What do Kendall Jenner, Adam Levine and Olivia Munn have in common? They have all been spokespeople for Proactiv, the acne fighting line. Whether you have seen the infomercials on cable tv or spotted an ad on Instagram, Proactiv is one of the best known skincare lines for tackling acne. But how does Proactiv work, what ingredients are in the products and is it worth a try?
What Is Proactiv?
Proactiv was launched by two dermatologists, Dr. Kathy Fields and Dr. Katie Rodan, the same duo behind Rodan + Fields. According to Forbes, after a particularly long day at work, Rodan yearned for an ideal acne product that she could prescribe to her patients. She reached out to her friend and fellow Stanford University School of Medicine graduate Fields, and they began their journey to create Proactiv. The women pitched the brand to Neutrogena. The company passed on it, but its CEO suggested selling the products through infomercials. Guthy-Renker, whose portfolio also includes Crepe Erase and Meaningful Beauty, started to distribute Proactiv in 1995, and actress Judith Light was the first spokesperson. The brand took off and according to the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Proactiv is one of the most popular skincare brands of all time. AdAge estimates that 90% of people are aware of the brand, and Proactiv’s roster of celebrity spokespeople have been dubbed the “ziterati.”
Infomercials and celebrities aside, Proactiv focuses on acne, and sells three different subscription skincare kits to tackle it.
What Is the Proactiv Philosophy?
Most acne product are designed to be applied to a pimple once it appears on the face. Proactiv takes a different approach, which it calls “combination therapy.” Instead of chasing pimples once they appear, Proactic adopts a preventive strategy to acne.
What Does Proactiv Sell?
Proactiv offers three different skincare kits. The ProactivMD 3-Piece System includes a face wash, daily oil control moisturizer with SPF30 and adapalene gel 0.1%, which is a retinoid. The three piece Proactiv Solution Acne Treatment System consists of a Renewing Cleanser, Revitalizing Toner and a Repairing Treatment, which contains benzoyl peroxide. According to Proactiv, the Proactiv+ Acne Treatment System takes “the same principles of Combination Therapy and “married them with Smart Target technology to deliver acne-fighting medicine directly into the pores.” This regimen includes a Skin Smoothing Exfoliator, Pore Targeting Treatment and a Complexion Perfecting Hydrator, which the brand describes as a “medicated moisturizer.” Add-ons include a Teen Kit that contains a Blackhead Dissolving Gel and Emergency Blemish Relief, and Proactiv Plus includes a Clarifying Night Cream and Advanced Dark Spot Correcting Cream.
Orders come with complimentary skincare gifts, such as a Gel Head Brush Kit, Oil Control Kit or Deluxe Brush Kit. Some products are sold individually or included a complimentary gift, such as the Proactiv Green Tea Moisturizer, and the Proactiv Deep Cleansing Wash, a body wash designed to help keep acne at bay with 2% salicylic acid.
Where is Proactiv Sold?
Proctive is sold on its website, over the phone and via Amazon, an authorized retailer for the brand.
How Much Do Proactiv Products Cost?
The ProactivMD 3-Piece System as well as the original Acne Treatment System cost $19.95 a month with a subscription. Proactive+ starts at $29.99 a month with a subscription. According to the company, every Proactiv order includes a 60-day money-back guarantee of the purchase price less shipping and handling. Subscriptions can be canceled over the phone.
What Are the Ingredients in Proactiv?
Some of the key ingredients in Proactiv are commonly found in acne products, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and retinoids. Retinoids are derived from vitamin A and work by encouraging skin cell turnover (think of it as an exfoliation). Retinoid is the key ingredient in the company’s adapalene Gel. Benzoyl peroxide is the key ingredient in the Repairing Treatment, as well as the Renewing Cleanser. According to WebMd, benzoyl peroxide works by reducing the amount of acne-causing bacteria and by causing the skin to dry and peel. It is antimicrobial and helps to unclog pores. Benzoyl peroxide has been used for decades in over the counter drugstore products. Salicylic acid is the key ingredient in the Complexion Perfecting Hydrator as well as the Deep Cleansing Wash. It is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps exfoliate the skin and dislodge dead skin cells that can clog pores.
Other ingredients include jojoba esters, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, glycerin, camellia sinensis leaf extract, coconut acid, glycolic acid and witch hazel.
Is Proactiv Cruelty Free?
The company doesn’t address this on their website. According to Cruelty Free Kitty, the brand is in a “grey area” as the information is unclear.
Do Proactiv Products Work?
Finding the right skincare product that works for you always involves some trial and error, which is why it’s always helpful to look at customer reviews and editorial write ups as a starting point.
Proactiv is arguably the best known acne system available directly to consumers, and has its fair share of fans. According to Forbes, Proactiv generated a reported $1 billion in sales in 2015. Proactiv says it has received more than 40 awards and honors from the beauty and health industry. Redbook named Proactiv a Beauty MVP Award winner in 2013, and Seventeen magazine gave it a Beauty Award for Best Acne System in 2009.
Kendall Jenner claimed the products cured her acne, and some beauty editors rated it positively. Allure’s take on the ProActiv Solution 3-Step System is “Three separate products may seem tedious, but the results are worth the trouble. Skin feels softer after one use (surprising for an acne treatment) and pimples are noticeably calmer after a couple days. Those with drier skin may need to finish with a moisturizer. In 2013 a Cosmopolitan editor tried the system for her acne. Her conclusion? “A few weeks into religiously using Proactiv, my skin feels softer and definitely fresher. I think the key with this one is not to expect results straight away. I definitely have less blemishes than before (so it helps), but I don’t think it’s going to go as far as eradicating my breakouts.”
The senior editor for Shefinds.com wrote about her Proactiv experience in the 2016 article, “I Didn’t Realize How Bad Proactiv Was For My Skin Until I Stopped Using It.” She wrote that she “suffered from all-over breakouts, redness, cystic, painful zits, for seven years until I STOPPED using Proactiv and realized how truly awful it was for my skin.” On ConsumerAffairs.com, the company gets a one star rating based on more than 530 reviews. Most of the complaints have to do with difficulty canceling the subscription.
Proactiv products have more than 14,000 reviews on Influenster. The original three piece system gets a 3.1 out of 5 star rating based on more than 7,300 reviews. For Lexi L., “Proactiv TRULY does work wonders” and for Onee C., “It’s the only topical acne medication that has worked for me.” People who gave it a low rating said that it irritated their skin, made it feel like it was burning or left them with red blotches. As Theresa S. wrote, “When I was having issues with some acne I bought this three-step program and it made me break out even worse I actually had to discontinue it.”
The ProactivMD 3-Piece Acne System gets a slightly higher rating on Influenster- 3.8 out of 5 stars, based on about 2,100 reviews. Some people felt that it worked wonders. “Proactiv has saved my face. Within five weeks of using Proactiv I saw a huge difference. The only reason I break out now is due to unrelated allergies. Very gentle on the skin.” Some users felt that it made their skin worse, like Kaylee W. “The. Worst. Ever. Especially for anyone over the age of 21 with acne! This stuff destroyed my face, it took me months to get it back under control.”
On Amazon, the three piece system gets a 4.4 out of 5 star rating, from about 1,600 reviews. Seventy-two percent of users gave it five stars. Some fans called it “the best products for breakouts” and a “godsend for hormonal teens.” As one reviewer noted, “I suddenly developed adult acne out of nowhere and panicked. Nothing I did stopped it. Out of sheer desperation I bought this set, and within a few days my face was totally clear. One caveat: go very gently until you see how your skin responds to these products.” Customers who tried it and gave it a low rating fpund that it made their acne worse, or burned their face. “This product dried out my skin HORRIBLY. To the point where if I even touched my face flakes of skin would fall off.” Others complained that it just didn’t work.
What Are Some Alternatives to Proactiv?
Although Proactiv has its fair share of fans, it may not work for everyone. There are a few other brands to consider.
Formulyst’s believes in long-term and effective skincare and the brand’s philosophy is that age is just a number. That number isn’t necessarily the one on your driver’s license, but a numerical sequence that makes up a skincare formula suited for your skin type and needs. Each skincare concern is assigned a number, such as 1 for dryness, 3 for fine lines. Your personal combination will be just as unique as you (and your skin) are. Formulyst makes it easy – all you have to do is find your formula, and follow the numbers.
The ideal cleanser should give skin a deep clean without stripping it of too much moisture, which means your face will be squeaky clean without feeling tight and dry. Formulyst’s Gentle Foaming Cleanser does exactly that. This ultra-gentle foaming cleanser whisks away dirt, sweat and makeup but won’t over dry the skin. Skin is left clean and feeling soft and supple thanks to nourishing rosehip seed oil as well as vitamins A, C and E.
The safest way to get rid of a blemish is to resist popping it, and dry it out instead. Drying the blemish will help prevent any scarring or dark spots from forming. Apply a dab of Formulyst’s Blemish Clearing Complex. It contains a whole cocktail of bacteria fighting, pimple drying products including zinc oxide, salicylic acid, and camphor.
Fans of skincare kits, which take all the guesswork out of creating your own regimen, should try Advanced Dermatology. This no nonsense brand offers a pared down approach to skincare. The packaging is simple and streamlined, and the products bring skincare back to the basics. The kit contains just six essential items including a daily cleanser; serum; anti-wrinkle firming treatment; night cream; day cream and an eye cream. In other words, everything you need to achieve your best possible looking skin.