64.95 separately?

Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Daily Care Cream Cleanser (Step 1)

Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Daily Care Cream Cleanser claims to “removes dirt, oil, makeup and all other impurities while moisturizing and soothing the skin,” and based on the ingredients, it does just that, as a simple cleanser with soothing lavender extract. Unfortunately, there are two foreseeable problems with the cleanser. One is that, for $31.95, there are much cheaper gentle cleansers (although most do not have the lavender, but still). One highly dermatologist-recommended cleanser is Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, available for $10.75 from The second problem with Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Daily Care Cream Cleanser is that it does not contain salicyclic acid like many other anti-acne cleansers, which can unclog the pores. One source with salicyclic acid is Aveeno Clear Complexion Cleansing Bar ($6.75,

As such, if you are looking for gentle cleansers, there are cheaper cleansers available, and if you are looking for anti-acne cleansers, there are certainly much more effective ones out there.

Ingredients: Water, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Arginine Cocoate, Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Cetyl Alcohol, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Ammonium Cocoyl Isethionate, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Mentha Citrata (Bergamot) Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Extract, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben

Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Therapeutic Lotion (Step 2)

At $64.95 per bottle when sold separately, one would hope that Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Therapeutic Lotion provided much more acne fighting potential than drugstore varieties and cheaper products. Unfortunately, products like Neutrogena On the Spot Vanishing Formula contain just as much benzoyl peroxide for much less money, and MD Formulations Benzoyl Peroxide 10 contains twice as much benzoyl peroxide for (you guessed it) less money too. Furthermore, benzoyl peroxide may not always be the answer for acne. Although benzoyl peroxide is often applied topically to the skin to kill P. acnes, according to Dr. Leslie Baumann, as many as 60 percent of acne patients exhibit antibiotic-resistant strains of P.acnes, so antibacterial agents may not always be the answer.

In addition, you may not want to apply the benzoyl peroxide in Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Therapeutic Lotion all over your face. Benzoyl peroxide is more appropriate as a spot treatment, as benzoyl peroxide has been found by Nacht et. al. to kill bacteria by generating reactive oxygen species in the sebaceous follicle, and hence generates oxidative free radicals that contribute to prematurely aged skin.

Ingredients: Benzyl Benzoate, BHT, Dicaprylyl Ether, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Disodium EDTA, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate, Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 60, Propylene Glycol, Squalane, Water (Aqua).

Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Therapeutic Moisturizer (Step 3)

Also at $64.95 a tube, Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Therapeutic Moisturizer claims to “hydrates and protects the skin, without clogging your pores.” The product contains 20% glycerin and 1% dimethicone, which calls to mind the $8.00 Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion (for six times as much product)! The product does not contain any anti-aging antioxidants, AHAs or retinoids, or even sunscreen. For $64.95, or even for a third of the $105 for the Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Therapeutic Set, I would not recommend this product.

Ingredients: Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Allantoin, Butylparaben, Cetyl Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone, Methylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Propylparaben, Triethanolamine, Water

Overall opinions?

There are certainly better over-the-counter treatments for acne; for some recommendations, please visit this post. This product line is an unfortunate example of cases where drugstore products can be found that are superior, despite their much lower price tag. In all, I would say, don’t spend your money on the Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Acne Therapeutic System. Product rating: 2/10 (only active ingredient is 5% benzoyl peroxide in step 2; no other acne treatments; no anti-aging ingredients; no sunscreen)

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  • Bamp Crionson

    Dig deeper on the BPO product and you’ll notice that it is nanoparticulate…able to reach into pores much more effectively than macroparticulate BPO manufactured with other means. Recent clinical data also backs up efficacy at clearing acne equal to combo products (clin/BPO based products). Not all BPO is created equal is the take home message, in my understanding.

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