Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment


510 reviews

76% would repurchase

Package Quality: 3.9

Price: $$

Package Quality: 3.9

Price: $$


PH: 3.4 Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid (2%) (Acne Treatment) Inactive Ingredients: Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, PEG 8, Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Sodium Polyacrylate, Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Cocamidopropyl PG Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Cucumber Fruit Extract (Cucumis Sativus), Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, C12 15 Alkyl Lactate, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Lactate, PEG 75 Stearate, Ceteth 20, Steareth 20, Trideceth 6, PEG/PPG 18/18 Dimethicone, Sclerotium Gum, Laureth 23, Laureth 4, Disodium EDTA, Benzalkonium Chloride, Potassium Hydroxide, Green 5, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Fragrance

on 6/23/2007 3:28:00 PM

Age: 44-55

Skin: Combination, Other, Not Sure

Hair: Blond, Other, Other

Eyes: Blue

I love this stuff. I have been using it for about 6 months when it was newly available at my drugstore. Let me say I am 46 and have lived with mild cystic acne my entire life. There is not a cheap to ultra expensive line I have not tried at some point. I had pretty much given up on anything actually working and was committed to just trying to keep it under control.
I have a teenage son who also has some acne and his friends touted proactiv to him and I ordered it and he and I both used it for over a year and didn't get much improvement.
I bought the Stress Control 3-in-1 took it home and and within a week my skin was amazing. I was skeptical. I though maybe I was mid cycle and just having a good skin week! I kept using it faithfully and even as the weeks went by and one or two small zits would begin to flare the product made them heal quickly and took away most of the redness.
My skin began to look much finer and firmer (bonus!) even though I did need extra moisture around my eyes and cheekbones.
There was one occasion where a cystic pimple started and became hard underneath my skin and stayed there for some time. Never forming a head never going away, no redness just stuck there in perpetual stagnation. I don't think that has a thing to do with the treatment, it can just happen. After about a month it finally resolved.
You must rub the liquid into your skin very well until it is completely absorbed. If you do not then you will feel a residue and actually be able to "peel" or lift little bits off after it dries due to the formulation. Small amounts go a long way.
I now have my teen using this and he has also seen much improvement in his skin. Yeah!
For bad breakouts you can use this as many times a day as you need to. If he is having a flare on his chin I remind him to use it as a spot treatment 3 or so times a day and the next day the area looks so much better.
I am sure it will not be a miracle for everyone. No product is.
However it is a great product for certain types of skin and I think those of us that are lucky enough to find it cannot overstate how good, fast, thoroughly and consistently this product works when all others eventually fail to deliver. The longer I use it the better my skin is getting. So much so that I am starting to receive compliments. Not only on its clearness but on my actual skin looking GOOD. At 46, I will take it.

44 out of 44 people found this review helpful.

on 6/14/2009 9:05:00 AM

Age: 25-29

Skin: Acne-prone, Fair-Medium, Cool

Hair: Black, Curly, Fine

Eyes: Brown

My skin type: acne-prone (w/ 5-7 active lesions at every given time for the past 15 yrs); combination (lightly oily T-Zone and normal cheeks).

My needs: something to get rid of those %$#@! pimples that have never, ever cleared up. Something that will not ravage my skin and create chemical burns, skin flakes/shavings like regular use of even 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide does. Preferably, something non-prescription, because thousands of dollars worth of Rxs over the years (from many dermatologists) has gotten me nothing (and the same non-effective Rxs over and over from different derms).

Overview of product: this is a 2% Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) , which is another name for Salicylic Acid. This is one of the only U.S. drugstore-brand BHA products that has the correct ph-level (4 or under) to actually (potentially) work. The majority of BHA products in U.S. drugstores are NOT ph-effective, and thus you may as well not try them for their BHA benfits. To be absolutely sure, do as I have and invest in a ph-testing kit (or try emailing the company)!

Availability: I say "drugstore-brand" because although this is made by Neutrogena, in 2008 and 2009, it was NOT available in the 7-8 CVSs, Walgreens, and Rite Aid I checked near the U.S. east coast cities I live in and near. I am forced to buy this online. Ditto Neutrogena's other ph-effective BHA lotion, the one in the Rapid Clear line. INterestingly, the REST of the Neutrogena 3-in1- and RapidClear lines are well-stocked in every drugstore near me (bad, alcohol-based toner; bad, alcohol-filled "spot treatments;" bad, ineffective cleansers). So why is this product not available? Simple. Because U.S. drugstores seem to have an allergic reaction to carrying ph-effective BHA products of any brand.


Alright, so here's the problem: my acne is extremely resistant to treatment. I have tried almost everything except for Accutane and Birth Control Pills. That includes ph-effective BHA (like this product) and AHA; Benzoyl Peroxides; Differen; Clindamyicn; Finacea; Retin-A....oh, the list is much longer than this, I assure you.

THE BAD NEWS about this product, I'll give it to you up front, is that 6 weeks' worth of daily use has not wrought a single change in my admittedly MILD acne. Not a one. This is why, for the treatment of my acne, I cannot justify giving this more than 3 stars.

THE SO-SO NEWS is that I think it has gotten rid of 10-15% of the tiny blackheads (the ones that look like tiny hairs sticking up) on my nose and chin. Again, because that's not much, I'd still have to give it 3 stars for that.


Okay, but I will STILL repurchase this product and continue to use it daily. Why? For three reasons:

1. This is an absolutely delightful product to use and apply. I have never, ever, in my years of skincare, taken such pleasure in applying something to my face. Have you heard people use the term "elegant" to describe skincare products but not understood why? Try this. It is a light, slightly runny, gel-lotion of pale green tint that is marvelously silky to the touch. Applying it to the face is like eating candy--I can't get enough of it (a few times I've applied too much!). It smells wonderful; an enticing, lightly cucumber scent (and I HATE, hate cucumber scents in any type of product).It's a privilege to apply this, really. 5 stars for that.

2. Very Oily skintypes (not me), listen up: this is your perfect moisturizer right here. It really, truly, does hydrate the skin. That is to say, it does not moisturize (which is why people with normal skin or normal areas like my cheeks won't need this)--but it does keep in moisture and it does NOT dry you out. Indeed, I give this 4 stars as a "hydrator" for the lightly oily parts of my face (forehead, nose, chin, and upper cheeks), and that's what I continue to buy it for. I think it even has a few antioxidants thrown in for good measure. Because of the BHA, I probably wouldn't put it around the eyes.

3. This is ultimatley the reason why I feel justified in giving this 4 stars instead of the 3 I give it for my acne: even though the BHA did not help my acne, it did do something else BHA is supposed to do: it improved my boyfriend's razor bumps and ingrown hair on his lower cheeks and neck. We both have very curly, "ethnic" hair, only that creates problems when shaving because the tiny stubble grows a bit and then curls back towards the skin, piercing it and growing into it. The result is a nasty bump that no normal cream will fix (you need a chemical exfoliant that loosens the hair within the follicle).

I gave him a tube, which he definitely used like candy (way too much!) because he finished it in one and a half weeks! (I am still on my first tube after 6 weeks' daily use). Anyway, it made a clear improvement in the bumps on his face. He has far fewer bumps, shaving is easier now, and he keeps asking me for another tube of "the medicine."

But please know that he has receptive skin; even the inferior product TendSkin helped clear up a few of his bumps in the past. Me? I'm still on my search for an acne-clearer for my stubborn skin...but at least I've picked up a lovely moisturizer for my T-zone in the process!

23 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

on 1/26/2009 11:37:00 AM

Age: 30-35

Skin: Oily, Fair-Medium, Not Sure

Hair: Black, Other, Other

Eyes: Brown

I have been looking for an econimical alternative to Murad Exfoliating Acne Gel and I have actually found something better.

These are the results I had with Neutrogena 3-in-1 Hydrating Gel:

1. Applies smoothly and doesn't flake/roll off when another product is applied on top.
2. Absorbs quickly.
3. Skin feels smooth, hydrated and soothed.
4. Acne has cleared up in about a week and scars are beginning to fade.
5. Pores appear to be smaller.
6. Skin is less oily through out the day.
7. I use less BE make up and it applies smoothly.
8. Gently but aggressively clears up acne.

I have been seeing less blackheads, whiteheads, pustules and the cysts are non existent. (You know those painful zits that never break the surface and appear around that time of the month along the jaw line).

I have seen better results by using a micro exfoliating face wash daily that has granules to sweep away the dead skin that the 3-in-1 Hydrator helps chemically exfoliate.

The difference between the two is that Murad has retinol and Neutrogena doesn't. Murad has only 1% salicylic acid and Neutrogena has 2% salicylic acid. The increase in salicylic acid doesn't irritate or dry out my skin.

The absolute greatest thing is that I can buy 7 bottles of Neutrogena 3-in-1 Hydrating Gel to one bottle of Murad Exfoliating Acne Gel. I am extremely happy that I actually took a leap to try an alternative that ended up being more effective and less expensive.

13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

on 6/11/2007 1:00:00 AM

Age: 36-43

Skin: Very Oily, Fair-Medium, Not Sure

Hair: Blond, Other, Other

Eyes: Blue

Shortly after I quit breast-feeding, my hormone levels must have changed, because my cystic acne EXPLODED. It looked worse than my husband had seen in the 17 years he had known me. I have a long standing battle with acne, and I have been on Accutane three times. I was feeling desperate. I checked MUA to see what was currently being recommended, and I saw this. Wow, this stuff is incredible. I hate the name, because it is long and clunky. But the product itself is great. It is lightand thin, has a faint cucumber smell, is not oily at all, and it is slightly runny.I do think the packaging should either be changed to a pump or at least the tube cap should be a flip cap, not a screw-on lid. My only other complaint would be that where I live in northern Virginia, this is hard to find ( I only could find it at CVS, not Target, Wegman's or Wal-Mart). This has cleared up actual acne nodules. This is F'ing unreal! continued >>

13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

on 2/27/2011 4:26:00 PM

Age: 30-35

Skin: Dry, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Red, Other, Other

Eyes: Blue

EDIT: 2/14/12
WTF? Where did this go? I can't find it anywhere! I stopped using this for 8 months because my doc asked me not to use BHA during my pregnancy. And now it's gone! I've been to no less than eight retailers, newborn in tow, looking for this. It seems to have been replaced with an "All-in-One" treatment, 1 ounce, 1% BHA. Shame on Neutrogena: That's 1/4 of the good ingredient as the old 2 ounce 2% for the same price. Perhaps I should be more graceful about this, but WHY is it that all the products I love get discontinued, while the crap lasts forever?? So sad and disappointed.

I'm buying my second tube of this absolutely fantastic product. It's an all-around winner. This is hands-down the best BHA treatment I've ever used, even better than Paula Begoun's 2% BHA, which I adore. This one gets the job done as well, but feels more soothing and moisturizing. I use this:

1. Face: Twice a day; keeps the zits and blackheads at bay, promotes fresh, smooth, glowing skin, and no dryness or peeling.

2. Chest and Back: Since I stopped birth control pills, my skin has been acting half its age, so little pimples are cropping up here. Product works fabulously here.

3. Back of Arms: Keratosis pilaris--this helps a lot.

4. Bikini line: Ahem. Used carefully, this soothes and treats and prevents razor bumps and ingrown hairs.

This product does have a fragrance. I haven't found it overpowering or irritating, but be aware if you are sensitive to fragrance.

12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

on 2/18/2010 4:41:00 PM

Age: 19-24

Skin: Oily, Fair, Warm

Hair: Brown, Wavy, Fine

Eyes: Blue

I don't know why it's so hard to just find a 2% BHA lotion/cream/any type of leave on medication. I was using stridex until I realized they had menthol (a skin irritant) so I stopped using them but then I read about this nice little product in Paula's book. I have noticed that I get less bumps/clogged pores since I started using this (I've been using it for a little over a month). I see that in some reviews some complain about it being overly drying-- can't speak to that since I use a moisturizer afterwards but I *think* my skin feels less oily during the day but I've added/exchanged other products with this one so I can't say which is what. In any case, I know it's helping my skin. It also has a lot of great ingredients for the skin like antioxidants. And it smells nice too and feels nice and cool when I apply it to my skin. It doesn't sting me but I've been using chemical exfoliants for awhile, you have to get used to it. If anyone finds it too drying, a simple moisturizer should fix that but it has so many great properties so it's definitely a keeper!

And a note about the difference between salicylic acid and benzyl peroxide. You can't compare the two as they battle acne in two different ways. SA is as chemical exfoliant that cleans INSIDE your pores and it has mild antibacterial properties. Benzyl is primarily an antibacterial agent (don't forget that acne is a combination of clogged pores and bacteria festering inside). So if you have an inflamed pimple, SA alone is likely NOT going to fix that instantly like benzyl. However,SA is more likely to getting pimples "before they start" and work better in the long run as they kill the acne process. Just to clear that up for some people (pun intended, hehe).

And yes I know I spelled benzoyl wrong-- don't have time to look it up now.

12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

on 2/6/2014 2:49:00 PM

Age: 30-35

Skin: Acne-prone, Other, Warm

Hair: Black, Straight, Medium

Eyes: Brown

I gave it a 4 cause even though it caused me redness and irritation, I used to love this stuff due to the fact that it was one of the few effective and alcohol free drugstore BHAs. However this is just an FYI in case, like me, you can't seem to find it ANYWHERE: this product has been discontinued in the US! Apparently, it's still being sold in Canada though, so you can probably still get it online...though really, maybe you could just get PCs brand for the same price when you factor in shipping; I dunno...

Another FYI, in case anyone's wondering the only other effective/alcohol-free drugstore BHAs being sold right now in the US (according to Paula b's reviews) are Clean &Clear's Advantage Oil Absorbing Treatment and Clearasil's "Ultra Rapid Action Treatment Lotion." They are both 2% salicylic acid lotions rather than a gel, but I'd say go with the Clearasil one if you have dry sensitive skin (i do and I love it!) or if you have oily skin you might like C&C's version better (apparently it has a powdery finish), though it comes in a 1.5 oz bottle rather than a 4oz bottle like clearasils.... Anyways, unlike neutrogena's 3 in 1 treatment, neither of these have green tea but oddly, my skin is less red and irritated with the Clearasil lotion than it ever was with the Neutrogena gel (though I think the gel worked faster).

10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

on 8/31/2009 7:26:00 PM

Age: 30-35

Skin: Combination, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Brown, Other, Other

Eyes: Hazel

yes! yes! yes!

this isnt just for acne, I hope that the name doesnt keep people from discovering it

this is the best BHA product I have ever used, I use a layer in the morning and then apply everything else as normal and the pores on my nose totally disappear

anyone who wants to minimize their pores should give it a try

9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

on 6/27/2007 8:01:00 AM

Age: 25-29

Skin: Other, Other, Not Sure

Hair: Other, Other, Other

Eyes: Other

I'm 27 with oily skin and using benzaclin in the morning, retin-a in the evening. I know this product has a long list of outstanding reviews, but I wanted to add mine as someone who has a long history of moderate-severe acne (whiteheads/cystic), lots of topical Rx products, but still the curse/blessing of oily skin. This product is outstanding. Because of the Rx topicals I use, my skin can't take the harshness of typical acne products. At the same time, my skin still gets very oily; it has been difficult to find products that are effective at managing oil production but do not suck the life and moisture out of my skin. The summer oil production has led to an onset of pimples that have been inflaming during the day in combo with oiliness that exacerbates the inflammation (where you thought if your skin were just less oily, things wouldn't be as inflammed or clogged). A combination of desperation, rave reviews, and product cost (cheap!), I decided to give this product a try. This product is lightweight and non-drying enough for people on Rx topicals while managing oil production and keeping pores clear with a gentle amount of salicylic acid (instead of just a silicone oil absorbing primer). Over the years, I've learned that drying out your skin to dry up acne isn't the solution. I can't emphasize enough how incredible it is to find this combo of gentle, effective, and non-drying. I hope my review will help others on Rx topicals to possibly find the same effectiveness from this amazing product.

9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

on 8/21/2011 4:48:00 PM

Age: 25-29

Skin: Normal, Fair, Neutral

Hair: Blond, Wavy, Medium

Eyes: Blue

so far, this product has been a godsend for me. my skin history is strange; i had completely easy, clear skin until age 26 when i began breaking out in small, hard, closed comedones in the area around my chin (either sides of my chin, really). i tried a million different products to get rid of the bumps, and some worked for a long time with great results (Tazorac), but eventually my skin would revert back to the way it had started leaving me insanely frustrated. i'm also a terrible picker who has a hard time leaving her hands off of her face so anytime i would squeeze these non-black blackheads (the only real way to get rid of them was through manual extraction), they would turn into red, scabby, horrible looking marks that would take a week to go away. it was pure misery. i had been using the scrub from this same Neutrogena Acne Stress Line and liked it for a while, so i just decided to try this product one day when i saw it at the store. it literally produced a positive result after the FIRST NIGHT i used it. i wash my face, smooth on a thin layer of this, let it dry somewhat and then lightly apply some Retin-A (Tretinoin 0.04% aqueous gel purchased from over it. if i have anything major i spot treat with Neutrogena's On the Spot Acne Treatment with 2.5% BP, which works just as well as the 10% formulas like Persagel without the horrible red skin and peeling. this system has given me the most wonderful results, it's a giant weight lifted off my shoulders to know that i can wake up in the morning and not have skin that feels like braille! i would highly recommend this product for the type of non-inflamed acne i deal with, and i will definitely repurchase (i already have!). i just hope the results continue indefinitely.
**just wanted to add, it seems that i've discovered that no matter what kind of moisturizer i use on the area surrounding my chin, within days it produces closed comedones that just multiply and multiply. for some reason, something about my skin has become intolerant to anything creamy or moisturizing no matter what the product claims about being non-comedogenic. this Neutrogena product seems to give my skin the moisture it needs without clogging pores, and it has just been lifesaving for my skin self esteem. if you suffer from problems similar to mine, please give this a try because it may be the one thing that helps stop the cycle of clogging, overdrying with medication, picking and attempting to cover the damage. i really hope this helps atleast one person the way it's helped me.
*UPDATE* 9-14-11 still following same regimen of a light layer of this Neutrogena product followed by an even lighter layer of the Tretinoin and experiencing fantastic results. this is the best my skin has been in quite a long time. i just really hope that someone experiencing the same annoying, relentless bother of endlessly cropping up closed comedones will see this and give it a try.

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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