Product Review: Effaclar Duo by La Roche-Posay

October 3, 2012

Plus, A Little Lesson On Treating Acne.

This is my first foray into pharmaceutical skin care products. Although La Roche Posay products are paraben free, there is little else that is natural or organic about them. And just in case you were wondering… yes, I am beginning to branch out towards products that are not necessarily labeled natural or organic! I have a couple of reasons for this. If you’ve read my article on The Bias Against Organic Cosmetics, you might start to get a feel for why.

But the main reason why I’ve specifically begun using La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo is to treat a skin problem of mine which has been lingering around for almost a year now.

A Mild Form of Acne

Last year, during the fall of 2011, my skin began to break out badly with acne. It took a few months to clear up, but ever since, the surface of my skin has continued to be marred by these little flesh-colored bumps. These little flesh-colored bumps are, in fact, a milder non-inflammatory form of acne called “closed” comedones. More popularly, they’re known as white heads. But white heads sound so gross to me, so I’d rather just stick to the technical term.

Closed comedones / white heads form when pores get clogged with oil and dead skin cells. When skin grows over this dried-up oil plug, oxygen cannot get into the pore and turn the material inside into a darker color. So the pore stays “closed” and the material inside stays “white”. The fact that the pores are closed is what makes getting rid of white heads so difficult, even with regular exfoliation.

By the way, if you want to see a video with images that show the difference between open and closed comedones, you can watch this: What are black heads and white heads? 


White heads do not necessarily have to be infected. But if the P. acnes bacteria is present on the skin and manages to infect the cells around the pore, the white heads can become infected and turn into the pustules which we more commonly think of as “pimples”.

In my skin’s case, however, this rarely happened.  For months I just had these little bumps under the surface of my skin, which never turned into actual pimples but never really went away either. It hasn’t been that problematic. But under certain lighting conditions, these little bumpy silhouettes on the surface of my skin could become really noticeable. Despite everything I did, like having a healthy lifestyle, cleaning my face regularly and routinely exfoliating, I wasn’t able to completely banish these little fellas from my life.

Treating Closed Comedones

After looking more into white heads and how to treat them, I figured that I didn’t really need to focus on anti-bacterial treatments like benzoyl peroxide because I didn’t have problems with acne infections. My problem was also mild enough that I didn’t want to turn to retin-A, which is a prescription strength treatment that can really irritate the skin. So this left me to look for products mainly containing salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid found in many acne treatment products. It works by dissolving the substance that causes skin cells to stick together, thus helping to slough away dead skin cells. Salicylic acid is especially helpful in treating comedonal acne because it can penetrate the pores and clear out cellular debris from within the follicles. Salicylic acid products are found in strengths ranging from .5% to 2% and can easily be acquired over the counter.

So off to the pharmacy I went!

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo

La Roche-Posay is a dermatological brand that capitalizes on the therapeutic properties of the thermal waters found in the town of La Roche-Posay. Many La Roche-Posay products use this thermal water, which has a low mineral content and contains calcium bicarbonate, silicates and selenium. Clinical studies support the observations that the water possesses anti-inflammatory, anti free-radical properties. With over 30 years of experience in research and working with dermatologists throughout the world, La Roche-Posay has become a leading skin care brand in Europe, creating products suitable for various skin types and conditions.

Effaclar Duo Corrective and Unclogging Anti-Imperfection Care serves a dual purpose: 1) Fighting against bacterial proliferation and 2) Eliminating accumulated dead skin cells that are responsible for clogging pores.

The product works by using the thermal waters of La Roche-Posay and the combined effects of the following 4 main active ingredients:

  • Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3 and nicotonic acid, niacinamide has been shown to increase ceramide and free fatty acid levels in skin, prevent skin from losing water content, and stimulate microcirculation in the dermis. It also has a growing reputation for being able to treat an uneven skin tone and to mitigate acne and the red marks it leaves behind, known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. (Source: Cosmeticscop)
  • Piroctone Olamine, also known as Octopirox, piroctone olamine is an anti-fungal compound mainly used in anti-dandruff shampoos to treat itchy scalps. But it also has anti-bacterial properties which help to control bacterial populations on the skin. (Source: Chemlink)
  • LHA or Lipo Hydroxy Acid is an exclusive pro-exfoliating molecule developed by La Roche-Posay to micro-exfoliate the skin and stimulate cell renewal, helping to even skin tone. The LHA molecule (lipo-hydroxy-acid) is a lipophilic derivative of salicylic acid that incorporates a fatty chain for improved affinity with the sebum in the epidermis allowing for faster skin regeneration. LHAis proven to exfoliate six times better than regular salicylic acid. (Source: PRnewswire)
  • Linoleic Acid is an essential fatty acid necessary for proper growth and development of the epidermis. It also is required for synthesis of the important long-chain ceramides necessary to protect against dry skin. (Source: iS CLINICAL)

Using This Product

I’ve been using Effaclar Duo for over three weeks now and these are my impressions so far:

The texture of the gel/fluid is light, absorbs quickly and leaves a glowing but non-greasy residue on the skin. The smell is subtle and pleasant. It can be applied morning and night. If applied during the day, it can serve as a non-comedogenic base for make-up. I’ve only been applying it at night though, after I clean my face. Usually, I don’t put anything else over it. No night creams and no moisturizers. I just leave my skin to breathe while allowing the product to work.  If you have dry skin though, using moisturizers in conjunction with this product shouldn’t be a problem.

At first, I didn’t know how my skin would react to using Effaclar Duo. So I started by applying small amounts only to the areas where I tend to have problems with clogged pores. My skin stung a bit and turned reddish where the product was applied. Over the weeks, my skin has become habituated to the product and reacts less and less to it. I no longer hesitate to apply it over my entire face.

Keep in mind that I have normal/combination type skin. But I have read reviews from others with sensitive type skin who have used this product with no problems.


When it comes to acne treatments, it’s very important to keep using a product for at least one month in order to make a solid assessment of its effectiveness. However, after using Effaclar Duo for only three weeks and seeing the positive results, I think enough time has passed to report my findings on here.

95% of the little bumps on my skin have cleared up.

My skin definitely looks smoother. Actually, around the second week of using this product, my skin got worse! More bumps had shown up. But by the third week, my skin has overall become smoother than before I started using the product. In the morning, I’ll find dry flakes of skin and peel it off to reveal smoother skin underneath. I realize how much this makes me sound like a snake, so go ahead and make fun of me.

Overall though, I’m pretty satisfied with the results of La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo. It got the job done without any fuss. Oh, I should mention that even though I was looking specifically for products containing salicylic acid, the LHA or salicylic acid derivative in Effaclar Duo was probably a better find. The 40ml tube which I bought for 12€ is not even half way done, but once I’ve completely used it up I will probably buy another tube. I intend to continue using this product even after my skin has completely cleared up.

Closing Thoughts

I’ve read many negative reviews about this same product from people who didn’t see any improvements or saw that it only made their skin worse. But I think where many people make their mistake is stopping the use of this product around the time when their skin begins to look worse.

Unless your skin reacts severely to a product, in which case you should definitely stop using it and mention it to your doctor or dermatologist, it’s very important to keep using the same treatment at least one month to really assess its effectiveness. Treating difficult skin problems like acne takes A LOT of time. Sometimes it can take up to six months. You have to be patient and to stick to one line of treatment, rather than switching to different products every couple of weeks because this can end up doing more damage to your skin in the long run. And even if you notice an improvement in your skin, it’s important to keep using the same  product for a little bit longer, because otherwise the same problems can easily come back again.

Where to find La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo 40ml: On You can also read about it on the La Roche-Posay website

How much: 12€ at the pharmacy where I bought it, $19.40 on

So that concludes my review for La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo and my little lesson on treating the mild form of acne known as closed comedones (also known as white heads). I hope you learned something from it!


3 thoughts on “Product Review: Effaclar Duo by La Roche-Posay

  1. izzy

    This is a very complete review! Thank you!
    I just wanted to add something. There’s a big difference between Effaclar DUO made in France and in the US.
    The first takes longer to work and it’s not so efficent.
    Just thinking about the other reviewers, maybe the should check that.
    I was wondering if you ever had bad experiences when you put your make up on and during the day you skin peels off and it is really noticeable? How do you handle that?
    Thank you!

    1. Kareen

      Hi Izzy, thanks for pointing that out! I was not aware that there is a difference between the U.S. and French version of the Effaclar DUO, as I’ve only tried the French Effaclar DUO. It worked really well for me. The first few times I tried it, my skin did peel a little. But not bad enough to affect my makeup. After a couple of weeks of using Effaclar, my skin stopped peeling. It’s important to point out that everyone’s skin is different and can react differently to this product. I would wait a little bit. But if your skin continues to peel a lot after two weeks of using this, I would suggest trying a different product. Hope this helped to answer your question!

  2. Mel

    I actually started using Effaclar Duo for some chin blemishes and it GAVE me those tiny little fleshy bumps. I stopped using it about two months ago now but they are still there and I can’t get rid of them – nothing seems to work.


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