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Acne Free vs. Proactiv

author image J.M. Andrews
J.M. Andrews has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years. She specializes in health and medical content for consumers and health professionals. Andrews' background in medicine and science has earned her credits in a wide range of online and print publications, including "Young Physicians" magazine.
Acne Free vs. Proactiv
A young girl washes her face with a lathery soap. Photo Credit jean-marie guyon/iStock/Getty Images

Many people combine a variety of cleansing and toner products each day to treat their acne. In an effort to accommodate potential customers, both Proactiv and AcneFree have developed acne treatment systems that combine three or more products. Both skin product manufacturers use benzoyl peroxide, a proven acne-fighter, for their most popular products.


Although acne results from a combination of factors, including excess shedding of skin cells and too much oil on your skin, bacterial infection can make it much worse, according to the website MayoClinic.com. The benzoyl peroxide in both AcneFree and Proactiv acne treatment systems fights acne-causing bacteria, according to the website Drugs.com. It also helps to dry your skin, removing excess oil that can clog your pores.


AcneFree's three-part system for sensitive skin and Proactiv Plus for Teens both include products with the active ingredient salicylic acid. Salicylic acid, another ingredient commonly found in anti-acne products, helps to clear out your pores by inciting your skin to peel. It also helps prevent new pore clogs from forming.

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Both the benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid found in AcneFree and Proactiv products can effectively treat mild to moderate acne, according to the website MayoClinic.com. But both also can irritate your skin, according to Drugs.com. Benzoyl peroxide also can cause excessive dryness, while salicylic acid use often leads to excessive peeling.


No one acne medication works for everyone, and AcneFree and Proactiv are no exceptions. According to reviews on Acne.org, neither gets consistently high ratings from users. Many Proactiv users complained about the product's $75 price tag, and some said Proactiv employed what they called unscrupulous billing practices. More AcneFree customers expressed satisfaction, but others complained it made their breakouts worse.


AcneFree and Proactiv each work for some acne patients, but not for others. If you have stubborn acne, you may need to experiment to see which system and which products work best for you. According to the website MayoClinic.com, the irritation and other side effects you may see from over-the-counter acne products such as AcneFree and Proactiv often resolve after one month's treatment.

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