The Beauty Files

Proactiv skincare has arrived in the UK – but is it worth your money?

It's arrived. The skincare brand hailed as a miracle cure for problem skin has finally landed on our shores, 17 years after Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields unveiled what became one of the best selling skincare brands of all time.  But with a price tag of £39.99, will it prove as popular as it is in the US?

Proactiv, which went on sale in Boots this week, has (or so the infomercials would have us believe) a huge cult following: Justin Bieber, Delta Goodrem, Alicia Keys, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and Elle Macpherson are just some of the celebrities who've signed up to rave about the product. The Proactiv range was created by Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields in 1995, and started as a three-step skincare system but soon evolved into a whole product range, which included everything from face masks and peels to make up and body washes.

It's the brand's famous three-step system which launched in the UK this week.

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What does Proactive actually do?

So what exactly does Proactiv claim to do? Unlike certain skincare products, the claims it makes aren't actually that spectacular, which is probably part of the reason for the brand's successes. Instead, those behind the brand claim that Proactiv will clear up acne-prone skin, reduce blemishes, soothe redness and prevent future breakouts. Proactiv's main selling point is that it claims to do this more effectively than similar products. How it does this is relatively straight forward. A quick science lesson: spots that appear on your face will usually have started life several weeks ago, when the skin cells surrounding a pore didn't shed properly, and blocked the pore in question, leading to a build up in bacteria and creating an airtight, warm environment in which bacteria can thrive. The Proactiv three-step system contains a cleanser containing tiny beads to help unblock pores, along with benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria and boost the exfoliation process. The toner contains glycolic acid, which helps to unclog cells exfoliate the skin. The final product is the repairing lotion, which contains another dose of bacteria-killing benzoyl peroxide.

So far so good, and, if the figures are anything to go by, those across the pond have certainly been won over, although the brand's penchant for celebrity endorsement certainly hasn't hurt. When Justin Bieber signed up as an ambassador for the brand, his first advert was viewed over 600,000 times in one day. Clinical trials carried out in the UK have also yielded impressive results: out of the 1,000 women who trialled the product late last year, 88 per cent said they had less spots and 86 per cent said they had a clearer complexion.

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So does it really work?

All this might well be impressive, but the key ingredients - benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid - are nothing new to those waging war on problem skin, and there are those that question whether products such as Proactiv are really worth our hard earned cash in an age where cash-strapped consumers are demanding their products do more while pulling the purse strings increasingly tighter.

"There are some really nice ingredients in the formulations - albeit nothing very new," points out Tina Richards, a leading skin and health expert and founder of

"These formulations would be worth trying if you have a resistant type oily skin — meaning that you don't normally react to any type of cosmetics on your face or neck (i.e. no redness, rashes or stinging sensations) and your skin is oily.  This is because despite the inclusion of many anti-inflammatory soothing ingredients (like aloe and chamomile) benzoyl peroxide can still be very drying and irritating to the skin especially when used daily."

However, consultant dermatologist Dr Sunil Chopra points out that Proactiv's other ingredients should also be approached with caution.

"The active ingredient, Benzoyl Peroxide, is not in any way new, and won't do any better than a standard Benzyl Peroxide product in the market," says Dr Chopra. "However, the products contain a whole host of skin sensitisers (allergens) namely imidazolidinyl urea, methylparaben, propylparaben and fragrance.  Many people are allergic to ingredients such as these."

It won't cure everyone's acne

It's also important to remember that serious skin problems need a serious approach, and no skincare product can work miracles if there's a more serious, underlying reason for your skin problems.  Dermatologist Elaine Mummery, founder of the Elaine Mummery Acne Clinic, points out that Proactiv is offering a simple solution to a problem that's often much more complicated.

"People with bad skin often have other health issues that are linked to their skin but have never had these addressed because of the poor way in which acne is often treated," points out Elaine. "Teenage acne, with the right nutritional advice, can be gone within a week but this doesn't make anyone any money. Products such as Proactiv are designed to side track people from finding the real solution to acne."

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Who it might work for

However, even those warning that Proactiv isn't doing anything new also point out that the products contain ingredients that can definitely work wonders on certain skin types. Tina Richards was particularly impressed with the ingredients contained in the cleanser and repairing lotion.

"I love the active ingredient of sulphur which is an excellent ingredient for acne," admits Tina. "It helps the skin to shed the dead keratinised skin cells that block the pores and causes comedones that lead to acne.  It's antibacterial and healing - but remember that it does dry the skin.  Kaolin is a clay that is good for drawing out oil and impurities from the skin.  Zinc and titanium oxides are excellent gentle broad spectrum sunscreen ingredients.  Linoleic acid and arachodonic acids are natural fatty acids which are both moisturising and anti-inflammatory on the skin."

Whether Proactiv will enjoy the same popularity it's experienced stateside remains to be seen, although it's worth bearing in mind that even the most celebrity-obsessed acne sufferer is unlikely to be swayed by celebrity endorsements if the product doesn't do what it says on the bottle, as several UK-based beauty bloggers have pointed out. "I wouldn't buy it just because celebrities use it," said one. "I would make my decision based on the reviews on and hope that such a big brand must work.  As for the price, I would normally pay around £15 a month on different cleaners and toners,  so £39.99 for a 60 day kit seems reasonable."

So, will Proactiv enjoy the rapturous reception its encountered stateside? Will you be battling the crowds at Boots to try their famous three-step system for yourself? For now, the proof, as they say, will be in the (Proactiv) pudding.

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