Proactiv Review – More Than 20 Years of Success

Proactiv has been one of the most successful multi-step acne solutions for more than 20 years. With Drs. Rodan and Fields beginning their development of the 3-step system in the late 80s, the product was first launched in 1995. In this review, I’ll break down how it works, what people are saying about Proactiv, and where to buy it.  Read on to learn everything you need to know about this acne-fighting system.

Proactiv review packaging

How will Proactiv help you?

Managing acne is a messy business because acne is actually caused by a cocktail of factors. The bacteria found in acne grows in the cushy dead skin cells and oil that get trapped in your pores, but fighting acne isn’t as simple as keeping those pores clean.




When I first learned about the bacteria that was causing the acne covering my face as a teen, I couldn’t understand how I continued to break out despite a rigorous skin care regimen. I kept my face clean, exfoliated dead skin cells, and tried to sop up what excess oil I produced with various powders and blot pads. But my acne never budged.

The Problem

The causes of acne are actually much more complex than simply keeping your skin fresh and clean. Anyone who’s dealt with acne, especially into adulthood, knows that some of the best skin care regimens barely keep acne at bay. I remember when the other kids at school would make fun of me, asking rhetorically, “Why don’t you just wash your face?”

But even when you do find a scrub or exfoliator that helps, you can end up making your skin worse if the products you use don’t play nice together. If you can keep your face clean but your skin dries out, or if you experience redness or burning from using one product after another, you might benefit from Proactiv’s world-renowned 3-step system.


image3 1

Proactiv+ packaging

The Proactiv Results

Development of the Proactiv 3-Step Acne System started in the 1980s by dermatologists Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields. In 1995, they released their 3-step product designed to: gently exfoliate dead skin cells, clean out your pores and kill bacteria, and keep your skin moisturized and healthy. The product has been the most popular multi-step solution for people fighting acne in the States for years. It not only addresses the very causes of acne, but it’s designed as a whole system so that harsh reactions between brands or products is no longer an issue.

You want a solution, but you want a solution that takes care of it all. You don’t want to play around with different products and ultimately spend more time and money to find what works to keep you clear. Sound like your dream solution?


What We Liked and Disliked About Proactiv

What we liked about Proactive could comprise an article of its own. The system is an independent, all-inclusive acne-fighting solution that has changed the lives of millions of people suffering from acne.

Among the strongest PROS of Proactive are:

  • It’s comprehensive – All the products you need are included in the kit, and are designed to avoid unpleasant interactions between disparate products.
  • It includes an acne-fighting moisturizer – One of the perpetual traps many of us fall into is keeping our face clean but without adequate moisture. Especially for those of us with oily skin, the idea of using a moisturizer seems counter-productive. However, this is an important part of the Proactiv system that Drs. Rodan and Fields take into account.
  • It’s mild – What, “mild?” You might think this is a bad word if we’re talking about getting to the heart of your unstoppable acne. But as a mild solution, you use Proactive twice a day—before bed, and again in the morning. Just like when you eat multiple meals a day to keep hunger at bay, this system is more effective in controlling acne-causing bacteria and the occurrence of zits because it’s mild enough that you can use it without doing damage to your skin.
  • It’s effective – This is what it really comes down to. Because of the 3-part system, you can successfully exfoliate dead skin cells, kill the acne-causing bacteria, and seal up your pores with the clean moisture they need. The 3-step process also encourages compliance with a full care regimen in a world where most ineffective reports of acne-fighting systems comes from non-compliance or quitting early.

Proactiv is not without its shortcomings, particularly if you’re part of the 34% that don’t see results after a couple of months. Also, its active ingredient is benzoyl peroxide, which might not be the best option for some folks.

Our strongest CONS of Proactive are:

  • There’s no guarantee it will work – When we talk about acne, we’re talking about different types of acne across different skin types. The causes of one person’s case of acne aren’t always certain, and sometimes this mild, one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work. Just be sure to give it a full 8 weeks to see if it works for you.
  • Reactions to benzoyl peroxide – Of the over-the-counter solutions for acne, you’ll find lots of products with the active ingredient benzoyl peroxide. It’s popular because it kills the bacteria that causes acne, leaving pores clean and able to breathe again. But it has common side effects, like dryness or redness of skin. Some people have strong reactions where they’re left with what looks like a sunburn until their skin heals.
  • Proactiv doesn’t cure acne – Then again, nothing does. As soon as you stop using the product, your acne can come back. It’s designed for use until you outgrow acne altogether, which for some of us can mean using it until we’re into our 30s.
  • It can be more expensive than other items – The three-part system typically runs between $35 and $40, where other products containing benzoyl peroxide can be bought at the pharmacy for as little as $5. When you decide to pay for Proactiv 3-Step, it’s because you want the whole system it provides.


Proactiv Customer Review

There are several common streams of thought on Proactiv reviews. With as many as 34% of users seeing few to no results, it’s not uncommon to find a review about the “Proactiv scam.” But don’t let that discourage you. Proactiv is the most popular acne-fighting system in the U.S., and there’s plenty of reason why. We’re going to walk you through a couple reviews to give you a clearer idea of what other people have experienced using Proactiv.



Many of the positive reviews about Proactiv talk about adolescent acne. And where people have had success, there also seems to be common themes of those with “few” or “moderate” breakouts. If you struggle with severe acne or are at risk of acne scarring, most dermatologists would recommend a different treatment.


One of the most common negative reviews is about the size of the bottles, particularly for the price you pay. But, again, if you choose to try Proactiv, it’s an investment in the whole system and the development that went into it.


Where to buy Proactiv cheap

Proactive was originally available only by infomercial, as the product was launched by marketing company Guthy-Renker. The product is still distributed through Guthy-Renker today, but also sold in pharmacies and larger retailers. Proactiv has a map on their website to find local retailers near you that carry Proactiv in stock.

Proactiv is also well-known for setting up kiosks in malls and shopping centers, and their website will also tell you where to find centers with open kiosks.

You can also buy Proactiv directly on their website, or across other online retailers like Amazon. The cost of a 30-day kit is $19.95 with a subscription via the Proactiv website, or $34.95 on Amazon without.


Proactiv Discount Code

There are some discount codes you can sometimes find for the Proactiv 3-Step Kit, and some for the Proactiv+ product as well. However, many of these are temporary promotions—be sure to search for your current month when hunting them out.

These discount codes are pretty spotty, but there’s a big discount for buying Proactiv as a subscription via their website. Because Proactiv keeps you clear but doesn’t actually cure acne, you’ll have to buy one kit after another. If you purchase the subscription—where you’re automatically billed and shipped every 60 days with your next batch— then you pay only $19.95 a month.

Discounts might also be available for a specific retailer that can be applied to Proactiv or other products you buy from that seller. Amazon, for example, might give you the option of free-shipping on Proactiv if you’re a member of Amazon Prime.


Alternatives to Proactiv

There has been lots of debate recently about the Proactiv vs. Clinique 3-Step acne solution. The Clinique system has been said to be a little more “mild,” but with similar rates of success because of the pre-quiz to determine skin type and to set you up to understand your treatment and how it will work. But here’s the remarkable thing—it’s not even exclusively purposed to treat acne, and yet it’s known to help with breakouts.

So, how do they do it?

After taking the quiz to determine your skin type and severity of acne, you’re recommended certain products within their 3-step product line. Because the system is more sensitive to your particular skin type, Clinique clients enjoy overall healthier skin with fewer breakouts.

This system is very different then benzoyl peroxide-based Proactiv, but it has its own merits. Giving either product a try, you’ll just want to be sure to give it enough time that you’re sure whether it’s the right product for you.

Questions before buying Proactiv

There are a lot of questions you probably have about Proactiv, some of which might have to do with your specific skin- or acne-type. Some of the basic questions about the system itself are beneficial to look at for everyone, though, so let’s break a few down.


Is benzoyl peroxide dangerous?

Benzoyl peroxide is like any other active ingredient in a treatment product. Some people might have allergic or more pronounced reactions. The common side effects, particularly with the relatively low 2.5% potency that Proactiv products have, is redness or light peeling. Some people also experience a heightened sensitivity to the sun.

Do you have to wait before applying each step?

You don’t have to wait between steps 1 and 2, or 2 and 3 longer than for the product to dry. The product is designed for you to use right before bed and right after waking up, but beware – especially if you’re using Proactiv along your shoulders, neck or back, benzoyl peroxide is known to bleach clothing. Letting the products dry thoroughly helps prevent staining your bedsheets or clothes.

What quantities does Proactiv come in?

Because Proactiv is a subscription-based product, you can set up 30 or 60-day shipments. Starting off with one 30-day kit is a popular option, but because some users have to use the product for as much as 8 weeks, there’s good argument to start with a 60-day kit.

The 30-day bottle of Proactiv Renewing Cleanser comes in a 2 ounce bottle. The Revitalizing Toner is also in a bottle of 2 ounces. The moisturizing Repairing Treatment is a 1-ounce bottle.


My final opinion about Proactiv

Proactiv results speak for themselves, especially with as many as 66% of users seeing results after 8 weeks of regular use. Just like with other acne-fighting solutions and systems, the number-one reason for product failure is because people use the system incorrectly or inconsistently.

A commitment to Proactiv means using a 3-part system twice a day, once at bedtime and once in the morning. You start by exfoliating dead skin cells using the Proactiv Renewing Cleanser. Once your face is clean and dry, you apply the Revitalizing Toner to zap acne where it starts, in the very bacteria that tries to build in your pores. And then, you lock in added moisture using the Repairing Treatment.

Proactiv isn’t for everyone, but its success has been made evident over more than 20 years in business.  It’s the most popular multi-part acne system used in the U.S., and has made the 3-step system popular in other brands, too. Give the 30-day pack a try to see if Proactiv can work for you!



Proactiv summary
  • Price
  • Effect
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Availibility


Proactive is the most popular acne-fighting solution in the U.S., with over 20 years of demonstrated success. The 3-step system was designed by dermatologists, and has been celebrated and modeled after for years since.

Jonathan Clark

An individual with more than 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry. The last 5 years i have been specializing in acne treatment and analyzed more than 100 products.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments