Many of my patients ask me about Proactiv. You know, the stuff that makes Vanessa Williams, Jessica Simpson, Kelly Clarkson, Sean Combs, Brooke Shields, Elle MacPherson, and Jennifer Love Hewitt beautifully blemish free. Patients want to know if Proactiv really works. I’ll address that here, but first, here’s a short intro on acne.
If you have acne, then you are like most people. Acne is common — about 85% of teenagers develop it and many adults, especially women, have acne in their 20’s, 30’s and even later. Proactiv is an acne treatment system, designed by two dermatologists, that uses non-prescription medications to clear up acne. It was designed with adult women in mind, but is used by millions of teenagers all over the world. Proactiv does not cure acne (nothing does), but it does work. Here’s how.
The basic Proactiv solution is a three part system comprised of a cleanser, a toner, and a lotion. There are several add-on products, but the acne treatment is in this three part system. In order to understand how Proactiv works, you have to first understand what causes acne.
Acne is a skin disease where red bumps, clogged pores, and tender cysts develop in the skin. It is sometimes painful and almost always embarrassing. The bumps you see on your skin today began about 2 weeks ago. Each acne blemish starts as a clogged pore. These pores are the opening of hair follicles. The skin cells at the surface of some of the pores do not shed normally. Instead, they stick together, clogging the pore. When the pore is clogged, the natural oils from the hair follicle accumulate in the pore, building up pressure and creating an airtight, warm environment for bacteria to grow. Bacteria build up in the blocked pore; as a result, white blood cells accumulate to attack the overgrown bacteria. The combination of blocked sebum, bacteria, and white blood cells (pus) lead to tender red bumps that we call acne.
The Proactiv system works to stop this process. The first step is to use a cleanser. The cleanser has tiny beads that help to physically exfoliate the dead skin cells, unblocking the pores. The cleanser also contains benzoyl peroxide. This is a powerful oxidizer that both exfoliates the skin as well as kills bacteria (similar to hydrogen peroxide).
The second step is to use a toner. The toner contains glycolic acid. This is a natural acid found in citrus fruits. It also works to exfoliate the skin and to unstick sticky-cells. It is a chemical exfoliant and compliments the physical exfoliant in the cleanser.
The third step is to use a repairing lotion. In actuality, it is another dose of benzoyl peroxide, now in lotion form. Again the benzoyl peroxide helps exfoliate the skin and kill the bacteria.
Although there are other anti-inflammatories, moisturizers, and botanicals in Proactiv, the main treatment is from the exfoliants and the benzoyl peroxide.
Proactiv is effective for many people with acne. The main reason why it works is because people actually use it. The system is designed to be used everyday and over your entire face. The whole concept is for you to be “proactive” about treating your acne. It is also a good product because the benzoyl peroxide, which is one of the most effective treatments for acne, is a mild strength, only 2.5%. At this strength, the benzoyl peroxide is mild enough to not be too irriating, but strong enough to treat your acne, especially since it is used in two products and applied twice a day.
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