Despite the name that indicates this product is a moisturizer, it's better described as a BHA lotion exfoliant with a cream-gel texture. It glides over the skin and then quickly sets to a matte finish that can feel a bit tacky.
Although this contains 0.5% salicylic acid, the pH of 5.6 is far too high for this anti-acne superstar to exfoliate the skin and help unclog pores plus alleviate acne. Even if the pH were in the correct range, a higher concentration of salicylic acid is preferred, especially for stubborn breakouts and red marks, not to mention the fragrance this contains poses a risk of irritation.
ProActiv repackaged this from a problematic jar (which helped to quickly degrade the effectiveness of the formula's light- and air-sensitive ingredients) to an opaque tube. That's a much better choice, but still doesn't overcome the issues mentioned above.
For what this costs, the lack of results are truly disappointing—and far from fulfilling its promise to deliver clear skin. At best, this is an OK option for smoothing normal to oily or combination skin, but if breakouts are a concern, you can do better than this. See our list of Best BHA Exfoliants for superior picks.
This medicated moisturizer WON'T clog pores but WILL calm redness, brighten tone and fade post-acne marks.
Active: Salicylic Acid 0.5%. Inactive: Water, Butylene Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Sodium Polyacrylate, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Sophora Angustifolia (Licorice) Root Extract, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract, Kojic Acid, Zinc Gluconate, Alpha-Glucan Oligosaccharide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Bisobolol, Allantoin, Squalane, Safflower Oil/Palm Oil Aminopropanediol Esters, C 12-15 Alkyl Lactate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Glycerin, Ethyhexyl Palmitate, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, PPG-5-Laureth-5, Polyquaternium-11, Ceteareth-20, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Polysorbate 60, Hexylene Glycol, PPG-2 Myristyl Ether Propionate, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance.
Proactiv Solution At-A-Glance
Strengths: Effective, elegant-textured AHA, BHA, and skin-lightening options; all sunscreens provide sufficient UVA protection; good options for controlling excess oil breakthrough, including a colorless pressed powder.
Weaknesses: Several products contain irritating ingredients that do not help acne-prone skin; some gimmicky products that no dermatologist-created line should be selling (they should know better); mostly substandard to poor makeup options, including a sulfur-based concealer.
Created by dermatologists Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields, Proactiv launched in 1995 as a three-step system sold via infomercial. With the doctors' endorsements and winning personalities along with a heap of testimonials from people who use the routine (including a rotating list of celebrities, which always garners attention), Proactiv remains a very successful brand that is still going strong. The effusiveness, medical background, accurate information about how acne forms, and sincerity of its creators definitely makes for compelling television (we admit to catching the infomercial on more than one sleepless night), but what about the products themselves? Are they the answer the ads promise?
The core system consists of a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide and scrub particles, a toner with glycolic acid, and a lotion that contains a low (but still effective) amount of benzoyl peroxide. No questions here, this is a straightforward routine and hardly unique to Proactiv! Some percentage of people will benefit from daily use of this system (it contains the basics that are necessary for over-the-counter treatment of acne), but it's definitely not for everyone, and every dermatologist knows that (just check out the American Academy of Dermatology Web site at www.aad.org, for example, on their recommendations for battling blemishes).
It also goes without saying that other lines offer many less expensive versions of all the Proactiv products. However, for those who choose this system, the key is compliance, at least as long as you're seeing good results. Anyone battling acne needs to know that, barring a successful experience with the prescription drug Accutane, it cannot be cured—only controlled. We don't doubt that many people have seen their acne respond positively to a daily routine of the core Proactiv products, and for some it has been a life-changing experience—but it's not the answer for acne for everyone.
Although they still appear in ads and literature for the brand, Drs. Rodan and Fields have branched out to create their own namesake line, reviewed elsewhere on this site. While the Rodan + Fields line is not acne-centric like Proactiv, they did include products for blemishes, a few of which are similar to but more expensive than their Proactiv counterparts. And of course, this dual branding begs the question: if Rodan and Fields believe that Proactiv is the best option for those struggling with acne, why did they create alternative products in their namesake line? Why not just mention to Rodan + Fields customers dealing with acne that the Proactiv line has exactly what they need?
Along with Proactiv and the namesame Rodan and Fields line, these dermatologists also created Proactiv+, which is supposed to be smarter and faster than original Proactiv. For the most part, these products are quite similar, they just have a stronger emphasis on anti-aging issues such as uneven skin tone and enlarged pores from sun damage. We wish these products were more compelling, but many of them are truly problematic and not something two reputable dermatologists should feel comfortable putting their names on.
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