I purchased this product on a whim two months ago. I have never suffered from serious acne, but during periods of stress, my skin has a tendency to break out, and I'm often trying products from relatively expensive department store brands (Kiehl's, Clinique, etc.) to drugstore brands aimed at consumers with less disposable income.
Neutrogena is often touted as making effective, affordable products, and their sunscreens (especially their 'Ultra Sheer Water-Light daily face sunscreen') have always worked well for me and have kept my skin well-moisturized while never causing breakouts, so I was quite optimistic when I spotted the new 'Oil-Free Acne Stress Control' line. The fact that the products were temporarily discounted at $6.99 (a savings of $2 off the retail price) was an obvious bonus, but not the main cause behind my purchase -- the name itself was. Having used their sunscreens and their facial cleansers with success since my teens (I am now 28), I was willing to extend the brand the benefit of the doubt.
Unfortunately, I was very disappointed with this particular offer from the Neutrogena brand. The fine print on the container claims that the gel contained within is powered by MicroCLEAR (tm) technology, but what specifically that comprises is never defined. The medicinal ingredient is salicylic acid (2%), a well-known ingredient in acne medications, but one that is not nearly as effective as benzoyl peroxide; the main benefit of salicylic acid is that in the proper formulations, it is less drying than benzoyl peroxide, and can prevent future breakouts although it has limited efficacy in diminishing current pimples with great speed.
Keeping in mind the nature of salicylic acid, I knew not to expect instant results, and to wait a few weeks before delivering a final verdict. It definitely has some good qualities. The consistency of the gel is pleasant to the touch (it feels very light), and it has a nice cooling sensation when applied to the skin. The gel also has a reasonably pleasant smell, always a good quality in an acne medication. The packaging is also simple but attractive; the faint greenish shade of the gel as seen through the transparent parts of the container works effectively as a subliminal hint that the product will indeed be 'soothing', 'cleansing', etc., but these points are better debated with heads of marketing departments.
But ultimately how effective was this product? Considering the price, I was hardly expecting a miracle elixir, and I can say without sarcasm or malice that I got what I paid for. I used the product according to the specifications on the packaging for a month, and I noticed no improvement or worsening in my acne. Despite the claims by the manufacturer that the gel would be 'hydrating', there was no noticeable difference in the texture of my skin. As well, a product containing only 2% salicylic acid should hardly be expected to show any spectacular results, so I can't say that I was especially shocked at the final verdict. All in all, I would recommend this gel to a person suffering from very minor and occasional breakouts; applied religiously on a nightly basis, I'm sure that this gel would be enough to keep small blemishes at bay. For anyone dealing with more serious stress/hormonal induced breakouts, however, I would urge them to keep away from this product.