Proactiv Plus Review – Does it Really Work?

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Proactiv Plus

You’ve seen the commercials on TV, and thumbed across the print ads in your favorite magazines. With an ever-growing list of celebrity endorsements and real life consumers who have tried Proactiv+ and loved it, you’ve no doubt been tempted to try it out.

But, just because your favorite celebrities tout the fabulous results, does that mean Proactiv Plus is all it’s said to be? Let’s take a closer look before you buy…

Proactiv brand overview

Proactiv was launched in 1995 by two Sanford-educated dermatologists, Katie Rodan, M.D. and Kathy Fields, M.D. The doctors claim to have dealt with acne themselves, and therefore were on a mission to find and/or create a skin care regime that would clear skin and keep it healthy.

Today, Proactiv is touted as one of America’s bestselling acne systems, and has been recognized with 28 awards and honors from the beauty and health industry.

In recent years, Proactiv Plus was developed to address both the issues of acne and other age/environmental skin conditions, in hopes to make it more appealing as a skincare treatment, rather than just an acne system.


Product and claims

According to the Proactiv website:

Proactiv Plus is an advanced acne-treatment system with added medicine, built-in hydration and a new, smart way to treat acne. It is an all-new 3-Step System — completely reformulated from the ground up — for the dual purpose of delivering clear skin + a radiant complexion.

Proactiv Plus is our first-ever dual-therapy acne + skincare system designed to promote healthy pores. The three synergistic steps combine our most powerful acne treatment ever with advanced, effective skincare ingredients.


These are the ingredients in each of the three main products, as listed on the Proactiv website:

Step One: Skin Smoothing Exfoliator

Active Ingredient(s): benzoyl peroxide 2.5%

Mid age woman happily looking at the camera

Inactive Ingredients: water, sodium cocoyl isethionate, glycerin, polyethylene, lauryl/myristyl benzoate, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, butylene glycol, dimethicone, ethylhexylglycerin, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, glycolic acid, sodium hydroxide, phenoxyethanol, fragrance.

Step Two: Pore Targeting Treatment

Active Ingredient(s): benzoyl peroxide 2.5%

Inactive Ingredients: water, ethoxydiglycol, glycerin, prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil, polysorbate 80, polysorbate 60, sorbitan stearate, carbomer, potassium hydroxide, disodium EDTA, fragrance.

Step Three: Complexion Perfecting Hydrator

Active Ingredient(s): salicylic acid 0.5%

Inactive Ingredients: water, butylene glycol, cetearyl alcohol, dimethicone, sodium polyacrylate, scutellaria baicalensis root extract, sophora angustifolia root extract, morus alba root extract, glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract, arctostaphylos uva ursi leaf extract, kojic acid, zinc gluconate, alpha-glucan oligosaccharide, sodium hyaluronate, bisabolol, allantoin, squalane, safflower oil/palm oil aminopropanediol esters, C12-15 alkyl lactate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, caprylyl glycol, ethylhexylglycerin, glycerin, ethylhexyl 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.

While the Proavtiv+ products do not have any overtly dangerous chemical ingredients, they do include ingredients, such as zinc oxide, which has been linked (tentatively) to cancer, and has been known to bleach pillowcases and sheets. And, although part of the purpose is to dry out the overly active oil producing pores in your face, there is a fine line as to how much “drying out” some skin can handle. Those with extremely sensitive skin might do well to shop for a gentler product.

Application and regimen recommendations

The Proactiv website recommends the following regime when using Proactiv Plus:


SKIN SMOOTHING EXFOLIATOR- Smooth away excess oil, dirt and other impurities with your daily cleanser.

  • Apply a large coin-sized amount to dampened skin.
  • Gently massage in circular motion for 2-3 minutes.
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm water and pat dry.


PORE TARGETING TREATMENT- Kill acne bacteria deep in the pore with your daily treatment.

  • Apply a minimum of 2 pumps to clean, dry skin.
  • Gently smooth over entire face—do not rinse off.
  • Allow to fully absorb before proceeding to Step 3.



COMPLEXION PERFECTING HYDRATOR- Soothe irritation, brighten tone and visibly reduce post-acne marks without clogging pores with your daily hydrator.

  • Apply a minimum of a large coin-sized amount to dry skin.
  • Gently smooth over entire face—do not rinse off.
  • Allow to absorb. Reapply throughout the day if needed. If going outside, also apply SPF 15 or higher.

Are there other Proactiv Plus products to buy? Of course there are… but they are not reported as “necessary” in the effectiveness of the three products in the main regime above.

Cheerful woman showing her back and shoulders


The reviews on the Proactiv Plus system are surprisingly split. On sites such as, there were more negative reviews than positive, with the main complaints citing redness, severe dryness, itching, and complete ineffectiveness, along with price.

Others claim that the products will reduce or eliminate acne, but that the acne will sometimes reoccur later, though they have continued to use the products.

Proactiv Plus reviews on sites such as are not as spilt, with negative comments far outnumbering positive reviews by as much as 3 to 1. Complaints here cite not just the ineffectiveness or harsh results of the product, but also consumers feeling overcharged. There were also many reported problems in dealing with the customer service of the Proactiv company itself.

We also found many reviews on YouTube. Here is the best one we recommend you to take a look at:



If you’re ready to shop for an acne product … does it beat the Exposed system?

Overall, it seems that Proactiv has a very smart marketing department. They put together a great-looking product and website, they use some of the most beautiful and popular celebrities as spokespeople, and they have broadened their appeal by making the products lean more toward skincare rather than just strictly acne treatment.

That being said, while you may see results with the regimen, it seems more likely that Proactiv+ might leave you disappointed.

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Avatar for Megan Foley

Megan has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. In that time, she’s penned a diverse collection of articles for online publication, with a focus on skincare and beauty. From in-depth product reviews to concise marketing content, Megan is passionate about developing content that informs, entertains, and inspires.