How I Use Proactiv


Proactiv has been in my skincare routine since I was 14 years old. I’ve used every formula they have to offer and have learned over the years exactly the best way to use it for my skin. Now I know most of you must be thinking, “Don’t you just follow the steps…?” The answer is surprisingly no and I haven’t for a very long time.

Proactiv productsNow, before we get into this I just want to make it clear that I do not represent Proactiv in anyway, I am not a dermatologist or a skin care expert. I’ve just suffered from acne for over a decade now and this is just my personal advice and knowledge that I’ve (unfortunately) had to learn and gained over the years.

Now that we’re done with the formalities, let’s get to the good stuff! When I first started to use the system as a teen I was rigorous with my routine. Every morning and every night I made sure to use all three steps exactly as instructed. In the beginning it worked, my skin cleared up and I was thrilled. However, that only lasted for some time. After a few months I’ve noticed that my skin started to get used to the product and one day just stopped working altogether. Believe me I was horrified. Not only did my acne come back but it was even worse than before!

That’s when I really started to do my research and started to experiment. I will make another post about how I changed my diet and exercise routine for my skin as well and what a change that did but I won’t get into too much detail right now.

The first thing I noticed was that my skin was extremely red and oily all the time. Now, to begin with I have oily skin but this was on another level. So I started to change up the routine. I began by using the three step system only at night. I thought that during the day I should just leave my skin alone, wash it with some water in the morning and put on some moisturizer that did not have benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Immediately I noticed that my skin was not as oily during the day but the redness remained. After about a week or two, I was hoping the redness would clear up on its own but it did not, I once again reevaluated the three step system to see what the problem was. Every time I used the face wash I noticed my skin was super tight afterwards, uncomfortably tight. This is when I decided I won’t use the face wash anymore and completely threw it out of the mix.

I know that seems drastic but I was not seeing the results I wanted to so I knew something had to change. After about a week the redness completely disappeared. I knew I was onto something here! The three step system, although for some may be perfect, for my skin was just too much. Furthermore, I realized the toner wasn’t doing anything for my pores. As I’ve spoken about before in my previous post, Let’s Talk Skincare, toners do not work on my skin they actually irritate it. Once I threw that out as well it made such a difference!

So let’s get down to what I actually do use from the Proactiv System!

One night after yet another bad breakout, I put on the step three lotion from the gentle system. This was the one that was out a few years ago and did not have any benzoyl peroxide in the lotion except salicylic acid. I slathered it all over my face hoping that it would flatten out the bumps within an hour or so but of course it didn’t really do much. I knew the benzoyl peroxide was much stronger and worked faster so I went to my mom and asked should I wash off the lotion that I currently had on my face and put the step three lotion from the original system, with the benzoyl peroxide. My mom looked at my skin and told me not to wash it off, over cleansing will just cause further irritation. Instead, just put the lotion with the benzoyl peroxide on right over what I already had on my skin. I won’t lie I was a little nervous thinking that it would be too much but at this point I honestly just didn’t care anymore! I just wanted them gone!

I put the lotion from the original system on my face and went to bed about 20 minutes later. Let me tell you guys when I woke up the next morning I truly couldn’t believe my eyes. My skin was so much smoother and about 60% of the breakouts I had drastically healed! I couldn’t believe it!

I knew there was something I had here so I tried it again the following night and woke up to even better skin then the following day! So this is when I started to experiment with the mixture I came up with and here is what I’ve learned.


Mixing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid on my skin finally gave me the results I was looking for. I realized I can create my own 2 step system. First I use from the newest system, Proactiv+, the Step 3 Complexion Perfecting Hydrator. I apply a thin amount to my entire face, except above my lip or near my eye area. I wait about 20 minutes, until I feel that it has fully sunken into my skin and then apply the other lotion.

Proactiv+ Complexion Perfecting Hydrator

Step 1

The I follow with the lotion from the original system, the Step 3 Repairing Treatment. Just like with the first lotion, I apply a thin layer to my entire face avoiding above my lip and eye area.

Proactiv Step 3 lotion

Step 2

If you’re wondering why I don’t put the product above my lip, it’s because I never really break out there and when I do put Proactiv in that area it only causes irritation. I like to wait at least an hour before I lay down to bed. I like to sleep on my side so I really want to let the product sink into my skin as much as possible before any of it rubs off on my pillow case. Side note, Proactiv does bleach clothing so be careful what you sleep on!


 If you’re anything like me you’re extremely impatient and want to clear your skin overnight. Believe me I know how that feels! But by overdoing it you’ll actually end up making it worse than better. I highly recommend doing this every other night for the first week, if you’re breakout is bad, and then switching over to every third night. You don’t want to let your skin get used to the product. That’s why the less often you use it, the more effective it becomes.


Once I figured out how well this can work and my skin started to fully clear up, I went at times a full week of not applying this to my skin. However, as I said, the less often you do it the more powerful the reaction becomes. One night after not doing it for about 10 days I woke up the next morning and my skin was extremely red. I realized I may have applied too thick a layer and since I didn’t really have many breakouts on my skin it was too strong. If you don’t have many breakouts, try using it as a spot treatment instead. My best advice here is when you try mixing these two lotions together for the first time, do a patch test on a small area first. Also make sure you can stay home the next day just in case your skin turns red. It is a common side effect from all of Proactiv’s products as it says it on the label, so make sure your skin can handle it and you do not suffer from any allergic reaction to the product.


You can purchase individual products on Proactiv’s website. However, there are Proactiv kiosks at many malls and other locations. There you can also purchase the products separately and have them the same day.


Once again this is all personal preference and what works best for your skin but I always use an oil based mild cleanser, only at night, for my skin to make sure I get all the makeup and gunk off my face from the day. Then I follow up with a gentle moisturizer that does not have any benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid in it. On the days you don’t use Proactiv you want to give your skin a break and just let it breathe.

I really hope this post was helpful! I know the struggle of having acne and feeling like it’ll never go away but it will! It just takes time, patience, and some knowledge on how to keep it under control.
I will have a post coming soon on how important diet is in terms of keeping your acne under control so be sure to check it out!

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