About NERD Skincare
By leveraging the power of good bacteria, NERD Skincare’s products promise to neutralize acne-causing bacteria, prevent future breakouts, and improve skin’s health, without side effects like redness, dryness, flakiness, or sensitivity.
Specifically, they claim the S. epidermidis bacteria strain featured in their products will produce short-chain fatty acids that fight another bacteria strain P. acnes. This is—perhaps obviously—closely associated with the formation of acne on the skin.
Using this approach, NERD claims their formulas are so effective that they can help get rid of acne three times faster than conventional products, without the use of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. And the process works over four simple steps:
- Pre-cleanse by removing all your makeup.
- Apply Clarifying Cleanser onto fingertips and massage over skin.
- Apply Acne Treatment to any breakouts or inflamed areas.
- Apply a light layer of Nourishing Cream to previously damaged skin.
Dietary supplements containing beneficial bacteria strains (known as probiotics) have been around for years, and come with reams of clinical evidence that they can deliver benefits. But does this same level of evidence exist for bacteria topically applied to the skin?
We’ll help you learn more in this article, starting with the basics.
What’s the Relationship Between Bacteria & Acne?
We’ll rely on WebMD to quickly explain the situation: “The most common acne is the type that develops during the teen years. Puberty causes hormone levels to rise, especially testosterone. These changing hormones cause skin glands to start making more oil (sebum).”
They continue, “Oil releases from the pores to protect the skin and keep it moist. Acne begins when oil mixes with dead cells and clogs the skin's pores. Bacteria can grow in this mixture. And if this mixture leaks into nearby tissues, it causes swelling, redness, and pus.”
In this same vein, a 2013 Scientific American article supports NERD’s statement that P. acnes (of which there are more than 11,000 different strains) is thought to be associated with the development of acne, since it might provoke an immune response.
On the other hand, they also note some other types of beneficial bacteria “appear to possess a defense system that could combat invading DNA from harmful viruses.”
Common over-the-counter products used to kill acne-associated bacteria include benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, calendula oil, triclosan, and topical tretinoin (Retin-A). Stronger prescription options include isotretinoin (Accutane), adapalene (Differin), minocycline, and tetracycline.
Comparatively, what’s delivered to your skin through NERD’s product lineup?
Which Ingredients Are Found In NERD’s Skincare Products?
Overall, there are eight products and kits in the NERD lineup. Here’s what we learned after cross-referencing the ingredients in each formula with authoritative websites like WebMD, Truth In Aging, EWG.org, and Healthline:
Clears acne by “creating an ecosystem of perfectly balanced facial flora” to help soothe skin (even sensitive skin), promote healing, and retain moisture. According to the company, the treatment can help visibly reduce spots and blemishes within 10 days, using the following ingredients:
Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, PEG-12, Allantoin, Propylene Glycol, Cucumis Sativus Fruit Extract, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Centella Asiatica Extract , Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract , Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract , Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract , Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract , Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Buddleja Davidii Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Sulfur*
Of these, the majority work as conditioning agents (butylene glycol, PEG-12, allantoin, propylene glycol, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, glycerin) and preservatives (citric acid, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate).
These sites didn't reference clinical evidence that any of Acne Treatment's remaining ingredients can effectively address acne, except for sulfur. According to VeryWell.com, this ingredient is one of the oldest known acne treatments, since it causes the skin to dry and peel (we’ll keep discussing this ingredient throughout the article).
A soap-free, plant-derived product that gently unclogs pores, without stripping skin of moisture, for a soft feel. Includes the following:
Glycerin, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Myristic Acid, Water (Aqua), PPG-10 Methyl Glucose, Sodium Citrate, Yogurt Powder, Phytosteryl/ Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate
According to these same sites, the majority of these ingredients act as surfactants (sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, sodium cocoyl isethionate, myristic acid) and conditioning agents (PPG-10 methyl glucose, phytosteryl/ octyldodecyl lauroyl glutamate).
As we learned in Probiotics 101, some types of yogurt contain naturally high levels of potentially beneficial lactic acid bacteria, although the NERD website doesn’t provide any additional information about the specific strains (if any) found in the Clarifying Cleanser.
With this said, we reached out to the company for additional information and were told that “Our products don't contain any living bacteria. We provide prebiotics from plant extracts (food for probiotics) to help S. epidermis fight the acne bacteria.”
According to the company, this cream is designed to specifically promote wound healing and skin repair, as well as to reverse “problems caused by harsh chemically based acne products.” Ingredients include:
Water (Aqua), Pentylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Behenyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Oleate, Glyceryl Stearate, Potassium Olivoyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Squalane, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Sodium Polyacrylate, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hyaluronate, Caprylyl Glycol, Decylene Glycol, Macadamia Integrifolia Seed Oil, Propylene Glycol, Cholesteryl Hydroxystearate, Disodium EDTA, Allantoin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Oryzanol, Arginine, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Cucumis Sativus Fruit Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Glucosyl Ceramide, Phospholipids, Cholesterol, Butyrospermum Parkii (shea butter), Hydrogenated Lecithin (Soybean), Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols (Phytosterols), Ceramide 2 (NG), Ceramide 6II (AP), Ceramide 5 (AS), Ceramide 3 (NP), Ceramide 1 (EOP)
As with the previous NERD products, most of these work as conditioning agents (butylene glycol, glycerin, potassium olivoyl hydrolyzed wheat protein, pentaerythrityl tetraisostearate, caprylyl glycol, decylene glycol, propylene glycol, disodium EDTA, allantoin, tocopheryl acetate, sodium hyaluronate, oryzanol, dipotassium glycyrrhizate).
Many also work as emulsifiers (behenyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl oleate, sodium polyacrylate, xanthan gum), emollients (cholesteryl hydroxystearate), and preservatives and antibacterial agents (pentylene glycol, squalane).
Acne Treatment System
This system includes the Clarifying Cleanser, Acne Treatment, and Nourishing Cream.
A stainless steel tool that can help remove blackheads, whiteheads, and pus from pimples, while minimizing surface area and tension.
Cellular Intelligence Time Postponing Cocktail Serum
Regardless of your skin type, this daily serum claims to treat and delay the signs of wrinkles, fine lines, discoloration, dullness, loss of elasticity, and tone. Additional benefits include rejuvenating and protecting longevity factors in skin cells, hydrating skin, and strengthening cellular defense mechanisms:
Aqua(Water), Placental Protein, Propanediol, Glycerin (and) Palmitoyl Dipeptide-10, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract , Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Cordyceps militaris Extract, Saponaria Pumila Callus Culture Extract, Coenochloris Signiensis Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Malus Domestica Fruit Cell Culture Extract, Hydroxylated Lecithin, Allantoin, Soluble Collagen, Sodium Hyaluronate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Carbomer, Sorbitan Isostearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Trilaureth-4 Phosphate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate
We covered the vast majority of these ingredients earlier, except for placental protein. According to TotalBeauty.com, this extract can work as a conditioning agent, and since “placenta is crucial for a baby's growth in the womb, these same extracts in cosmetics give your body a hit of hormones.”
Cellular Intelligence Time Postponing Cocktail Cream
This cream claims to provide many of the same cellular benefits as the Serum, including visible ones like reduced wrinkles, improved radiance, and boosted tone:
Aqua(Water), Placental Protein, Propanediol, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Octyldodecanol (and) Irvingia Gabonensis Kernel Butter (and), Hydrogenated Coco-Glycerides, Squalane, Coenochloris Signiensis Extract, Saponaria Pumila Callus Culture Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Cordyceps militaris Extract, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Avocado Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Omega Oil, Matricaria Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Secale Cereale (Rye) Seed Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Phenoxyethanol and Ethylhexylglycerin, Phytosteryl/ Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate, Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate
Cellular Intelligence Time Postponing System
Contains the Cocktail Serum and Cocktail Cream.
Could the Ingredients In NERD’s Products Cause Side Effects?
According to many of these same sites, the majority of these ingredients aren’t likely to cause side effects worse than temporary irritation (no specifics provided).
However, we learned during our research that Acne.org lists Matricaria and sodium citrate as comedogenic ingredients (i.e., they’re known to block pores).
Also, the TotalBeauty article above emphasizes that, when used in conjunction with placental protein, “Estrogenic content in cosmetics may increase breast cancer risk in users, and if a woman uses personal care products that contain estrogen while she is pregnant, it may trigger extremely early puberty for her child.”
Finally, keep in mind that—although it's the last ingredient on the list—the sulfur in NERD's Acne Treatment can cause dryness and peeling, which is precisely what it's supposed to do.
As a result, when applying sulfur-based products to your skin, Drugs.com recommends that you don’t use abrasive soaps or cleansers, preparations that contain alcohol, cosmetics or soaps that can further dry the skin, or any other medications that contain peeling agents like benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid, or tretinoin (vitamin A acid).
How Much Do NERD Skincare Products Cost?
NERD’s products are priced as follows:
- Blemish Extractor: $10
- Acne Treatment (1 oz): $85
- Clarifying Cleanser (2 oz): $20
- Nourishing Cream (1 oz): $95
- Acne Treatment System: $195
- Cellular Intelligence Time Postponing Cocktail Serum (1.2 oz): $85
- Cellular Intelligence Time Postponing Cocktail Cream (1.2 oz): $95
- Cellular Intelligence Time Postponing System: $180
All direct orders over $50 come with free shipping. Orders of any amount (except for samples) come with a 20-day satisfaction guarantee, less S&H charges.
In order to request a refund, the company’s support department can be reached at email@example.com, or via their Facebook page.
Are Customers Experiencing Results With NERD Skincare Products? What We Learned From Reviews
On Amazon, NERD’s Acne Treatment System had 24 customer reviews (only three of which were verified) and an average rating of 2.5 stars. There, common compliments revolved around effective results, as well as clean-feeling skin without over-drying.
On the other hand, most complaints appeared to reference no results (or even worsened acne), over-drying, and high price. We also found several past customers who provided feedback on Reddit, with many of these same complaints.
Several Redditors also noted that most sulfur-based acne treatments are priced significantly lower than NERD.
From a company perspective, NERD Skincare Inc. is based out of San Francisco, CA and has been in business since 2015. They weren’t rated with the Better Business Bureau, but did show two closed complaints as of 9/29/17. Both of these referenced negative skin reactions, although a company representative responded with a resolution in each instance.
Are There Other Probiotic-Based Skincare Products Like NERD?
Before diving into any comparisons, it’s important to have a solid grasp of precisely what we’re comparing.
Do NERD’s Products Actually Contain Probiotics?
As we noted at the beginning, the company tells us their products contain S. epidermidis. However, we personally did not see this bacteria strain listed in any of their products’ ingredients.
NERD’s Clarifying Cleanser features yogurt powder, and yogurt is frequently used as a type of probiotic, since it contains several different species known to provide benefits inside the human digestive tract (e.g., Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus, etc.).
After reaching out to the company, we were told that this “yogurt powers the remaining lactic acid bacteria,” but doesn’t contain any bacteria strains.
With this in mind, it appears the most relevant ingredient for fighting pimples in NERD’s Acne Treatment is sulfur, so this is what we’ll focus on below.
NERD vs. Sulfur-Based Acne Treatments
Searching online for other topical acne treatments that use sulfur as one of their main active ingredients returned dozens of results at the time of our research, many of which came from household brands like Proactiv and Kiehl's.
And compared to being the last ingredient on the list (and hence, present in the lowest concentration), some of these products featured up to 10 percent sulfur content—whereas NERD only contains three percent, which could deliver more pronounced results for the money.
Speaking of which, most of these options were priced between $5 and $30, putting NERD’s products at the upper echelon. But will you get better results for your money than with the lower-priced competition?
Our Final Thoughts About NERD Skincare
When searching for your next acne treatment, WebMD reports that the type of pimples you experience will determine the most appropriate course of action, which is why it’s so important to begin the process by making an appointment with your doctor.
If they recommend you go the topical probiotic route, the Scientific American article above interviewed Noah Craft, a dermatologist of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, who emphasized that this science is in its infancy. He also suspects that acne vulgaris is actually several different skin diseases, so probiotics alone might not be the answer. Again, this is where your dermatologist can come in.
But does NERD actually contain probiotics? To reiterate, none are listed in their products’ ingredients, although the company responded quickly to our questions and provided valuable insight.
With all of this said, the company seems to stand behind their products with a 20-day return policy. This way, you might not have much more to lose than a few bucks in S&H if you’re dissatisfied with its performance.
However, only your doctor can advise if this will be long enough to deliver meaningful results, and the company doesn't provide any clinical support for the claim that their products can help get rid of acne three times faster than conventional options.