PROACTIV has been very sucessful with many celebrities touting its effectiveness. The two Dermatologists who created the Proactiv® System are Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields. These two realized that using an ingredient central to acne care and putting it all together in an easy to follow system would generally produce good results. So, is it a miracle system after all?
Well, the question I’m most commonly asked isn’t whether it works or not, but what exactly are the ingredients in Proactiv® and can you get them elsewhere?
Because let’s face it, the PROACTIV® system isn’t cheap and if there was a way to get the same results for cheaper, wouldn’t you want to know?
So let’s start with a lengthy explanation of what the actual ingredients found in PROACTIV® are. And yes, the good news is- you can get them in many other places beyond this one system.
As you look at this list, you will see many ingredients and wonder why it takes so many, especially the synthetic ones, to achieve the purpose of diminishing acne. Basically the concept is simple- you have a very powerful “working” ingredient in benzoyl peroxide, but you need a vehicle to deliver it to the skin without harming it. In fact, you’d like the vehicle to actually benefit the skin, like nourish and cleanse it while delivering the potent product. I liken it to the one-two-punch before the knockout.
A good marketing concept always wants its product to be somewhat pleasing in texture, appearance and scent. Many of the ingredients found in PROACTIV® are there to simply achieve this. They are used as a filler, to fill up the bottles while promising to leave the skin better than it found it.
So, here’s a technical look at the actual ingredients listed on the PROACTIV® system, starting with #1 in the system- Renewing Cleanser.
The main ingredient is benzoyl peroxide. This is one of the most widely prescribed and used acne treatments available. It is available almost anywhere from an over-the-counter (OTC) dosage to one that requires a prescription. It can be bought in cleansing bars, liquids, gels, creams or lotions. It usually comes in strengths of 2.5%, 5% or 10% strengths. Sometimes it is combined with other products such as antibiotics to provide a combination therapy plan.
The list of other ingredients and their purpose in the Renewing Cleanser are:
Anthemis nobilis flower extract – Roman or English Chamomile, often used for fragrance or skin conditioning; Cetyl esters – synthetic wax used as lubricants; Dimethyl isosorbide – possibly a dimethicone to add smoothness and texture; Disodium dimethicone copolyol sulfosuccinate – Surfactant, cleansing agent; Imidazolidinyl urea – Antimicrobial preservative; Magnesium aluminum silicate – A naturally occurring mineral often used for a thickening agent; Methylparaben – A preservative; Neopentyl glycol dicaprylate – Used as an emollient and thickener; PEG-100 stearate – Made by combining natural oils with Stearic Acid. Used as an emulsifier, emollient, and moisturizer; Propylene glycol – A small organic alcohol used as skin conditioning, fragrance, solvent and humectant. It is associated with a high level of irritation and contact dermatitis; Propylparaben – Fragrance, preservative. The parabens can mimic estrogen and disrupt the hormonal system; Sodium hyaluronate – a synthetic version of one naturally made that promotes lubrication and hydration; Sodium PCA – A humectant moisturizer without additional oils; Sorbitol – A sugar-alcohol that is metabolized slowly by the body; Tridecyl stearate – Emulsifier and thickening agent; Tridecyl trimellitate – A very heavy, odorless liquid that has a syrup consistency, is a bit tacky, but leaves the skin soft; xanthan gum – A thickening agent and a stabilizer; Water – I am hoping we don’t have to expound on this one.
The second bottle in the PROACTIV® system is called Revitalizing Toner. Many people are confused as to the purpose of a toner, and rightly so. First, a toner is supposed to remove any excess dirt after cleansing and to return your skin’s pH to it’s normal level after the cleaning. On that note, I must share that studies have demonstrated that the skin returns itself back to its normal pH of about 5.5 very rapidly anyway- without any help from additional resources.
So my question to you then, is it really necessary to require two cycles of cleansing? Is your skin really that dirty that you need to do this twice daily? Do you live in a coal mine? Unless you do, I tend to think it’s not that important to use this toner and would skip the toner in favor of something else that stays on your skin like an alpha-hydroxy acid.
But for those of you who do like and use the toner, here are the ingredients listed on bottle #2.
Allantoin – A chemical compound naturally produced by many organisms such as animals, plants, and some bacteria. Allatoin is a keratolytic, meaning that it helps to break down the outer layer of dead keratin cells making the skin softer, and allowing (in a very small way) other things to penetrate. It can also moisturize the skin; Aloe barbadensis leaf juice – Commonly called “aloe vera”, it is used because it can reduce the appearance of dryness and flaking. It has also historically been considered an adjunct to wound healing; Anthemis nobilis flower extract – See above; Benzophenone-4 – A safe, FDA approved, over-the-counter sunscreen ingredient. Benzophenone-4 is called Sulisobenzone, and may be used in various concentrations on up to 10%; Glycerin – A sugar-alcohol compound synthesized for manufacturing but can be found naturally. In skin care products it acts as a humectant, and can also be used to thin products; Glycolic acid – A naturally occurring alpha-hydroxy acid which is also synthetically made. When found in unbuffered, fairly significant concentrations, it acts as a mild exfoliant, degreaser, and skin conditioner; Hamamelis virginiana – North American Witch hazel. Used as an astringent; Hydroxyethylcellulose – A polymer of cellulose used as a thickening agent in water-based cosmetics and products; Imidazolidinyl urea – See above; Methylparaben – See above; Panthenol – A form of vitamin B5, it is used as a lubricant and a moisturizer; Polysorbate-20 – An emulsifier for water based products; Propylene glycol – See above; Propylparaben – See above; Rosa canina fruit extract – Skin conditioning agent; Sodium hydroxide – Otherwise known as lye, this ingredient may be used to raise the pH of a product, but is caustic in more concentrated amounts; Sodium PCA – See above; Tetrasodium EDTA – A chelating agent that softens water and acts as a preservative.
Lastly, is the REPAIRING TREATMENT (New PROACTV®).
The main ingredient in this is once again- Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO), 2.5%- the same as what’s in the cleanser. The “New PROACTIV®” has a microfine BPO that is reported to cause less irritation by leaving less clumping, as the larger molecule tends to do.
The other ingredients listed in the Repairing treatment are:
Water (aqua): See above; Ethoxydiglycol – A solvent used to decrease density in a product. It may also be known as Diethylene Glycol Monoethyl Ether; Cyclotetrasiloxane – Emollient and skin conditioning agent; Cyclopentasiloxane – Emollient and skin conditioning agent; Cetearyl alcohol – A fatty alcohol used in products to prevent separation and to alter the thickness of a product; Propylene glycol – See above; Dimethicone – See above; Glyceryl stearate – Acts as a lubricant on the skin; PEG-100 stearate – see above; Panthenol – See above; Allantoin – See above; Xanthan gum – See above; Ceteareth-20 – A fatty alcohol that functions as an emollient and an emulsifier; Carbomer – Stabilizes formulations and provides texture; Triethanolamine – An organic compound that is strongly alkaline and also a surfactant; Diazolidinyl urea – An antimicrobial preservative used in cosmetics. It is chemically related to Imidazolidinyl urea which is found in the cleanser.; Methylparaben – See above; Propylparaben – See above; Fragrance (parfum)
Benzoyl peroxide is rapidly bactericidal. This means it can kill propionibacterium acnes, (or an easier word), the P.Acnes. P. acnes are the bacteria that is responsible for infectious acne. Benzoyl Peroxide can kill off these types of bacteria often without the use of antibiotics.
It’s important to note that acne actually begins before the P.acnes get involved, and that retinoids are the Gold Standard for Acne therapy. Saying that, if PROACTIV® works for you, and is in your price range, stay on it. But if you are getting buried in payments, you may want to move on to something else to get the main ingredients that I’ve explained above.
Yes,there are benefits of a formed system and routine. And if you need that type of regimen, then PROACTIV® may be the miracle you’re looking for. But if you are strong enough to maintain your own cleaning routine without the guidance, you should be fine with a bit less expensive course of action.