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Acne Complex vs. Proactiv

clear glowing skin

When debating the pros and cons of Acne Complex vs. Proactiv, it's best to consider factors such as clinical results, customer testimonials, price, ingredients and ease of use. Both kits battle stubborn breakouts and help clear skin, but one may fit better into your lifestyle and end up being gentler on your skin.

Acne Complex Specifics

Murad Acne Complex is a three-step system designed to help clear acne breakouts with minimal irritation. Acne Complex is formulated with pharmaceutical-grade ingredients such as salicylic acid combined with hydrators, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants to maintain skin health. Specific products in the kit include:

Clarifying Cleanser

Acne Complex Clarifying Cleanser is an antibacterial cleanser that helps eliminate over 99 percent of surface bacteria, while salicylic acid helps heal and prevent future breakouts.

Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel

Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel uses a blend of retinol and glycolic and salicylic acids to stimulate cell turnover, heal breakouts and unclog pores.

Skin Perfecting Lotion

This oil-free moisturizer lightly hydrates while minimizing pores and soothing irritation with a blend of queen of meadow, algae extracts, retinol and arnica.

Products Included in Proactiv

Like Murad Acne Complex, Proactiv is also a three-step system and consists of a cleanser, toner and repairing lotion, each of which is designed to help clear existing breakouts and prevent new ones from forming with minimal irritation. Specific products include:

Renewing Cleanser

This exfoliating cleanser contains mirco-crystal benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria, while exfoliating beads remove dirt, oil and dead skin cells.

Revitalizing Toner

Revitalizing Toner is alcohol-free and helps remove the last traces of dirt and oil. Botanicals leave skin feeling soft and refreshed without dryness or tightness.

Repairing Lotion

Repairing Lotion is a lightweight lotion that helps clear and prevent acne breakouts without irritation. This product is the real acne killer and contains the most acne-fighting medicine, according to Proactiv.

Acne Complex vs. Proactiv

Both Murad Acne Complex and Proactiv work by treating the whole face to help clear existing breakouts and prevent future blemishes from forming, but the systems use different ingredients to treat acne.

Acne Complex Ingredients

Murad Acne Complex mainly uses the ingredients salicylic acid and retinol to battle acne and clogged pores. The Clarifying Cleanser and Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel contain 1.5 and 1 percent salicylic acid respectively, which helps clear non-inflamed acne and unclog pores. Retinol, which is found in the Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel, helps boost cell turnover so pores stay clear.

Proactiv Ingredients

Proactiv primarily uses benzoyl peroxide to fight breakouts, which is used to clear mild to moderate acne. Benzoyl Peroxide is included in both the Renewing Cleanser and the Repairing Lotion.

facial cleansing

How to Use Each System

Each of the three steps in Murad Acne Complex is designed to be used twice a day. Murad recommends using the Exfoliating Treatment Gel once per day if you're new to using products containing alpha hydroxy acid, then increasing frequency to twice per day.

Proactiv also recommends using each of its three products twice daily for optimal results. It's important to allow skin to dry after applying the Revitalizing Toner, and then again after applying the Repairing Lotion.

Clinical Results and Customer Testimonials

When deciding between Acne Complex vs. Proactiv, it's always a good idea to see if the brand publishes clinical results, before and after photos or customer testimonials. In a Murad-sponsored clinical study, 92 percent of Murad Acne Complex users experienced a reduction in acne breakouts in just three days. According to reviews on the Murad website, 96 percent of customers would recommend the system to a friend.

Proactiv doesn't have any clinical results published on its website; however, it does have a link to real stories, and before and after photos posted by customers that showcase the system's acne-healing ability. Proactiv has also received numerous magazine awards such as Teen Vogue's Reader's Choice Beauty Awards Best Acne Product for 2009 and InStyle magazine's Best Acne Regimen for Oily Skin for 2009.


Price is always a factor to consider when debating between Acne Complex vs. Proactiv. A 60-day supply of Murad Acne Complex, which contains a 4.5 oz. Clarifying Cleanser, 2 oz. Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel, 1.7 oz. Skin Perfecting Lotion and a free bonus gift of .5 oz. Acne Spot Treatment retails for $60.

The Proactiv original three-step system, which includes Renewing Cleanser, Revitalizing Toner, Repairing Lotion and free Refining Mask and travel size Green Tea Moisturizer retails for $19.95 for a 30-day supply.

Choosing Your System

Whether you decide to use Murad Acne Complex or Proactiv to heal your acne, both kits can be returned if they don't work out for you. Murad Acne Complex and Proactiv both offer a 60-day money back guarantee, so all you have to do is send the product back via USPS for a refund.

Acne Complex vs. Proactiv