Proactiv Review: My Adult Acne Experiences

by Elizabeth on August 16, 2013 · 9 comments

in i am not a beauty blogger, life, reviews

As a teen I never suffered from the usual hormonal acne problems.  Oh sure, I had the occasional pimple that I was sure everyone was looking at, but I never had major breakouts.  I took decent care of my skin and didn’t really think too much about it.

I don’t know if it was getting into some bad habits in college (like going to bed with makeup on) or just the hormone shift that happens in your 20s, but around the time I graduated college, I started having some pretty ugly pimples.  The hard kind that hurt like hell so you pop them and then it looks terrible before it fill back up again and looks even worse than before.  I didn’t always have them, and I rarely had more than 2 at a time, but they were always in the same places.  After a while, I started noticing some scarring and dark spots that took forever to fad.  As time went on, my skin got worse and it got to where I always had at least one huge and painful bump.

I went to the dermatologist who put me on an antibiotic and gave me a topical gel to put on.  The gel made my face so raw and scaly that I eventually had to stop using it.  Plus I was still breaking out.  After my prescription ran out, I stopped taking the antibiotic and just dealt with it on my own.  A few years later, my new dermatologist gave me a different gel to try with some specific instructions about how to use it and what to wash my face with.  I hated the gel because my skin was flaking off no matter what I did.  And since I was having to moisturize like crazy, it ended up being counter-intuitive.  I started using the gel as a post-treatment rather than as a prevention, which definitely seemed to lessen the life of the pimple but always created a lovely little scaly spot.  I tried a number of other over-the-counter products, all without too much luck.  I was miserable and felt very unattractive because I was a 27 year old with noticeable, cystic pimples.

If you know me in real life, you probably think I’m crazy for saying I have bad skin.  And from far away, I’m sure it does look like I have very clear (albeit a little pale) skin.  But what you don’t know is that I am an expert foundation and concealer applier, so any skin problems I might have are hidden under a layer of makeup.  Those who see me without makeup (my mother and The Carpenter mostly) know that my skin isn’t as nice as it might seem.

I had toyed with the idea of trying Proactiv a while back, but the reviews were so mixed and everyone I knew who had used it didn’t get good results.  But this spring, after a little more research, I sucked it up and payed the $19.95 because nothing else was working.  I told myself that I would use it for 3 months, and if I didn’t like it, I would stop using it and go back to the derm for some prescription help.

Proactiv Review

At first, I hated it.  My skin was super sensitive, incredibly red, and very dry.  I had read enough online to know that this is part of the normal adjustment period and my skin should level out in a few weeks.  I didn’t use the third step (the repairing treatment) twice a day and that seemed to help.  I was also annoyed that I had to buy white washcloths because the benzoyl peroxide bleaches anything and everything.  Including my eyebrows.  But that’s a different story.

It took about 3 weeks of regular, consistent use before I noticed that large spots weren’t erupting on my face at inconvenient times.  I still had a few bumps and some dryness, but my research said I could moisturize as much as I needed as long as my skin wasn’t too oily.  I’ve been using it since April and have been very happy with the results.  It does work for me, but only if I use it twice a day, every day.  If I don’t, I get a few largish pimples.  I will be switching to the gentle formula next month because my skin is still fairly dry and I’m seriously worried about my eyebrows getting orange.  The gentle formula uses salicylic acid instead of benzoyl peroxide so it’s not as harsh or as bleaching.  We’ll see if it works as well.

Okay, now for some pros and cons.


  • Easy to use and doesn’t smell bad
  • You get a free gift with every order (and they’ve all been super helpful!)
  • The forums and customer support are really great; they convinced me to stick with it when my skin was peeling off
  • It does actually work and I do have noticeably clearer skin
  • It’s fairly customizable – you can change the delivery frequency, the version of the product you get, etc


  • It’s expensive.  Like really expensive; way more than I expected.
  • You have to get it through the mail.  There’s no going to the store when you run out
  • It’s very strong and causes extra dry skin
  • It bleaches everything so I have to use white towels and an eyebrow pencil
  • If I don’t use it twice a day, every day, I start breaking out again


Proactiv Review

Other than the fact that it’s working (when nothing else was), the cons do seem to outweigh the pros.  I’m tempted to stop using it when I run out (probably mid to late fall) and try my own version, mostly because of the price.  I’ve heard good things about The Regimen so that might be the next thing I try.

Is anyone else an adult acne sufferer?  What have you tried?  What’s working for you now?

This is not a sponsored post nor did I receive any sort of compensation to provide my opinions about Proactiv.  They have no idea who I am.



{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kasey August 16, 2013 at 10:29 am

You can buy proactiv at kiosks in the mall. I found it works better for me because then I can buy only the products I want instead of a “package” deal:


2 Elizabeth August 20, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I remember seeing them, but I don’t think our malls have a Proactiv kiosk anymore. I’ll have to go make sure though because that’s a really great idea. Thanks for the suggestion!


3 Frugal(er) August 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I’ve seen the mall kiosks as well. I tried this out a few years ago when I was having some back-ne issues, and it ruined several shirts but did actually take care of the problem.

I’ve heard of people having issues canceling the automatic shipments as well, but I didn’t have a hard time (thankfully).

I’ve found, for me, since I’ve been on Nuvaring my skin problems have pretty much disappeared. Of course, I may have gained a little weight from it, so it’s a tradeoff, but I think it’s worth it 🙂


4 Elizabeth August 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I wish my BC solved the problem. I’ve been on the same one for years so a change could help things, but I don’t really want to change because this one works so well for me in other areas.


5 debtfreeoneday August 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm

As a teenager, I used to break out in big spots, either on the end of my nose, or on my chin. Not acne as such, just the kind of spots where people used to talk to the actual spot and not me. The ones that look like beacons. I found that by cleansing every day, twice a day, it reduced the amount I was getting. I used and still use ‘Simple’ products which are unperfumed and kind to skin. They are really cheap! If I use anything else, it just doesn’t agree with my skin.


6 Elizabeth August 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Those are exactly the kind of spots I was getting! I used to get one right in between my eyebrows and it was like a beacon!


7 Molly August 16, 2013 at 4:22 pm

The best thing for my skin has been the clarisonic and the blemish cleanser from juice beauty. When it runs out, i’m going to try burts bees.


8 Elizabeth August 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Someone I work with uses the clarisonic and loves it. She suggested it, but I’m not ready to spend quite *that* much money haha.


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