By Erin Lukas
Updated Feb 15, 2019 @ 11:45 am
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Rodan + Fields Acne
Credit: Copyright 2019 W2 Photography/Stocksy

It feels like there's no shortage of over-the-counter options for treating adult acne. However, the great wide world of pimple-shrinking spot treatments, cleansers, and masks quickly comes crashing down on you once you start reading the ingredient list on the label — especially if you have sensitive skin. Most of these treatments contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid (or both), two common acne-fighting ingredients that are extremely effective, but also super-drying and irritating.

But dealing with red flaky skin — or putting up breakouts — don't have to be your only to choices. Every once and awhile a product comes along that changes the way we approach treating acne. In the '90s, for example, dermatologists Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields's Proactiv was one of the first comprehensive skincare regimens that specifically targeted breakouts. Before Proactiv, the options out there were mostly spot treatments or facial pads soaked with harsh, dehydrating astringents.

Today, the duo are back with another acne treatment innovation launching under their widely popular Rodan + Fields social-selling brand. Unblemish is a reformulation of their four-step acne regimen and Spotless, a two-step system for teens and young adults. The system's cleanser, toner, moisturizing treatment, and sunscreen has been overhauled based on new research that rethinks what exactly causes acne. Additionally, the product utilizes a brand new stabilized version of benzoyl peroxide that's less irritating, but just as effective.

When developing the new the skincare regimens, Drs. Rodan and Fields looked at the microbiome (the bacterial colony that lives on the skin's surface) plays a role in the formation of acne.

"The old theory is that acne is caused by thick, goopy oil that clogs the pores, and that the P.acnes bacteria (naturally found in everyone’s microbiome)” below the skin’s surface feed off of the oil clog and start overpopulating," says Dr. Rodan. "Then, your body sends in white blood cells as the police to try to kill the P.acnes, [acne-causing bacteria that's found in everyone's microbiome] which is what causes the inflammation and swelling.”

It turns out that when the microbiome is on the skin's surface, it's dripped in oxygen. But Dr. Fields says that as it travels down the pore, where there's less oxygen, thirsty P.acnes get angry, going into defense mode, killing all of the other bacteria around it. The destructive P.acnes trigger the body's inflammatory response, which manifests in red, throbbing pimples.

That's where this next generation of benzoyl peroxide found in the Spotless regimen comes in. Called BPO2 technology, it's a stabilized, liquid form of benzoyl peroxide that gets deeper into the pores so that it's more effective, but less irritating and drying. And here's how BPO2 is different from other forms of benzoyl peroxide: it also has oxygen in it. Supplying the P.acnes with oxygen keeps it from getting destructive. Basically, the extra oxygen keeps zits from forming.

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Keeping in mind that acne might not be the only concern in an adult woman's skincare routine, Unblemish is also formulated to address hydrating, dullness, and aging. Along with salicylic acid and colloidal sulfur (the two other acne-fighting ingredients approved by the FDA), there's also skin nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, allantoin, and vitamins B5, B3, and C.

“This reformulation answers the call of adult women who want more," says Dr. Fields. "We not only want those couple of nodules we’re seeing on a monthly basis to go away, we also want our skin to look luminous, radiant, and more firm. But, no one wants to use an acne product and then use a whole separate regimen.”

Rodan + Fields took the same approach to Spotless, by cutting the regimen down to just two products. "We found with Proactiv that many teens weren't following through with all of the steps," says Dr. Rodan. The streamlined routine includes a face wash and clearing treatment.

Given that the most mornings are a hot mess, where blending up a homemade smoothie even seems like too much effort, who can manage to follow an entirely separate acne routine? Four or two steps though, seems completely doable.

Rodan + Fields Unblemish ($186) and Spotless ($89) treatment systems are available Feb. 21 at