Proactiv MD 3-Piece System

Proactiv MD 3-Piece System Review: Does It Really Work?

Written By : Dr Ruby Shah   ✓ Fact Checked

An advanced kit from Proactiv, Proactiv Plus claims to go beyond clearing acne – taking care of enlarged pores, dry skin, visible marks, and uneven tone.

(Last Updated on November 9, 2022)

Skincare has become more of a household term with all the products you see in any health section of a store or supermarket.

After all, acne and other skin issues will always remain a problem so long as people have dirty skin and open pores.

One of the best in the acne treament business is Proactiv, specifically its Proactiv MD 3-Piece System1 .

Their latest product promises a lot of the things most skincare products claim, but we’re all skeptics here so we’ll have to find that out for ourselves.

The big question is:

Does it work?

Read our Proactiv review to find out!

What Is Proactiv?

proactiv md acne treatment system

Proactiv was first introduced to the world in 1995 and have many celebrities serving as endorsers. With over two decades of experience and over 20 million customers, Proactiv prides itself as America’s #1 acne brand.

  • Quality ingredients. Known and well-researched ingredients only.
  • Informative website. Not just some cheap salespage.
  • Easy-to-use. The instructions are clear enough for even kids to follow!

In addition to what we wrote, Proactiv also says the following on what makes it effective:

Clear acne with the power of Rx, without a doctor’s visit!

Treat yourself to the power of a retinoid, without a prescription! The ProactivMD 3-Piece System featuring Adapalene is our most advanced system to date, and includes moisture and sun protection which are highly recommended with the use of retinoids.

How To Use It?

Step One: Cleanse

Renewing Cleanser

  • Massage a generous amount on to damp skin 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Rinse off with warm water. Pat dry. Follow with Step 2.
  • Frequency: Daily AM & PM.
Step Two: Tone

Revitalizing Toner

  • Apply a thin layer over entire face using a cotton ball or pad.
  • Allow to dry. Do not rinse off. Follow with Step 3.
  • Frequency: Daily AM & PM.
Step Three: Treat

Repairing Treatment

  • Apply thin layer over entire face.
  • Allow to dry. Do not rinse off.
  • Frequency: Daily AM & PM.

Proactiv Ingredients


Proactiv has a lot of ingredients, but only five are the important ones.

Skin Brightening complex

An amazing combination of kojic acid, licorice extract, sophora root, and bearberry. Each ingredient has their own skin-brightening properties and specialize on preventing unwanted pigmentation, redness, blotchiness, and dull, ashy-looking skin.

Benzoyl Peroxide

This is one of the best ingredients you can use to treat acne2 . It not only destroys pimple-causing bacteria on the skin’s surface, but even deep in our pores as well. It’s also one of the few anti-pimple ingredients that can reduce excess skin oil.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid3 unclogs pores from dead skin cells. Not only that, it also makes sure the pores are shrunk down to prevent being clogged again.

Research show it excels as a peeling agent according to a 2015 study. It concludes:

Salicylic acid is a safe and efficacious peeling agent for a number of dermatological and cosmetic problems, including acne vulgaris, melasma, photodamage, freckles, and lentigines. It can be safely used in dark skin types. Newer formulations containing polyethylene glycol have shown promising results in decreasing and preventing skin tumors in mice, making it a potentially attractive peeling agent for use in the future.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid4 works like Salicylic acid in a sense that they both remove dead skin cells. What makes the compound special is its ability to work on both the upper and lower layer of the skin, giving you deeper exfoliation.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid5 is naturally produced by the body and acts as a lubricant or hydrating compound. For our complexion, it helps keep our skin supple and prevents dryness and itching.

How Does Proactiv Work

how it works

Proactiv is a complex skincare product designed to guarantee a rejuvenated and young-looking skin in just a few days.

There really isn’t much to making a great skincare product. The research is out there and all you have to do is figure out how to market the reason why people should buy your product. Because of Proactiv’s dominance in today’s market, you won’t have to convince yourself if it’s good; millions of customers have tried it already and grades are all pointing upwards.

What we like is how it made use of potent ingredients known for their skin-healing properties. Each ingredient complements the other while also capable of going on their own. But, there is such a thing as too potent, and we think the fact that Proactiv makes use of a lot of artificial products may have undesirable effects on some of their customers.

The trend nowadays is to go as natural as possible. Before, the risk of going all-natural was losing customers due to higher costs of ingredients, but Proactive seems to be one of the few outstanding products out there that still depends on artificial compounds.

The price is also something to consider, as a non-subscription, 60-day set can cost up to $60.00 and we think it’s a luxury at that point. Still, if you can look past the artificial ingredients and price, Proactiv should suit your skincare needs.


Proactiv hydrates your skin, removes acne, prevents future breakouts, brightens skin, and help prevent irritation.

Proactiv Side Effects

proactiv real users reviews

Granted the ingredients and formula were created to soothe all skin types, there’s a good chance your skin could be allergic or extra sensitive to some of its contents.

You may experience redness, slight irritations or itching, and perhaps painful discomfort around the applied area.

If you feel any of the symptoms, discontinue use and seek medical help.

Is it A Scam?

Proactiv is made by one of the most reputable companies in the world, so NO, it’s not a scam.

Proactiv Reviews & Complaints

Here are some of the reviews we found, and below are some of the negative reviews.


NOPE. I recently purchased this product thinking it would be the cure for breakouts of my chin, but NO. It aggravated the problem and led to my recent hospital visit to get a doctor’s opinion about my skin woes. Seriously, this product over-dried my skin and led to a disfiguring rash on my chin. My doctor recommended I stop using such harsh products like Proactiv (the chemicals seriously destroyed my skin) and switch to Cetaphil products only for face wash and moisturizer.

Proactiv might work for others, but for skin like mine with perioral dermatitis, it is not the answer- it made my skin worse. Using Cetaphil and Metronidazole was the answer to my long history of chin breakouts and has made my skin beautiful again. Now, I don’t even have to wear ANY foundation or concealer. My recommendation: Ditch the harsh chemicals. I’ll be throwing away the Proactiv and urging others to steer clear of it.

Suzy Morrow:

I had tried the Proactiv 3 step acne treatment system in the past (approx. 1 year ago) I read all precautions prior to first use. I used a few spots on my face to test for over-drying or irritation. These spot tests did not have negative impact on my face. I proceeded to being using the product on my entire face. First of all, no matter how much I rinsed my face off my towels became bleached – possibly faulty of my own, but I do not own a white towel. Following with step two, it made my face burn!! Step-three also made my face burn but not as much. I saw no relief in my facial symptoms, but extremely dried out/peeling skin and bleach towels. I do not recommend this product. How safe is it really for your skin if it is burns and peels and bleaches? This product was NOT for me.

There were a lot of gems, though, and these came from verified purchases. The good news is, the average rating for this product is around four, but it has over 700 reviews on Amazon alone so that’s saying a lot about how effective it is.

KL Dixon:

We bought this system for our special needs son who has hit that age! We have been very pleased with the results and it has really cleared him up. I will warn you, the stage 3 solution will bleach out colors, so wash your hands really well after applying to your face.


Cleared my menopausal acne skin in a week and has kept my skin clear!! I am staying with Proactive!!
I triedso many products before this one to no avail, so did not anticipate any results with Proactive, was I mistaken and sooooo happy to get these great results

NYC Gal:

I got it today. Arrived quickly. Came in a nice packaged kit box. Had informative reading material. Came with a cleanser, toner, and some sort “Repairing Treatment”. It also came with a small tube “Refining Mask”, and a sample size of the Green Tea Moisturizer. Seems to work okay, I’ve only used it once, my face does feel tighter afterwards… not sure if it’s as great as it claims though… and not sure if the price is worth it, but so far I like it.

ProactivMD: Packages, Prices & Where To Buy It

  • ProactivMD 3-Piece System: $19.95 (with subscription)

Including: Deep Cleansing Face Wash, Daily Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30, Adapalene Gel 0.1%.

  • ProactivMD + Complete Duo: $29.95 (with subscription) – Free Shipping!

Including: Deep Cleansing Face Wash, Daily Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30, Adapalene Gel 0.1%, Moisture Repair, Eye Birghtening Serum .

  • ProactivMD + Teen Duo: $29.95 (with subscription) – Free Shipping!

Including: Deep Cleansing Face Wash, Daily Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30, Adapalene Gel 0.1%, Deep Cleansing Body Wash, Blackhead Dissolving Gel.

See below how the official site looks like.

Proactiv official website

Pros & Cons


  • Quality brand. Familiarity goes a long way in the beauty industry.
  • Multipurpose kit. Clears acne, brightens skin, reduces blemishes.
  • 60-day money back. This is guaranteed to work, though, so virtually little need for this.


  • Too many chemicals. Chemicals cause irritation no matter how thick your hide is.

Proactiv Review: Final Words

proactiv acne treatment review - verdict

Proactiv is the biggest name in the acne-treatment industry. The fact that it carries a solid reputation means they have all to lose if their product would fail a lot of their customers. Based on what we’ve seen, Proactiv definitely knows what they’re doing.

We only nitpick on the price as well as their use of artificial ingredients, though. People today are all about going organic as cheap as possible, and we’re not sure if Proactiv’s use of pricey artificial formulations will remain relevant in the years to come.

If you don’t mind the price and if your skin is okay with the ingredients, Proactiv is definitely a keeper.

We laid out the facts, will you buy Proactiv? Comment below and tell us what you think!

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