The ads would have you believe Proactiv is the best way to fight pimples. I've been using the products for years and I have to agree. While my skin isn't perfect, there has definitely been a huge improvement and I haven't found anything that works better. I completely recommend the products, but I do admit that they have their problems.
I use the most basic Proactiv package - the 3 Step System of Cleanse, Tone and Repair. It's part of my routine morning and night (you're only supposed to use Repair once day, unless you have a breakout, but I just use it every time). Now, the only imperfections I get can be covered by make-up, and people who know what my skin used to be like still compliment me on how clear it has become.
The 3 Step System
I've particularly noticed improvements in the last year or so, which I think corresponds to the new formula that has been introduced. It seems to be stronger now, but it also seems to cause reactions more frequently.
Transitioning from the old version to the new, I woke up one day with slight swelling around my eyes and chin. However, it took me a few more days to figure out that it was my new Proactiv products that had caused the swelling. By that time I was fine so I just kept using them but I strongly recommend doing the patch test if you're new to Proactiv.
Another downside to Proactiv is the way it dries out your skin quite a lot. For me, it just meant turning the 3 Step System into 4 Step System (cleanse, tone, repair and moisturise) but I know the dryness has stopped others using the products.
My skin also seems to have developed a dependency on Proactiv. I don't receive a new batch every three months (when it's usually sent out) because I don't use it that fast and and there have been times when I've run out before I've gotten round to getting more. My skin is fine when the first product runs out, and often when the second runs out too, but as soon as I stop using all three, my skin gets worse than it ever was before.
The last problem I have with the products is that they can bleach items like towels and pillows, so you have to be careful what you touch. The main issue is the Cleanser, because you can't avoid drying your face after washing it, but I've also found that if I get home late and only apply Proactiv right before bed, the Repair can affect my pillows.
The Cleanser can bleach towels
Be careful the Repair doesn't get on you pillow
If you buy the products online, you will probably get at least one free gift with your purchase. In the past, I've received the Refining Mask and the Cleansing Body Bar. I used the Refining Mask as a spot treatment, without much effect. I haven't tried the body bars yet.
The Refining Mask
Cleansing Body Bars I have received
In addition to the free products, you also get a book called The Doctors' Secret to a Lifetime of Clear Skin. It's apparently valued at $15.00, but I don't think it's worth that much. Each page is just one sentence on a coloured background giving you tips on how to improve your skin. I actually wish I didn't get it every time, as I consider it a waste of paper.
Ultimately, I recommend Proactiv to those struggling to manage their skin, but warn that it does have its issues. I think it's best used as a last resort, but if you're like me and haven't found anything else that works, you may as well give it a go. Personally, I'm happy enough to have found a product that clears my skin, so I'm willing to put up with its downsides.