About Proactiv Plus

By HighYa Research Team
Published on: Feb 13, 2014

If you struggle with acne, you know that clogged pores, comedones, and cysts are only part of the problem. Proactiv Plus claims it can help—clearing up your skin four-times faster than the leading prescription solution while delivering exceptional skincare benefits that combat large pores, dry skin, uneven texture, and more.

Proactiv Plus was created by Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields, the same dermatologists who launched Proactiv in 1995. The original three-step system enjoyed heaps of success, thanks to endorsements from the brand’s charismatic founders, complemented by an abundance of testimonials from celebrities who claimed to use the Proactiv system.

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

Although they still appear in ads and literature for the brand, Drs. Rodan and Fields have branched out to create their own namesake line, Rodan + Fields. While not acne-centric like Proactiv, the line does include products for blemishes—a few of which are similar to but more expensive than their Proactiv counterparts.

With the addition of Proactiv Plus’ repairing and anti-aging benefits, benefits promised by the two brands appear to overlap.

This poses a difficult question for consumers: If Rodan and Fields really believed that the Proactiv brand is the best option for those struggling with acne, why did they create an alternate line of products?

We’ll take a closer look at Proactiv Plus to discover if this new set of products are the answer to aging and acne-troubled skin that their creators claim—or if they’re just another cash cow piggybacking on the original line’s popular name.

But First, What Exactly Is Acne?

While the reasons aren’t yet completely understood by the medical community, the pores in our skin can overproduce cells, causing sebum (a fancy word for oil) to become trapped. When this occurs, bacteria can grow, resulting in things like whitehead and blackheads.

Then, if these blackheads or whiteheads release their contents to the surface, inflammation—and acne—can occur.

Rupturing can happen at random, but it’s more likely to occur if you touch or pick your skin. That’s why it’s so important not to pick at an acne-prone area.

What Causes Acne?

Like we mentioned above, no one really knows what causes acne. While we understand the process by which a pimple develops—a blocked follicle meets extra sebum—scientists are still at a loss for why this happens in some pores and not others, or why some people are plagued by pimples and others enjoy porcelain skin.

However, we do have some pretty good guesses—hormones, diet, vitamin deficiencies, genetics, and stress are front-runners when considering what’s causing your complexion to go south. Despite not having a solid understanding of the cause, one thing ties all acne together: inflammation.

Again, scientists aren’t sure whether the body’s inflammatory response is a main cause of the acne formation process from the start or if inflammation enters into the process more strongly once a pore is already clogged is the cause of debate.

But, because inflammation is a constant when struggling with comedones, most acne medications have specific anti-inflammatory properties—including benzoyl peroxide, isotretinoin, retinoids, dapsone, and zinc.

Again, remember that we’re still not sure exactly what makes some people prone to acne while others avoid it, so there’s no tried-and-tested cure that works for everyone. With those facts in mind, let’s take a closer look at the product at hand.

What’s In Proactive Plus?

According to the Proactiv website, this advanced three-step treatment system has been “completely reformulated from the ground up” to deliver clear skin and a radiant complexion.

Basically, Proactiv Plus claims to build on the original Proactiv promise using the same core system 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.

So, what’s the difference between Proactiv and Proactiv Plus? Here’s a look at the ingredients side by side:

Step One: Cleansers

  • Proactiv Plus: Skin Smoothing Exfoliator; Active Ingredient: Benzoyl Peroxide (2.5%)
  • Proactiv: Renewing Cleanser; Active Ingredient: Benzoyl Peroxide (2.5%)

Step Two: Treat

  • Proactiv Plus: Pore Targeting Treatment; Active Ingredient: Benzoyl Peroxide (2.5%)
  • Proactiv: Revitalizing Toner; Active Ingredient: None

Step Three: Repair

  • Proactiv Plus: Complexion Perfecting Hydrator; Active Ingredient: Salicylic Acid (0.5%)
  • Proactiv: Repairing Treatment; Active Ingredient: Benzoyl Peroxide (2.5%)

You’ll notice two differences between Proactiv Plus and Proactiv: the addition of an active ingredient, benzoyl peroxide, in the former’s toner, and swapping salicylic acid for benzoyl peroxide in the moisturizer.

The complete list of inactive ingredients for both Proactiv Plus and Proactiv are linked within the product names. But, before you go comparing them too closely, understand the difference between active and inactive ingredients:

  • Active Ingredients: They are the actual ingredients of the product or a main definition of the product. The reason to buy the product. For example, In makeup salicylic acid act as an active ingredient which helps in preventing the acne.

  • Inactive Ingredients: These are the ingredients which are used to bind active ingredients together, such as water. The inactive ingredients are the preservatives, colors, fragrances, and flavors of the product. They have nothing to do with the side effects; they contribute nothing to the main process of the product.

Notice that the only ingredients in Proactiv Plus (and Proactiv, for that matter) that are responsible for effecting change in the condition of your complexion are actually quite common in many drugstore products.

This was a common complaint regarding the original Proactiv line: while the kits might be effective, there are plenty of less expensive options available.

Additionally, the third inactive ingredient in Proactiv Plus’ Complexion Perfecting Hydrator is cetearyl alcohol. This ingredient ranks four out of five in comedogenic (pore-clogging) tests—since it’s only the third ingredient down, that’s not very promising for sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Taking a Clear Look at Proactiv Plus’ Promises

After examining the active ingredients in Proactiv Plus, let's take a closer look at their main claims:

Promise #1: Fights acne with exclusive Smart Target Technology, delivering 2x more medicine into the pores.

Where the original three-step Proactiv system promised to cleanse, treat, and repair, Proactiv Plus claims to be even more focused on fighting acne. It claims to deliver two-times more medicine into pores using exclusive Smart Target technology.

Whenever brands promise to outdo themselves with a comedically-generic-yet-copyrighted advancement, it’s really worth taking a closer look.

Unfortunately, the explainer video on Proactiv’s homepage that’s supposed to illustrate what Smart Target technology does is dead and/or broken—giving me as much confidence in the product’s ability to smartly target my pores as a North Korean missile launch.

Promise #2: Reduces the appearance of large pores, improves uneven texture and tone, decreases the visibility of dark marks, and improves radiance.

Consumers should watch out for this kind of tricky wording when purchasing a cosmetic product—something we’ve written about several times before.

Notice that Proactiv Plus doesn’t actually promise to fix anything? Instead, it only claims to “reduce the appearance of…” That’s because reducing is subjective. So is “radiance” for that matter. I mean, short of re-enacting that famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, how on earth is one supposed to measure radiance?

Before you buy, remember that cosmetics are just that. By the very nature of their classification, no cosmetic can change the way your skin looks permanently or they’d have to be classified as drugs—as well as receive FDA approval.

Promise #3: Fastest, gentlest, most effective Proactiv acne treatment ever.

Considering just how many consumers complained about agitated acne, irritated skin, stinging, tightness, and dryness from the original Proactiv system, that isn’t saying a whole lot.

At the end of the day, understand that Proactiv Plus is using plain old benzoyl peroxide to zap zits. This chemical works, but it’s certainly not gentle and it’s not for everyone—to claim otherwise is irresponsible.

Purchasing a Proactive Plus Kit

Proactiv Plus products are available in three different kits, depending on your needs:

  • Proactiv Plus 3-Step System ($29.95): The core Proactiv Plus 3-Step System features more medicine; a new, smarter way to target acne; plus an extraordinary range of added skincare benefits. Includes Skin Smoothing Exfoliator, Pore Targeting Treatment, Complexion Perfecting Hydrator.

  • Proactiv Plus Teen Kit ($39.95): Includes the core Proactiv Plus 3-Step System plus Emergency Blemish Relief for problem pimples and the Cleansing Body Bar for body acne.

  • Proactiv Plus Complete Kit ($39.95): This 5-piece kit claims to help diminish the appearance of dark marks and give your skin instant radiance. Includes Skin Smoothing Exfoliator, Pore Targeting Treatment, Complexion Perfecting Hydrator, Mark Fading Pads, Eye Brightening Serum.

Each Proactiv Plus purchase includes the choice between one of the two following products as a free gift:

  • Skin Purifying Mask: A 10-minute facial that clears pores, heals blemishes, and helps prevent future breakouts.

  • ReTexturizing Toner: A deep cleaning toner that evens your skin’s tone and unclogs pores.

Proactiv Plus Pricing & Refund Policy

After choosing your kit, you’ll also need to choose your free gift, and whether you want a 30 or 90-day supply. Shipping is $5.99 for standard delivery or $12.99 for overnight.

Regardless of which kit you choose, you’ll automatically be signed up for Proactiv’s ActivMember (e.g. autoship) program. This means that starting 30 days from your order, you’ll receive a 90-day supply of the Complete Kit every three months, and your credit card on file will be charged $39.95 plus $3.99 shipping and handling. There is no commitment, and your autoship program can be canceled at any time.

At HighYa, we strongly advise you use caution before entering any autoship program. These programs are notorious for being difficult to cancel, often leaving consumers with an abundance of unneeded products and unwanted credit card charges.

Related Article: What is An Autoship Program, & Why Should You Avoid It?

All Proactiv Plus products come with a 60-day money back guarantee, less shipping and handling charges. To begin the return process, call 800-309-4796.

What Customers Are Saying About Proactiv Plus

The reviews on the Proactiv Plus system are surprisingly split. On sites such as Amazon.com, main complaints included redness, severe dryness, itching, and complete ineffectiveness, along with high price.

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

Proactiv Plus reviews on sites such as Acne.org are not as divided, 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.

Should You Purchase Proactiv Plus?

Overall, it seems that Proactiv Plus has a very smart marketing department that puts together a great-looking product and website. Additionally, they’re working to broaden their appeal by making the products lean more toward skincare rather than just strictly acne treatment.

Just keep in mind that all Proactiv Plus products can often be found elsewhere for less, including Neutrogena and Acne.org. However much you pay, though, the key to clearer skin is following the directions.

Anyone battling acne needs to know that, barring a successful experience with the prescription drug Accutane, it cannot be cured—only controlled. I’m sure many people have seen their acne respond positively to a daily routine of the core Proactiv Plus products, and for some, it has been a life-changing experience—but, again, it's not the answer for acne for everyone.

So, while you may see results with the regimen, it seems more likely that Proactiv Plus might leave you disappointed due to harsh effects and a high price. Again, many users complain that their acne started to fade, only to come back with a vengeance—along with irritation, dryness, and inflamed comedones.

Finally, should you experience adult acne out of the blue, know that sometimes acne is a sign of an underlying medical condition. By all means, try a few over-the-counter solutions, but if nothing works? Book an appointment with a dermatologist. Effective acne treatments are available and, more often than not, covered by your health insurance as well.

More on Acne Treatment: Got Pimples? How to Treat Adult Acne

Read 36 Proactiv Plus Customer Reviews and Complaints

Write a Review
Average Customer Rating: 2.7
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 9 4 star: 6 3 star: 3 2 star: 0 1 star:  18
Bottom Line: 47% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 36
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  • OK but price too high

    • By Jem McRary,
    • Washington D.C.,
    • Jun 26, 2015

    I found this new iteration of Proactiv Plus to at least be a little better than the last. It is less drying. I still feel like a few of the other products I have used recently are both better and cheaper.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • Buyer beware.

    • By Cindy,
    • Houston, TX,
    • Jun 26, 2015

    I started with the 30 day supply (smaller bottles). After 30 days I didn't see a significant change in my acne. So, of course, I started using the bigger sized products when the smaller bottles were done and I waited 60 days to see if my skin would improve. It did not. So I decided to return the products for my money back guarantee. Well I only got refunded for the larger bottles which is what I sent back. The smaller bottles I had used and thrown away after they were finished were not refunded. Make sure you save them even if you are done with them so that you can get your money back if the system doesn't work. I called and even spoke to a supervisor. They are worthless and did nothing. I am glad they didn't work, because I hate to do business with companies that don't care about being 100% behind their product. I now use Alpha Hydrox and it's working wonders. And so much cheaper. Google it.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • Cancel item

    • By Debbie,
    • Ellicott city md,
    • Apr 14, 2014

    Canceled before my next shipment and they still charge me and send more. I returned it back and it's been 3 weeks and I got charged again. And all they can say "I'm sorry it that it's been 4 to 6 weeks and that's why you got charged again".

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • Not what I expected

    • By Deborah,
    • Philadelpiha, PA,
    • Aug 12, 2015

    I'll start with some background. I'm a teenage girl (don't want to give my age) who suffered with really bad acne during my transition to puberty. Acne doesn't run in my family, my older brother suffered with mild acne during his transition into puberty and it cleared up within a year. As I got older my acne got a better bit by bit with time. My skin after that was never perfect. I started out with normal whitehead pimples on my forehead black heads on my cheeks and acne scars. By the time I was thinking about ordering Proactiv Plus I had a bunch of noticeable black heads acne scarring, and pimples that only came around my period, not as bad as when I hit puberty. My mom never trusted all those acne products she saw on TV because I'm an African-American, she believed that those products didn't work for all skin types. But, after hearing about Proactiv​ Plus from a few of her friends and co-workers she gave in and ordered it.

    After using the 30-day supply I didn't see much of a difference other then the fact that those period pimples began to go away, but I wasn't amazed because they always eventually do. My mom decided she'd order the 3-month supply next. To make this part short I developed cystic acne, it seemed like my black heads spread down my cheeks and my pimples were actually bright red. Mind you I'm dark skinned, not dark, just dark enough that I if I blushed you wouldn't notice, that part really shocked me. My acne had drastically worsened. After reading a few reviews I found that people were saying that they had noticed that their skin was terrible for a few days but it cleared up and that's when they saw there results. Seeing that gave me some type of hope so I kept using it.

    My acne would not ease up. I got pimples on my chin, cheeks and nose when I usually only get them on my forehead. My mom called the company, they gave her some crap that it takes six weeks to pull out impurities and then clear them up (note: this was a month and 2 1/2 weeks of using Proactiv). By the second month these pimples became like a see-saw, if one went away another one had to pop back up. My mom called again, they gave her the same pulling out impurities nonsense. That day she canceled our membership. I noticed that simply washing my face with a Neutrogena cleanser got rid of the mess Proactiv left me with. All in all, this product messed me up big time. With this product my skin was at it's worse, I'd never seen my face the way it had been. Also, they were very misleading with prices. I don't know if it's because of my race or if it just simply didn't work , but the product gave me no justice.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • Never again.

    • By H.D.,
    • Arkansas,
    • Jun 29, 2015

    I'm 42 and suffer with mild acne so I ordered Proactiv Plus and after two weeks, my face broke out in huge open sores all over my face and neck. I knew there'd be a break out period but what I'm going through is not just a normal breakout. These are huge, open, raw sores. I was a military combat medic so I knew it wasn't anything other than the Proactiv and these sores still remain on my face three weeks after my last use of Proactiv and don't seem to be getting better very quickly.

    I will never use this again nor will I recommend this crap to anyone and to make things worse, they continue to charge me long after I canceled and keep telling me it will take six weeks to get my money back. Bad customer service, worse product. Buyer beware.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • Original Proactiv is Better

    • By Julie,
    • Dallas, TX,
    • Jun 30, 2015

    I have been using the original Proactiv line for years and it helped manage my acne prone skin. While I would still have occasional breakouts, it managed my skin better than any other product has in the past. I thought Proactiv Plus would be even better. Unfortunately, it has made my skin worse. I have been using it for about two months and my skin is as bad as it has ever been. I would definitely not recommend spending the extra money. I am going back to the original.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • Huge let down

    • By Dawn,
    • Milwaukee, WI,
    • Jun 30, 2015

    I started using Proactiv plus two months ago everything started out fine up until three weeks ago. I did everything the bottle said to do. I am now continuing to breakout in huge cystic acne everywhere on my face.

    Now I have to find a dermatologist to deal with this disaster. I will never again go anywhere near another Proactiv product. I guess it only works for certain skin types.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • Proactiv Plus Scam

    • By Pat,
    • Long Beach, CA,
    • Jul 7, 2015

    Product did not work and when you try to get your refund it's horrible customer service. They send out the 2nd shipment early so they can get you on the shipping costs for that one too. Takes 4-6 weeks to get your refund and credit the account balance of a 3 month supply even though you declined it when you initially ordered the product.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • Horrid customer service

    • By Sarah,
    • Oregon,
    • Nov 8, 2014

    Found the product didn't work for me, so I sent the items back. Nothing for a month, so I checked in.

    Apparently I sent back a 'free gift' and so I can't get my return! Their customer service is abominable (phone or email) as they repeat the same things over and over. Once they have your money it's theirs- be absolutely sure you cancel and get written proof of such!

    I'm seriously considering flagging them as 'fraudulent charges' at this point, I'm so frustrated.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • The Original Proactiv is better

    • By Chrystal Hubbard,
    • Omaha, NE,
    • Jun 8, 2015

    The original Proactiv worked miracles for me, yes it's expensive but it's worth it. Nothing works better than it for me. I always am told I have the best, most clear skin and I thank the original Proactiv for that. I was so excited to hear they were making a Proactiv plus and I thought it was going to be better. I was wrong. Not only did I pay $30.00 more dollars just for the small package of Proactiv plus, it didn't work for me. I broke out as if I wasn't using any skin care at all. I was extremely disappointed. If you're like me, use the original Proactiv. The original Proactive never ever did that to me, it always worked wonders and I was never disappointed with it and I have been using it for 10 years now. Minus the sad 4 weeks I used Proactiv plus.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • Caused cystic acne for me too.

    • By Miranda Ottem,
    • Antioch, CA,
    • Jul 9, 2015

    I found this review page in hopes of finding tips on how to make a successful return of the unopened 90 day supply. I knew about the automatic ordering, just forgot to cancel. I've been really stressed and busy so I figured my breakouts were from that. Then I realized after reading other people had cystic acne after starting Proactiv Plus, that's when I connected the dots. I'm so pissed, I can't wait to call to cancel.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

Showing 1-11 of 36

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