Does Proactiv Live Up to All Those Celebrity Endorsements?

by Theresa on January 28, 2009 · 12 comments

Is Proactiv the solution to having skin just like the celebrities?  And if so what specifically makes it so special? I wanted to find out what ingredients make it more beneficial in treating acne than a regular over-the-counter skin care line. A dermatologist reviewed Proactiv and she broke down the ingredients and commented on them below.

Meaningful Beauty KitProactiv has cornered the 3-Step acne treatment market for years. These products have limited availability outside the mail order option. I also wanted to break down the ingredients in the kit so that we can see if you’re paying for quality or just the Jessica Simpson endorsement.

Geez, do you think they have enough celebrities endorsing this product? Proactiv is well-known for its infomercials starring a long line of celebs. There’s Jessica Simpson, Alicia Keys, P. Diddy, Britney Spears, Vanessa Williams and Elle McPherson. And now I see Serena Williams, Alyssa Milano and Julianne Hough are endorsing it!

The Proactiv Basic Kit

For the whole kit below, Proactiv retails from $55 to $67 depending on where you buy it.  If it’s by mail, add shipping and handling costs.

Anyone who orders the[tags]Proactiv[/tags] system automatically becomes a member in the Proactiv Solutions Clear Skin Club. That means the company will automatically ship a new kit every two months.

Continuing with the kit for multiple months can be very expensive. To opt out of the club, or change the rate that Proactiv products are delivered - customers have to call the customer service number and cancel their membership.

The kit contains:

  • Renewing Cleanser - 120 ml
  • Revitalizing toner - 120 ml
  • Repairing Lotion - 60 ml
  • Oil-Free Moisture with SPF 15
  • Daily Oil Control
  • A bonus gift - choice of a Refining Mask or Green Tea Moisturizer

Proactiv Ingredients Explained

1. Benzoyl Peroxide
Jessica Simpson and ProactivDr. Vicki Taraska, a cosmetic dermatologist did a review on Proactiv and this is what she found. Proactiv is on the right track when it comes to ingredients. The active ingredient is benzoyl peroxide which has been a pretty standard acne-fighting ingredient for years.

Proactiv has 2.5% benzoyl peroxide in both the cleanser and repairing lotion.

The benzoyl peroxide can help acne and the higher the concentration - the more the effect. Some products have a 3.7% concentration as compared to Proactiv which has 2.5%. Since the difference is so small, it wouldn't be significant in terms of results.

Also some alternative products have benzoyl peroxide in the cleanser and some don't. Dr. Taraska mentions that it’s more important that there is benzoyl peroxide in the lotion since it stays on the skin allowing time for the medication to work.

Proactiv Renewing Cleanser contains small granules - it’s an ‘exfoliating cleanser.’  Dr. Taraska says "This is worth mentioning because if a cleanser has exfoliating properties, it will increase the absorption of the other ingredients in the product - like benzoyl peroxide. The Proactiv product was exfoliating to some extent."

2. Glycolic Acid
Proactiv also has glycolic acid. Dr. Taraska said that “glycolic acid can help exfoliate the skin and unplug blocked pores which helps improve acne.” Technically speaking, glycolic acid would help with skin care a little bit.”

Proactiv is now available in airport terminals!

Proactiv is now available in airport terminals!

Looking Beyond Proactiv

Dr. Taraska made the point that these kits can help mild acne. “Just don’t get sucked in by all the marketing and actresses hyping its success. You can find less costly over the counter products that have more benzoyl peroxide in them. See a dermatologist if you’re not getting any results from these products - because there are many treatments available.”

What's her best advice to teens with acne and limited budgets?  “If you only had $10 in your pocket, head to the drugstore and get a topical benzoyl peroxide treatment. There are lots available over-the-counter. And get a gentle cleanser….you don’t need the fancy kit with the infomercial.”

The other point she wanted to emphasize to teens is that if you’re having scarring and really serious acne – you can’t buy something for $10 for that. “Go in and get help. Go see a dermatologist. There are prescription treatments that will do more than these kits ever can. And remember too - you can treat acne, but you can’t cure it."

If you still want to give it a try you can find it at Also if you'd like to replenish individual bottles instead of the whole set eBay has these available for you..

Proactiv 60 day 3pc Kit New Formula Proactive Fresh 2015 Expiration
Proactiv 60 day 3pc Kit New Formula Proactive Fresh 2015 Expiration
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Proactov + Skin Smoothing Exfoliator
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Proactiv 60 day 5pc Kit 3pc+Mask+Green Tea Moisturizer New Formula Proactive
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Proactiv+ 4 Piece Kit
Proactiv+ 4 Piece Kit
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Proactiv Repairing Treatment 4oz New Formula Proactive Lotion
Proactiv Repairing Treatment 4oz New Formula Proactive Lotion
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Proactiv Renewing Cleanser New Formula 4oz Proactive
Proactiv Renewing Cleanser New Formula 4oz Proactive
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Proactiv 120 day 3pc Kit New Formula Proactive
Proactiv 120 day 3pc Kit New Formula Proactive
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The Bottom Line on Proactiv Products

Proactiv works for the majority who try it. I looked at several reviews and I noticed also that there are a small percentage of people that it absolutely does not work for. This groups biggest complaints were that it made their skin very dry or made their acne much worse.  The truth is that there isn’t one acne treatment that works for absolutely everyone. The biggest problem with Proactive is that they use a "one size fits all" approach to acne treatment.  The actual products you use for your skin are up to you. Choose them based on your particular skin type and your skin's needs. Hopefully this review helped you decide if Proactiv is right for you. They sure do market it to death! By the way, I've done an Infinity Razor review that comes with the most unusual bonus gift. A 7 inch chef's knife! Hmmm interesting!

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 wigiwood September 6, 2009

I have to say that proactive is great. I am 45 with adult acne and I use it once a day now to save money. It is the only thing I have tried that gets rid of the zits and keeps them away.

2 Mena September 9, 2009

I used ProActive when I was younger (I am now 30). This is the only product that worked on my embarrassing acne as a teenager and up to my early 20′s. Yes, I did experience the redness and sensitive skin, but all I had to do was reduce the frequency of usage and my skin eventually adjusted to it. I’ve actually recommended ProActive to any young adult who is experiencing acne as well.

3 aimee April 7, 2010

This stuff really works, if you use it. I’ve used it for about 10 yrs now and when i dont the acne comes back. Ive tried other products but this stuff works wonders. The mask really does heal pimples almost over night.

4 Debra April 17, 2010

Thanks for the warnings – a patch test sounds called for but for $40. bucks and a call I’m going to check it out just for fun. I have had a good experience with Guthy-Renker in the past. I’m going to try the other suggestions too. BTW Proactiv worked extremely well for me (thin, dry, sensitive, again skin) and was worth every penny.

I must comment on this issue (and i never do this…but:) ProActiv is the SINGLE most effective acne treatment I have EVER used, ever. I have dry, sensitive, aging skin – and with several hormonal changes – had at least moderate acne for about a decade from my 30′s through my 40′s. When I used the ProActiv I had clear, great skin. When I didn’t use it, acne came back everytime.

I had used Retin A and OTC stuff and Rx’s for years and they left me dry or rashy IF they worked. ProActiv did none of this, ever. And it works within 3 days for me. I swear by this stuff. I think it’s the lighter concentration of peroxide and the glycolic acid “preparing the way” for it, but I don’t know. I just know it worked like magic for me with my thin, white, sensitive aging skin. I wish I had it as a pimply teen. The only caveat at all was that it didn’t work for a friend’s teen I bought it for. I do think she used it regularly but she has very, very oily skin. But for my skin – awesome product.

5 Chris June 5, 2010

I am one of that small percent of the population plagued with lifelong acne that began in my early teens and never cleared despite numerous consultations with doctors and a king’s ransom spent on “cures.” As a young adult, I was also diagnosed with rosacea. Over the decades, I’ve tried just about every skin treatment (including spa facials, medical facials, peels, dermabrasion, sulpha packs, Accutane, etc.) as well as countless OTCs – salves, lotions, facials, scrubs, soaps, medicated makeup, pre-moistened non prescription pads, steam, saunas, wipes – you name it. A few years ago when my general physician sent me to “a great dermatologist” he told me, to my surprise, that I had done the very best that could be done and he had nothing he could offer.

But hope springs eternal. A couple of years ago, after seeing a ProActiv infomercial and listening to all the glowing reports from the Beautiful People, I phoned in my order but their products did absolutely nothing for me – not helpful, not damaging, just nothing. After a few weeks with no results, I went to the ProActive website and took their online test to determine which products would work on my kind of acne but after spending considerable time answering all their questions, the screen froze up and their answer never appeared – so I gather their products are not meant for me. Meanwhile, ProActive continued mailing more products to me and billing my credit card. I had some difficulty getting them to stop mailing new sets every 30 days – but they did cancel the mailings and they removed credit card charges from my bill, for which I am grateful. I offered to return the unused sets but the ProActiv consultant advised me to keep them. As I knew they wouldn’t work for me, I donated them, unopened, to a drop-off charity near my home. I am grateful that ProActiv didn’t do any harm, but wished they had done some good. The cost of these monthly supplies (plus shipping) adds up to more money than seeing a dermatologist once or twice a year and buying a few prescriptions.

If you are suffering from adult acne, I strongly recommend a good dermatologist, even if you tried that route in the past and became disillusioned. Even some of my doctors have stubborn acne, and my current pharmacist tells me she has “given up” on doing anything for her skin condition. It’s just one of those sad facts of life. But modern medicine is, in my opinion, more effective than the limited and frankly weird options of my youth. By following my current dermatologist’s orders combined with judicious use of prescription ointments and oral meds I am reasonably satisfied. In fairness to ProActive, I should add that not even all prescriptions have worked for my acne; in fact most I’ve tried have not – for instance, I found a creamy facial cleanser called Pernox so harsh on my hands that I had to wash my face wearing rubber gloves! Through trial and error, my doctor told me to discontinue using some prescriptions, including Pernox (after about 5 years of daily use) and a host of other costly stuff – I have a jumbo vat in my bathroom full of useless prescriptions – but at least I know for sure what WON’T work! There are some painful side effects to medications and I am not the greatest candidate for oral meds of any kind, but the most recent advances in medical treatments have kept my skin looking decently clear and don’t take too much time to use. The up side of my skin type is that it doesn’t wrinkle.

These days, in addition to a daily oral medication and a prescription ointment, I also use an OTC mildly acid micro scrub every couple of days, and warm gentle antibacterial soap suds to clean my face otherwise. I avoid any harsh scrubs, puffs or brushes – all which can scar my skin. I never touch my face unless I am washing it and I don’t lean on my hands; anyone who touches my face (such as an eye glass technician) had better have clean hands or breakouts will occur within a day or two of such contact. I wash my eyeglasses and sun glasses once or twice a day. I avoid facials because clay is nearly impossible to remove from my enlarged pores (particles can be seen trapped in pores by my dermatologist under magnification).

My doctors have told me that foods have no affect on my condition, but strong cheeses like feta seem to wreak havoc with my skin. My lifelong battle against acne has been marred by misery and error, but I have found some help with a good doctor and decent results from his laser treatments. Costly but useful.

6 Chris June 8, 2010

Woops, I made an error in my entry above, sorry, everybody! PLEXION is the prescription face cleanser that I used for years (it contains sulfur and sodium sulfacetamide); it was harsh on my hands and difficult to rinse off; eventually my dermatologist told me to discontinue using it and just use mild soap.

For the record, many moons ago I did try Pernox but saw no improvement – maybe the product is more effective nowadays?
Yesterday I bought an OTC cleanser I’ve never seen before with salicylic acid that states on the squeeze tube that it is “clinically proven to instantly work 68% better than Proactiv” – I’ve had consistently good results with other OTC cleansers that contain salicylic acid.

7 robert smith September 11, 2010

i havent tried this cosmetic dermatologist’s kit but i found its good review, i tried now, i hope its will be the best which i looking for.

8 StevieN235 December 2, 2010

I usually use ProActiv, but I wanted to try something new which was healthier with less chemicals. I read bad reviews of all the harmful chemicals in proactive. My mother who is in her 60′s and looks like she is in her 30′s, recommended Made from Earth.

I have a bit of adult acne and she recommended the Made from Earth Grapefruit Glycolic Scrub, and it works just as well as ProActiv. I used it for a couple of days, and saw results right away. Overall, my skin looks much better than before I used it. I didnt use any of their moisturizers but I would recommend the Grapefruit Glycolic Scrub.

9 Daylight December 25, 2010

I just received the whole kit of this stuff, but I’m afraid to put any of it on my skin.
I’ve been suffering from acne for about 3 long years now, and I’m 17. My acne has cleared up a ton since the beginning, but I still have some scars and discolorations on the side of my face.

I am TERRIFIED of what the results of Proactiv may do.

After reading several reviews, many say that it only worsens their acne and gives them even MORE pimples. This is what I DO not want. I’ve worked hard to get here with my skin, and I’m not ready to take back 3 years of hard work. I’m really caught in the middle here – does anyone have some encouraging advice? Should I use this or can it..?

10 Theresa December 29, 2010

I would try using Proactive on a small patch of skin first for a few days. If you find it’s not working out for you just return it.

Actually I’ll tell you something that really worked for me. If you can afford doing this. I’ve also had acne scars and skin discoloration so I went and got a package deal on series of laser treatments. It was done over a period of 6 months. I literally took 10 years off of the look of my skin by clearing up any discoloration, acne scars and also firmed the skin. It cost around $2,000 all together but it gets at the root of the problem by basically taking off the uneven skin and revealing the new fresh skin below. There is hope out there for your skin! Diet, I know is a big part of it and also I heard that doing a cleanse (colon cleanse) also helps. You can get those from a health food store..they take about a week to do but it clears up all sorts of issues with health and skin etc. Very good to do every year!

11 Ann February 26, 2011

I used Proactive as a teen, it made my face clear up beautifully…for about a month and a half. Then my cheeks started breaking out horribly. I had acne right next to acne, all natural braille on my face. I was mortified. My face was also started to be extremely oily when it had never been like that before.

I called to cancel my order and possibly get my money back. They did both and sent me some oil clearing stuff to use. As soon as that came in the mail it went into the garbage.

12 Angie September 20, 2012

I actually loved this proactiv product. I had acne since I was in my early teens to which I used prescriptions from the dermatotlgists I went to, but they burned and reddend my skin leaving it raw with acne. I heard about this product about 9 yrs ago and tried it, it worked wonders. I don’t use it anymore, I’m in my mid 30′s , but it worked for me. I work in health care and decided that although some things (skin care, allergy meds, etc). may work for someone else, they may not work for you. But, as for me Proactiv products worked very well. BTW they auto rebill you each month and send you a shipment, if you just want to try it, order, but call to cancel asap if it’s not for you or go to a mall kisok, there’s one at the mall I go to and then you don’t have to worry about the auto shipment/bill.