What do Kendall Jenner, Adam Levine, and Olivia Munn have in common? They have all been spokespeople for Proactiv, one of the most popular skin care brands of all time, according to Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. In fact, AdAge estimates that 90% of people are aware of the brand, and Proactiv’s roster of celebrity spokespeople have been dubbed the “ziterati.” But you may be wondering: do Proactiv products work? If so, read on to learn more about the brand’s products, ingredients, Proactiv reviews from real customers, and more.
The Story Behind 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. And that’s exactly the path the brand took. When it launched the United States in 1995, Proactiv became the world’s first at-home acne treatment regimen.
What Is the Proactiv Philosophy?
Most acne products 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, Proactiv adopts a preventive strategy to acne.
What Are The Proactiv Products?
Most of the Proactiv products are only available for purchase inside the brand’s three-step systems, which include Proactiv Solution, Proactiv+, and ProactivMD. Below we’ll discuss who these kits are suited for and what’s included in each system.
Proactiv Solution is the brand’s original three step system that comes with the Renewing Cleanser, Revitalizing Toner, and Repairing Treatment. Together, these products are said to clear existing blemishes, soothe inflammation and redness, and help to prevent new breakouts from occurring. This system is suitable for all skin types.
Proactiv+ is the result of a decade of research, extensive studies, and input from thousands of Proactiv customers. It is said to target acne bacteria with speed and precision — clearing acne faster than ever — while at the same time gently nurturing your skin to a smooth, luminous radiance. The Proactiv+ system comes with the Skin Smoothing Exfoliator, Pore Targeting Treatment, and Complexion Perfecting Hydrator.
ProactivMD is the most advanced three step system that the brand offers for those with stubborn breakouts. The ProactivMD 3-Piece System includes the Deep Cleansing Face Wash, Daily Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30, and Adapalene Gel 0.1%.
Other Proactiv Products
There are also some Proactiv products that are sold individually or included a complimentary gift, such as the Proactiv Green Tea Moisturizer, Proactiv Deep Cleansing Wash, and Proactiv Blackhead Dissolving Gel.
The Proactiv Green Tea Moisturizer is a non comedogenic formula made especially for acne-prone skin. It is designed to deliver deep hydration and gently rejuvenate dull, tired-looking skin — without clogging pores. It can be used everyday, as your step three in the morning or at night, alone or under makeup, to soothe and nourish your skin.
The Proactiv Deep Cleansing Body Wash contains maximum strength salicylic acid (2%) that gets deep into pores to clear out bacteria, oil, dirt, and debris and prevent body breakouts. It’s a medicated two-in-one treatment and cleanser that can be used anywhere you’re struggling with breakouts.
The Proactiv Blackhead Dissolving Gel is a treatment gel that is claimed to dissolve blackheads, unclog pores, absorb excess oil, and deep clean blemish-causing impurities. However, upon evaluating the ingredient list for this product, we noticed that the gel does not contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or any other acne-fighting ingredient. In fact, the formulation mostly consists of silicones.
What Are The Key Proactiv Ingredients?
The key ingredients that you’ll find in Proactiv skin care products are standard acne ingredients, including benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and a retinoid. Below we’ll discuss which Proactiv products contain these ingredients and how they may benefit your skin.
Benzoyl peroxide can be found in the original Proactiv Solution system and the Proactiv+ system. As the name implies, benzoyl peroxide is something known as a peroxide, the technical term for an unstable bond between two oxygen atoms that can create free radicals. While free radicals often have a negative connotation, in this case they can be used to effectively kill P. acnes bacteria by destroying the cell walls. Additionally, benzoyl peroxide can exfoliate and help peel the outer layer of skin. One drawback of benzoyl peroxide is that while it does effectively kill P. acnes, it also kills the good bacteria that keep your skin healthy. This can leave skin feeling dry and irritated, which for some people can make skin look worse.
Salicylic acid is a key ingredient in the Proactiv+ Complexion Perfecting Hydrator and the Proactiv Deep Cleansing Body Wash. Salicylic acid is a type of beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that works by exfoliating the pore lining, which loosens clogged dirt and oil. It also has the ability to dissolve keratin, the protein that acts as a “glue” to keep dead skin cells together in the stratum corneum. This is effective because dead skin cells can build up on the surface of your skin, leaving it looking dull and also possibly clogging pores.
Another way salicylic acid helps to fight acne is through its antibacterial activity. Salicylic acid has the ability to inhibit the production of various aspects necessary for binary fission (bacterial reproduction), such as fibrinogen, fibronectin, and alpha-hemolysis. Therefore, salicylic acid can neutralize the bacteria P. Acnes that is present in acne papules. Lastly, salicylic acid possess anti-inflammatory properties, which is ideal for treating acne since inflammation will worsen breakouts.
The retinoid that the brand uses is adapalene gel 0.1%, which you’ll find in the ProactivMD system. According to Healthline,
adapalene slows the process of excessive growth in the lining of pores and desensitizes the skin to inflammation, making it an ideal treatment for acne.
Where Are Proactiv Skin Care Products Sold?
Proactiv skin care products are sold on the brand’s website, as well as third party online retailers such as Amazon, Sephora, Ulta, and more.
How Much Do Proactiv Products Cost?
All three of the Proactiv three step systems start at $29.95 per month with a subscription.
What is The Proactiv Return Policy?
Proactiv offers a 60-Day Money Back Guarantee that states, “With every purchase on Proactiv.com, you enjoy a 60-day money-back guarantee. If you are not absolutely delighted with your clear skin and radiant new complexion, you are welcome to return the containers – even if empty – within 60 days of receipt for a complete refund of your purchase price (less S&H), no questions asked.”
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.
Does Proactiv Work?
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.” But to get the best idea of how well these products work, let’s take a look at the Proactiv reviews from real customers.
Proactiv reviews on the brand’s website are a mix of positive and negative. For example, after more than 3,000 reviews the Proactiv products have received an average rating of 3.8 out of 5 stars. There are many positive reviews from customers who noticed that the system really helped to clear their acne. For example, one review says, “This system really works! Highly recommend. The mask calmed my acne, and it helped it heal quicker. I have sensitive skin and I tolerated this just fine.”
However, there are quite a few negative Proactiv reviews from customers who were disappointed that they (or their children) didn’t see any results whatsoever. For example, one review says, “My daughter has been using this now for over 10 months. I keep buying it for her and she’s been using it as recommended but it hasn’t helped. She had her first dermatologist appointment yesterday and we will now follow their recommendations. We are canceling our subscription.”
What Are Some Alternatives to Proactiv?
Although Proactiv has its fair share of fans, it may not work for everyone. But that’s okay because there are plenty of other skin care brands for you to consider. If you have acne-prone skin or you simply want a cleanser that clears pores and exfoliates your skin, we’d recommend Formulyst’s Clarifying AHA Cleanser. The Clarifying AHA Cleanser is formulated to gently cleanse and exfoliate the skin while removing dirt and makeup. It contains glycolic acid, a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that helps to exfoliate, refine pores, control excess oil, and smooth away any surface-level roughness.
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.
There’s no need to compromise when it comes to finding skincare that is effective and safe. Carrot & Stick takes a tough love approach to skincare, perfectly balancing the power of plants with cutting edge science. Not only is Carrot & Stick good for your skin, it is also good for the environment as the formulas skip harmful chemicals as well as the preservatives, emulsifiers and thickeners commonly found in skincare products.