Acne is a quite common skin problem that occurs when the pores are clogged by dead skin debris or oil.
This causes blackheads, pimples, and whiteheads, usually on the face, chest, neck, shoulders, upper arms, and the back.
When your skin is repeatedly affected by these, you might have acne.
According to data from the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S. And while it isn’t a life-threatening, it can be painful, especially when it is severe .
Acne is known to affect self-esteem and cause emotional distress. It also impacts your confidence and your social life, how you interact with other people, as well as how you feel about yourself as a whole.
Today, there are more treatment options for acne than any other time in history. Still, much of the known effective treatments are quite pricey, which by itself prevents many people from seeking treatment.
One of the acne treatments you’ve likely heard about is Proactiv.
There are ads for it everywhere, with many celebrities who seem to swear by it. Proactiv offers a line of affordable acne products that are designed to address a variety of skincare issues.
The common message here seems to imply that Proactiv will effectively treat your acne, even if you’ve tried virtually everything else without success.
But should you try it? How does it compare to other acne treatments on the market?
Read our Proactiv review to find out…
What is Proactiv?
Here’s a quick video explaining what Proactiv is all about…
Proactiv is a product developed by two dermatologists, Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields – the duo behind Rodan + Fields. During her practice, Rodan yearned for an effective acne product that she could prescribe to all her patients.
She ended up reaching out to her friend; one she went to Stanford University School of Medicine with, and they embarked on a journey to create Proactiv.
Upon development, they pitched the brand to Neutrogena, who passed on it. However, the CEO suggested selling the product through informercials.
This turned out to be quite effective, and the brand really took off. Proactiv is among the most popular household names in the skincare industry.
The product line is mainly focused on acne, and has three skincare offerings.
Most acne products in the market are designed to be applied on the pimple when it appears on the skin. But Proactiv takes a different approach, which they refer to as “combination therapy”, which ideally combines salicylic acid, benzol peroxide, and glycolic acid to treat acne.
The goal here is to stop acne before it starts, instead of chasing pimples as soon as they appear. Its creators found out that this strategy allows them to deliver superior results to their customers.
Proactiv Products: ProactivMD, Proactiv+, Proactiv Solution
Proactiv is available in three different skincare kits. The first is the ProactivMD, which is a 3-piece kit that comes with a daily oil control moisturizer, FDA-approved adapalene gel 0.1% with SPF30, and deep cleaning face wash.
Second is the 3-piece Proactiv Solution System, which is made up of a Revitalizing toner, a Renewing Cleaner, and Repairing Treatment.
Third is the Proactiv+ Acne Treatment System, which consists of a Pore Targeting Treatment, Skin Smoothing Exfoliator, and a Complexion Perfecting Hydrator.
There are also addons such as a Teen Kit, which comes with an Emergency Blemish Relief, a Blackhead Dissolving Gel; and Proactiv Plus, which comes with an Advanced Dark Spot Correcting Cream and a Clarifying Night Cream.
Orders typically come with complimentary gifts like a Deluxe Brush Kit, Oil Control Kit, or a Gel Head Brush Kit.
1. ProactivMD Review
While people with dry skin can still use other Proactiv systems, the ProactivMD system is just the most effective and safest product for dry skin.
It’s also an excellent option for people with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation – the dark marks left behind once acne heals.
This is mainly due to the fact that the system comes with adapalene, an ingredient that helps to encourage healthy skin cells rate of turnover to get rid of the old, hyperpigmented cells to replace them with new, healthy skin cells.
The packaging is clearly labelled with numbers, which makes the steps super easy to follow.
- Deep Cleansing Face Wash: This cleanses your face of all the unwanted dirt/debris on your skin, including excess oil, dead skin cells, and dirt. You ideally use tiny exfoliating beads that are effective enough to clear your skin without being too abrasive.
- Balancing toner: This is included to help restore the natural pH balance on your skin and give it the necessary boost of nourishment.
- Daily oil control moisturizer with sun protection: This provides your skin with a good defense during the day from harmful solar radiation, without clogging the skin pores. It also absorbs quickly without leaving residue.
- Adapalene Gel 0.1%: This is the main differentiating component of ProactivMD. It lets you enjoy the power of prescription-grade Adapalene without getting a prescription.
2. Proactiv Plus Review
The “Smart Target” Technology is the main differentiator for Proactiv+. If you’re like most of us who have acne, you probably have a combination of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. If that’s the case, then the Proactiv+ system might be ideal for you. Aside from using benzoyl peroxide alone, the formula includes salicylic acid.
While salicylic acid might sound harsh, it’s actually a gentle exfoliant that sinks deeps into the skin pores to break up the oil and get rid of the dead skin cells.
This is effective in treating and preventing blackheads and whiteheads, which usually form when excess dead skin cells and oil get clogged in the pores.
When salicylic acid is combined with benzoyl peroxide, it can significantly improve your acne.
The Proactiv+ system also comes in three steps:
- Skin Smoothing Exfoliator: Benzoyl peroxide and the glycolic acid are a perfect match for cleansing the dead skin cells, brim, and dirt on the skin
- Pore Targeting Treatment: This is designed to prevent acne from the source of development. It delivers acne fighting ingredient directly into the pores
- Complexion Perfecting Hydrator: With the pore-opening properties of salicylic acid, the hydrator will help to reduce inflammation on the skin, fight post-acne marks, and improve your complexion.
3. Proactiv Solution
The current formula of the original Proactiv solution is a product of several different formulas throughout the years, and is ideal for people whose acne is mostly pimples.
This is because benzoyl peroxide is the active ingredient in the solution.
Benzoyl peroxide is an effective acne treatment ingredient that primarily works by killing the acne-causing bacteria.
The bacteria are responsible for causing yellow or white infection under the head of pimples, and killing the bacteria is one of the more effective ways of treating and preventing pimples.
Benzoyl peroxide achieves this by adding extra oxygen below the skin surface, and since the P. acnes bacteria are anerobic (can’t survive in oxygen for long), they can’t survive after the solution is applied.
The Original Proactiv acne treatment follows three steps:
- Renewing Cleanser: This is designed to prep your skin for acne treatment by removing any oil, dead skin cells, and dirt from your skin
- Revitalizing Toner: This restores your skin pH levels and gets rid of any impurities that might have been left by the cleanser
- Repairing Treatment: This step allows for the benzoyl peroxide to penetrate deep into the pores. It ensures that the acne-causing bacteria are fully eliminated in the pores, thereby reducing inflammatory acne breakouts on your skin.
Both the repairing treatment and the renewing cleanser contain 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, which is a very safe concentration that should be gentle on any skin type.
Nonetheless, the revitalizing toner might be a bit harsh for sensitive or dry skin types, as it contains witch hazel and glycolic acid, both of which can dry out the skin.
Is it Safe for All Skin Types?
Now that you have a better understanding of Proactiv’s systems, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into.
We liked that Proactiv is upfront about the fact that some users could develop side effects from using their products, albeit temporary and minor ones.
In case you develop an allergic reaction to Proactiv, stop using the product and consult your dermatologist or doctor.
To get it out of the way, today’s Proactiv products are much safer and effective than they originally were. Previously, Proactiv products contained up to 7% benzoyl peroxide, which is too high, and likely to cause burning, redness, itching, or even more acne. But, if you’ve had a bad experience with Proactiv in the past, it doesn’t mean you’ll have a bad experience with the currently available products.
It’s also worth noting that your skin will likely not look like the skin of the people in Proactiv’s informercials. These are advertisements specifically designed to sell a product.
So, there’s still plenty of photoshop and makeup behind the scenes.
Proactiv Pros and Cons
- Proactiv is a quality brand with 28+ awards and honors from prominent beauty and skincare watchdogs
- The multi-faceted approach to skin care not only clears acne, but also brightens the skin and minimizes blemishes
- The all-in-one kit is a huge plus. The kit comes with a toner, deep cleanser, and a treatment lotion, with easy to follow steps
- 60-day moneyback guarantee – you can get your money back should the product fail to work for you
- Mostly effective for mild to moderate acne outbreaks and scarring. It won’t work on nodular or cystic acne, and is not ideal for severe acne
- It may dry out your skin or cause skin irritation
- You have to continue using the product for a while for it to work
- Many users complain about issues with cancelling orders, unauthorized billing, refund denials, and unhelpful customer service despite their money-back guarantee
Proactiv Price: How Much Does it Cost?
Proactiv kits costs around $40 (inclusive of shipping) for a 60-day supply. Considering it’s supposed to be less expensive compared to other prescription treatment for acne, it might not be the case for everyone.
You can choose to go for a Proactiv membership, which is ideal if the product suits your skin as you will be getting your products at a lower price than in retail.
However, if you’re just trying out, you’re better off buying the product on Amazon or a drugstore as you’ll save more money overall.
Proactiv essentially contains effective acne-fighting ingredients that can help treat moderate or mild forms of acne breakouts. However, we doubt it can help you with severe acne or nodular or cystic acne though.
Don’t forget that besides targeting and fighting off acne, a good skin care routine should focus on keeping the skin healthy. Moreover, all acne products, including Proactiv, will take some time to work.
So, be sure to stick your Proactiv product of choice for at least 8 to 10 weeks before expecting any improvement on your skin.