DIY: How to Save Money on Acne Medications

Treating acne is expensive. You can spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars trying to get your face clear. Here is a simple, yet effective way to save money on acne medications.

All over the counter acne treatments work by using two basic ingredients —

1. An antibiotic to kill acne-causing bacteria and 2. A peeling agent to unclog your pores.

Proactiv® is a widely popular acne kit available by mail; it’s a nice combination of washes, toners, and lotions. If you can afford it, Proactiv is an effective treatment for mild acne. Its active ingredients are 2.5% benzoyl peroxide (the antibiotic) and glycolic acid (the peeling agent).

You can recreate the same acne therapy by buying the ingredients separately. For example, if you used CVS Acne Gel ($3.99) and Aqua Glycolic Toner ($12.28) daily you are using the same active ingredients as Proactiv. The only real difference is the cost:

Proactiv: $40 to $60 (depending on the extras)

Do-it-yourself-activ: $16.28.

Over a year you could save over $250. Remember that any acne therapy only works if you are “proactive;” that is, you must use it faithfully everyday for 2 to 3 months to see results.

Photo: Marissa Cap

37 thoughts on “DIY: How to Save Money on Acne Medications”

  1. Thanks for the tip. I’ve been needing to get a little more proactive. I get little problem areas periodically. Thanks

  2. Thanks for this! I was wondering if it would be okay to submit this as a guest blog to It’s a site powered by that focuses on money saving alternatives and living in pocket straining economy. I think this would be perfect since a lot of people use Proactiv (and it DOES get pricey after a while since the acne returns when you stop using it)! 🙂

  3. This is a great money saving tip. Just make sure that you sample/try the low price alternatives first to make sure that they do not dry out or irritate the skin.
    Ron Robinson

  4. I Am very lucky that I don’t have to spend money on acne products, but I will be passing these great tips on to one of my friends and I am sure that she will be happy with them.

  5. great tip! I always found proactive to be way to over hyped. and really expensive.

  6. Is this combination likely to dry out your face? I’ve experienced the problem of having my face overcompensate and become *more* oily a little while after washing.

  7. i have some questions:
    -can we use salicylic acid instead???
    -when u say we need the glycolic acid and benzo, does that mean we apply one after another at the same time??

  8. That’s a cool tip. I wouldn’t mind letting my subscribers know about that tip. Awesome!!

  9. Hi! I used to buy acne medications over the counter because they are cheaper. There is a great website that sells benzoyl peroxide in large tubes. But my acne cleared up when my doctor prescribed Althea, an oral contraceptive.

  10. I use Proactiv quite a lot and indeed, it’s not a cheap business. However I am happy with it, truth be told.
    If there is an alternatively though, with the same healing power, I might go for it. Thanks for the tip!

  11. I have had great luck with the Baby Quasar. It seems like an expensive initial investment but then you do not have to buy expensive drying creams over and over again. The Red/IR light helps to regulate my sebaceous glands while the Blue light kills the p acne bacterias.

  12. Some really useful information here that will go a lon way towards helping sufferers of this condition.
    Thank you for sharing!!

  13. I used proactiv for years but it became too expensive. I now use a store brand (Duane Reade) of the same proactiv kit and it works just as well at about half the cost. Stores like Wal-mart also sell the “store brand proactiv,” as well.

  14. Not that I’m impressed a lot, but this is more than I expected for when I stumpled upon a link on Furl telling that the info is awesome. Thanks.

  15. It’s so nice to be able to read informative posts on acne. I’ve been looking for acne information and remedies for some time now. Will be bookmarking your blog. Thanks for the info.

  16. Same active ingredients, sure. Same percentage of active ingredients…not so much. I am disappointed you wouldn’t have gone into more detail. Replacing a 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide lotion (with moisturizer) with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide cream will most likely cause irritation and very dry skin.

  17. Dr. Benabio -I am maybe posting this in the wrong place, but I was wondering if you could do a post on what to do when a pimple is in its incipient stage – i.e. just starting to form. Thanks!

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  19. This was a Fantastic post, I will bookmark this in my account. Have a good day.

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  24. Why do so many skin care products get the Oprah bounce? Wil she give us all free facelifts after the trip to Australia?

  25. I actually appreciate blogs like these that not only provides data just to sell their item but also gives information that is practically beneficial to the individuals who are concerned.

  26. I am sure this post will benefit a lot of acne sufferers out there! You have done a great job in helping people with acne problems. Have you thought of writing an article to help eczema sufferers to save money? I am sure a lot of people would be thankful for your input.

  27. Thanks to Dr. B and Joyce back in Dec 2008 for referencing! Between this article and the info at that site, I can’t wait to discuss this with my son, who has severe acne and the great hygiene habits of a 14 year old boy (not so great!).

  28. Thanks, but you miss something very important in the proactive formulation I wish you would address. Many people, myself included, cannot put 5% or 10% BP on their skin every day – it is far too drying. (the lowest concentration I’ve seen in the drug stores is 5%) What I liked about the proactive was the lower concentration of BP in a base that didn’t dry out my already dry and sensitive skin even more. How can we cut the 5% BP down to 2.5% or even a little lower so it can be used every day without the awful drying? Putting moisturizers on afterward does not have the same effect. thanks.

  29. You have done a great job in helping people with acne problems. Have you thought of writing an article to help eczema sufferers to save money? I am sure a lot of people would be thankful for your input.

  30. Proactiv has really given a new found confidence in my acne free skin. In the first two several weeks so you still might continue to get acne, but don’t let it suppress you from this product. In order to see results you should stick to the regiment and stay consistent.

  31. Yes, but oral contraceptives for women have been linked to a much higher occurrence of cancer. I would think topical treatment would be healthier for you…

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