Proactiv Solution 3-Step System comes with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser, glycolic acid toner and benzoyl peroxide lotion for the treatment of mild to moderate acne. Consumers must purchase the entire system from the website before they are able to make single product purchases. If you are looking for a single but effective benzoyl peroxide product, Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 (*Est. $6 for 1 oz.) is our Best Reviewed choice for spot treatments.
Are three products necessary? Experts say Proactiv Solution 3-Step System is effective at treating blemishes, but no more so than many other less-expensive formulas. The Renewing Cleanser and the Repairing Lotion both contain benzoyl peroxide, which is a proven topical medication for acne. The Revitalizing Toner contains glycolic acid, a skin exfoliant, but Paula Begoun, skin-care expert and author of "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me," says it is not as effective as salicylic acid in treating acne.
Consumers at MakeupAlley.com have mixed opinions about Proactiv. While some say that Proactiv is the only product that works for them, others complain that it irritated their skin and made acne worse. Several users prefer to use just one or two products in the system, though favorites vary from one person to the next. Begoun also gives different ratings to each of the products. She points out that benzoyl peroxide isn't useful in a cleaner because it is rinsed off before it can do much good. She does give the lotion a high rating due to its gentle but effective amount of benzoyl peroxide and several anti-irritants.
A gritty cleanser. Proactiv Renewing Cleanser contains tiny beads for scrubbing action and mild exfoliation, giving it a slightly gritty texture. All three formulas contain a small amount of fragrance, but we didn't see many comments about their scent.
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Review Credibility: Excellent Paula Begoun gives each of the products included in Proactiv Solution 3-Step System a reasonable rating based on the solid scientific evidence behind their ingredients. Begoun notes that the Renewing Cleanser may be too harsh for use around the eyes, but she raves about the Repairing Lotion, which contains anti-irritants. She says the Revitalizing Toner is a good alpha-hydroxy product but recommends that acne-prone individuals use a salicylic acid treatment instead.
Review: Proactiv Solution At-a-Glance, Paula Begoun, Not dated
Review Credibility: Very Good Editors of ConsumerReports.org compare the efficacy of three benzoyl peroxide-based topical acne treatments, including Proactiv 3-Step System, as well as two heat zapping devices. All of the topical treatments were effective and produced similar results.
Review: Review of Acne Treatments, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, November 2011
Review Credibility: Good Editors of InStyle magazine test hundreds of products for their annual beauty awards. Proactiv Solution 3-Step System is named the best acne regimen for 2009 due to its "prescription-grade" benzoyl peroxide.
Review: Best Beauty Buys 2009: Skin, Editors of InStyle magazine, April 2009
4. Good Housekeeping
Review Credibility: Good Dermatologists evaluate five acne-control kits based on ingredients and claims. Proactiv Solution 3-Step System is chosen as the winner because it provides antibacterial coverage with a "mild, but appropriate" solution of benzoyl peroxide.
Review: Top Teen Skin Savers, Kristyn Pomranz, November 2007
Review Credibility: Good More than 3,000 consumers at MakeupAlley.com give Proactiv Solution 3-Step System a dismal overall rating of just 2.6 out of 5. Only 34 percent say they would purchase the system again. While several consumers are pleased with the results, just as many are disappointed. Several say that the system is effective in the beginning but that it eventually stops working as their skin builds up a tolerance to it. Many consumers prefer one or two of the products rather than the entire kit.
Review: Proactiv 3-Step System, Contributors to MakeupAlley.com, As of April 2013
Review Credibility: Good Julyne Derrick, About.com's guide to beauty, lists eight facts about adult acne and recommends several products. Derrick recommends Proactiv Solution 3-Step System as a "classic" that has "worked wonders on many." It's unknown how the products are chosen. She doesn't rate or compare any of the products listed.
Review: 8 Adult Acne Facts (Plus, How to Treat It), Julyne Derrick, Not dated