Does Proactiv really work to clear acne?

Recently new product launched, "Proactiv Advanced Daily Oil Control" that claims to help fight acne and oily skin but there are very few solid reviews out there. Does it work?

Doctor Answers 5

Proactiv for Acne

Proactiv is an over the counter product, this system uses ingredients like benzoyl peroxide to help treat the bacteria and inflammation in your skin. It may be beneficial for some types of acne but does not work for everyone. I have had many patients come into my office frustrated with their acne after having used this system for many months without any improvement in their acne.

Acne is a medical condition, it is a result of clogged pores. Everyone has P.acne bacteria (Propionibacterium acne) that live on the skin, when there is an excess of sebum (oily skin) this causes the bacteria to multiply in the pores. This results in inflammation, redness, swelling, heat, tenderness and sometimes infections.

The best thing for you to do is to see a Board Certified Dermatologist. When you see a Dermatologist they will assess your skin and can prescribe medication as necessary for your acne. Prescription medications will always be more effective than products you buy over the counter.

There are a variety of different medications that are both topical and oral that can help improve your acne. Alternatively, there are also several different types of treatments like Isolaz or Photodynamic Therapy that can improve your acne without medications and will give you quicker improvement.

Consult with a Board Certified Dermatologist to see what the best option for your acne is.

For more information on acne treatments click the link below:


Irvine Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

ProActiv works for some people

ProActiv can help some people to treat acne. The main ingredient that ProActiv products, as well as many over the counter products, contain are astringents such as salycyclic acid or benzoyl peroxide. If you have tried these over the counter products without much clearance of the acne break outs, you likely will need something prescription from a dermatologist.

Joshua L. Fox, MD
Long Island Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Yes, it can help acne but probably not

any better than the far less expensive generic preparations available at a fraction of the cost at CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, or any of the grocery/drug stores that sell the time tested compounds...aside from massive advertising, I'm not aware of any unique active ingredients that are available in the Proactiv line that aren't readily available elsewhere...basic products salicylic acid at a very weak concentration and benzoyl peroxide...

Ken Landow, MD
Las Vegas Dermatologist
4.6 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

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Proactiv works for some acne

Hello! The active ingredient in Proactiv is benzoyl peroxide (BP), which you can actually purchase over the counter. It works well for acne that is more bacterial in nature. It does not get rid of blackheads and whiteheads, which are the very first step in acne formation. The bacteria live in these blackheads and whiteheads and are able to multiply. Proactiv's active ingredient BP can kill bacteria, but it's like putting on a Band-Aid. It's not going to get to the root of the problem, which are blackheads and whiteheads.

Please see a board-certified dermatologist and make sure you are on your way to acne-free skin. Glowing skin begins with a complete skincare plan, including topical retinoids such as Retin-A or Tazorac. These retinoids actually stop blackheads and whiteheads from forming. This should be the foundation of your skin care. Next, your dermatologist may recommend washes or other topical medications containing BP which can help. Proactiv is fine, too, if your dermatologist recommends it to you.

Good luck!

Andrea Hui, MD
San Francisco Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

What will work for my acne?

ProActive is an over the counter (or through the mail) product that has great advertising. It uses basic ingredients that will likely work for mild acne. 

In general, the most common type of acne medicine is a cream or gel that you put on your skin. Many of these can be bought without a prescription. These medicines may help if your acne is mild. Benzoyl peroxide is the most common type. It is in most over-the-counter acne medicines (like ProActive.)

If over-the-counter medicines don't work, your doctor can prescribe other types of medicine. These are usually antibiotics or retinoids. These medicines can cause dryness or redness. If this becomes a problem for you, your doctor can tell you ways to make your skin feel better.

Because acne is such a common condition, there are many treatments out there. Some are supported by data, others aren't. Some treatments are expensive, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are better. Overall, give response to treatment some time. How much time? Depends on the severity of your acne, and can range from weeks to months. 

Scientific data shows that the main ingredient or Proactive (Benzoyl peroxide) works for mild acne. Will it work for your acne? Possibly, but also consider spending that money on a consultation with a Dermatologist or Board Certified Plastic Surgeon who can give you expert advise. 

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.