The Pitch: "The best-selling acne system in the world."
April 2009. Proactiv Solution is an acne-treatment system that includes five products -- a renewing cleanser, revitalizing toner, repairing lotion, an oil-free moisturizer with sun block and a daily oil controller. Each is offered as part of a five-piece (*est. $60), four-piece (*est. $50) or three-piece kit (*est. $40). The three-piece skin-care kit includes the cleanser, toner and repairing lotion, and seems to be the one most often purchased and reviewed. Proactiv acne treatment is known for its many celebrity endorsements and is an infomercial staple. A club program, which includes discounts, some free bonus products and automatic shipments, is heavily promoted -- which means you'll be paying for regular shipments whether you've run out of product or not.
Reviews among experts and users are mixed on whether Proactiv is better than other over-the-counter acne treatments that also contain benzoyl peroxide. Some reviewers, such as Good Housekeeping magazine, call Proactive skin-care the best product for fighting teen acne based on the opinions of a panel of dermatologists. Others are more cautious, finding both positives and negatives with the various products that make up the line.
There's tons of user feedback on Proactiv, and the great divergence of opinions leads us to believe that its effectiveness lies in the eyes -- and the skin -- of the beholder. Harshness is a key complaint. At least one expert says that the 2.5-percent benzoyl peroxide concentration in Proactiv Renewing Cleanser and Repairing Lotion causes less irritation than higher concentrations, but is still effective. However, user reports lead us to believe that the formulation could still be too strong for some skin types. In addition, the Revitalizing Toner uses glycolic acid, but some experts say that salicylic acid, such as found in Neutrogena Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment (*est. $24 for 2 ounces), is a more effective skin exfoliant for treating acne.
In the end, most experts say that Proactiv does contain well-proven ingredients and is worth a try if cheaper over-the-counter products aren't working. However, know that if you sign up for the automatic shipments, your costs could balloon.
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1. Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me
Paula Begoun looks at the research backing the ingredients included in Proactiv Solution 3-Step System, and gives each of the products in the kit a good -- but not great -- rating. For example, Begoun feels that the Renewing Cleanser could be too harsh for use around the eyes, but bestows praise upon the Repairing Lotion, which contains anti-irritants. Even though Begoun agrees that the Revitalizing Toner is a good alpha-hydroxy product, she says that those who are susceptible to acne should instead use a salicylic acid treatment.
Review: Proactiv Solution, Paula Begoun, Seventh edition, 2008
2. Good Housekeeping
Good Housekeeping names the two best acne-control kits, based on the opinions of six board-certified dermatologists who looked at ingredients and claims to reach their conclusions. The Proactiv Solution Kit works well and comes out on top because it has the "best antibacterial coverage" and uses benzoyl peroxide in the right concentration to be effective without causing irritation.
Review: Top Teen Skin Savers, Kristyn Pomranz, Nov. 2007
About.com guide to beauty Julyne Derrick says that Proactiv Solution 3-Step System is a "classic" acne treatment that has "worked wonders on many." This article also delves into seven "facts" about adult acne, and makes specific comments about products to deal with specific issues or conditions. She also notes that adult acne is not uncommon and that one in five women between the ages of 25 and 40 suffer from it. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Adult Acne Facts & How to Get Rid of It, Julyne Derrick
This site gets lots of traffic, as evidenced by the more than 4,400 reviews of Proactiv skin-care products. Rather than provide an overall rating, all reviewers are asked to individually rate how the product works, how well it agrees with their skin and its affordability. Some also rate Proactiv on its consistency, packaging and fragrance. Additionally, reviewers report on how long they've used the product and the severity of their acne, which adds some useful context. Some love Proactive, while some don't, and that's reflected in the ratings, which are not particularly high. Detractors often focus on Proactiv's harshness.
Review: Proactive Solution Reviews, Contributors to Acne.Org
More than 2,150 user reviewers at MakeupAlley.com give Proactiv Solution 3-Step System an overall rating of 2.7 (out of five). Though many are happy with the effectiveness of Proactiv acne treatment, less than 40 percent say that they would buy it again.
Review: Proactiv 3-Step System, Contributors to MakeupAlley.com
More than 225 users weigh in on Proactiv skin-care here, and it earns a rating of three out of five stars. While many users seem satisfied, others say it has little to no effect and we saw lots of complaints that it was too harsh for their skin.