Refining Mask
2.5 fl. oz. for $20
Last Updated:04.01.2015
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Review Overview

Refining Mask is a standard clay mask that also contains 6% pure sulfur. Sulfur can be a good antibacterial agent, but its irritant properties outweigh its benefit for most people. There are better ways to disinfect skin than this, but this is a potential option for short-term use if your acne hasn’t responded to benzoyl peroxide. Our strong suggestion is to use this only on acne-prone areas to minimize the dryness and irritation sulfur can cause. This irritation will be offset to an extent due to the inclusion of linoleic acid, a fatty acid that can reduce inflammation in the pore lining (Source: Cosmetic Dermatology, April 2008, pages 211–212).


A rich, deep-cleansing mask formulated with sulfur, a proven acne-fighting ingredient that reaches deep into pores where blemishes begin. Cool, soothing Kaolin, helps absorb excess surface oils while our special 6% sulfur formula soothes inflammation and refines skin tone and texture. Helps heal blemishes and visibly reduces the appearance of pore size, leaving skin looking fresh and radiant.


Active: Sulfur (6%), Other: Water, Kaolin, Glycereth-26, Linoleic Acid, Cetearyl Alcohol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Ceteareth-20, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Linolenic Acid, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Extract, Geranium Maculatum Extract, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butylene Glycol, Hydrated Silica, Ethoxydiglycol, Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Fragrance, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide

Brand Overview

Proactiv Solution At-A-Glance

Strengths: Effective, elegant-textured AHA, BHA, and skin-lightening options; all sunscreens provide sufficient UVA protection; good options for controlling excess oil breakthrough, including a colorless pressed powder.

Weaknesses: Several products contain irritating ingredients that do not help acne-prone skin; some gimmicky products that no dermatologist-created line should be selling (they should know better); mostly substandard to poor makeup options, including a sulfur-based concealer.

Created by dermatologists Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields, Proactiv launched in 1995 as a three-step system sold via infomercial. With the doctors' endorsements and winning personalities along with a heap of testimonials from people who use the routine (including a rotating list of celebrities, which always garners attention), Proactiv remains a very successful brand that is still going strong. The effusiveness, medical background, accurate information about how acne forms, and sincerity of its creators definitely makes for compelling television (we admit to catching the infomercial on more than one sleepless night), but what about the products themselves? Are they the answer the ads promise?

The core system consists of a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide and scrub particles, a toner with glycolic acid, and a lotion that contains a low (but still effective) amount of benzoyl peroxide. No questions here, this is a straightforward routine and hardly unique to Proactiv! Some percentage of people will benefit from daily use of this system (it contains the basics that are necessary for over-the-counter treatment of acne), but it's definitely not for everyone, and every dermatologist knows that (just check out the American Academy of Dermatology Web site at www.aad.org, for example, on their recommendations for battling blemishes).

It also goes without saying that other lines offer many less expensive versions of all the Proactiv products. However, for those who choose this system, the key is compliance, at least as long as you're seeing good results. Anyone battling acne needs to know that, barring a successful experience with the prescription drug Accutane, it cannot be cured—only controlled. We don't doubt that many people have seen their acne respond positively to a daily routine of the core Proactiv products, and for some it has been a life-changing experience—but it's not the answer for acne for everyone.

Although they still appear in ads and literature for the brand, Drs. Rodan and Fields have branched out to create their own namesake line, reviewed elsewhere on this site. While the Rodan + Fields line is not acne-centric like Proactiv, they did include products for blemishes, a few of which are similar to but more expensive than their Proactiv counterparts. And of course, this dual branding begs the question: if Rodan and Fields believe that Proactiv is the best option for those struggling with acne, why did they create alternative products in their namesake line? Why not just mention to Rodan + Fields customers dealing with acne that the Proactiv line has exactly what they need?

Along with Proactiv and the namesame Rodan and Fields line, these dermatologists also created Proactiv+, which is supposed to be smarter and faster than original Proactiv. For the most part, these products are quite similar, they just have a stronger emphasis on anti-aging issues such as uneven skin tone and enlarged pores from sun damage. We wish these products were more compelling, but many of them are truly problematic and not something two reputable dermatologists should feel comfortable putting their names on.

For more information about Proactiv, call (800) 876-9717 or visit www.proactiv.com. For more information about Proactiv+, visit www.proactivplus.com.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

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