Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Should You Try Proactiv? March 25, 2010

Filed under: Acne,Ingredients — askanesthetician @ 9:41 am
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You’ve probably seen a Proactiv commercial more than once.  Heavy with celebrity endorsements the commercials also feature “real people” and their before and after photos.  Certainly the results from using Proactiv, as shown on the commercials, look amazing.  So if you have acne should you try Proactiv?

Proactiv isn’t so much an anti-acne treatment system but a phenomenal marketing success.  Developed by two dermatologists, Proactiv was the first company to package and sell its anti-acne products together thus creating the anti-acne “system” craze.  Now every company, drugstore, department store, and speciality skincare company, sells their anti-acne products in a kit or system in order to compete with Proactiv and its runaway success. 

The basic three step product system from Proactiv contains two active anti-acne ingredients: benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid.  The cleanser has 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and so does the third step in the system – the repairing treatment.  The second step is the revitalizing toner which contains glycolic acid, though it isn’t specified in what percentage.  These are the basic Proactiv products but there are numerous more products that you can buy as well.  Among the other products there are creams with salicylic acid, a mask with sulfur, and a skin lightening lotion with 2% hydroquinone.  Now all these products contain ingredients that are great for fighting acne, but really there is nothing special about Proactiv.  Furthermore, people with more sensitive skin will most likely get irritated from using the recommended number of products (or steps) from Proactiv.  I don’t think that this is a bad treatment system for teenagers, but not adults, suffering from acne though I do find it strange that the starter kit of three products contains a toner with glycolic acid and not salicylic acid.  I believe that the two most effective anti-acne ingredients in skincare products are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.  I find that glycolic acid can be very irritating for many people especially if it is used on a daily basis, as recommended by the Proactiv system.  Salicylic acid is both oil soluble so it can really dislodge embedded oil in clogged pores and anti-inflammatory so it can help calm the skin as well.  Glycolic acid has neither of those attributes.  For those reasons alone I don’t think Proactiv is an ideal solution for many, many people with acne.

There are so many different causes of acne so each individual needs to figure out their own acne triggers.  Figuring out your acne triggers will help you figure out which acne fighting products and solutions out there, and there are numerous options, are best for you.  (See my previous post What Causes Acne? for many more details about acne triggers)   There are so many options out there for fighting acne – why limit yourself to the options offered by Proactiv?

Also note that Proactiv is marketed at those with slight to moderate acne – not cystic acne.  Cystic acne needs to be treated by a doctor with prescription medications.   Furthermore, many people find that Proactiv helps their skin become clear initially and then it stops working.  This could be because of the high reliance on benzoyl peroxide in the Proactiv products.  Because of this phenomena people mistakenly believe that benzoyl peroxide loses its effectiveness over time.  This is not the case.  What happens is that benzoyl peroxide does all it can do for your skin so it appears as if it stopped working.  If that happens to you you’ll need to add another anti-acne ingredient or product to your routine in order to clear up your breakouts.

There is certainly no lack of interest in Proactiv, and people love to share their experiences and opinions about the product.  Check out the sites listed below to hear what other people have to say about the products.

Further Reading, Discussions, and Opinions about Proactiv



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