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Proactiv Solution Review

Updated: August 15, 2016

Bottom Line


  • Less irritating than some
  • Contains benzoyl peroxide
  • Repairing lotion is rich with anti-irritants


  • Toner contains glycolic acid
  • May be too harsh for sensitive skin
  • Expensive
Our Analysis
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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.

Our Sources

1. Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me
Paula Begoun, Seventh edition, 2008

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.

2. Good Housekeeping
Kristyn Pomranz, Nov. 2007

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.

Julyne Derrick,

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.)

Contributors to Acne.Org,

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.

Contributors to MakeupAlley.com,

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.


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.

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