DIY Friday: Make Your Own Proactive for Under $10

by Lindy on October 7, 2011

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On the first Friday of every month, bloggers show up here to share their latest DIY money-saving projects.  Do you have one? Drop your link in the comments below. 

For this month’s edition of DIY Friday, we here at Minting Nickels won’t be talking about how to make teacup pin cushions.

Teacup Pin Cushions

Nor will be giving you a step-by-step on how to make these electronic component wine charms (even though, HOLY CRAP those are cool).

Electronic Component Wine Charms

No, today we’ll be talking about something a little less pretty.

Remember when I had that bout with vertigo a few months ago? It was caused by a sinus infection, and my doctor prescribed an anti-inflammatory steroid to help shrink my nasal passages and solve my wobbliness.

The steroid gave me insomnia, didn’t kill the dizzies, and one of the side effects was prolonged acne.


See what I mean by not so pretty?

A few weeks ago it was driving me so crazy, I was minutes away from taking Jessica Simpson’s advice and buying Proactiv. But thankfully, a calmer mind prevailed, and a quick internet search revealed that A.) Proactiv is one of those companies that keeps sending you product and charging your credit card after you cancel, and B.) it doesn’t really work.

One of the teenagers on the acne forum (yes, I take the sage advice of teenagers these days) pointed out that the active ingredients in Proactiv are nothing that can’t be bought at any pharmacy.

So I took his advice and made my own Proactiv for less than $10.  Here are the substitutes.


Proactiv Ingredient #1: Micro-crystals

DIY Alternative: Baking Soda

Assuming the “micro-crystals” in Proactiv’s facial cleanser are intended to thoroughly clean your pores, regular old baking soda can do the same thing.

Pour a tablespoon of it into the palm of your hand, splash on a few drops of water, and mix with your finger until it forms a paste. Then scrub it onto your face in a circular motion. The baking soda acts as a natural exfoliant.

When you’re done, rinse with a wet cloth and follow up with a gentle soap, like Basis.

If baking soda is a little too frugal for you, you could use your favorite facial scrub instead.  I alternate between the baking soda and Arbonne facial scrub, taking a day off in between so my skin doesn’t get too stripped.


Proactiv Ingredient #2: Witch Hazel

DIY Alternative: Witch Hazel

Yep, you can buy a bottle of witch hazel at any drugstore. They like to hang near the alcohols and peroxides. Just apply to your face with a cotton ball to replicate the Proactiv toner.

Though this is an option, I personally haven’t used it. I know from past experience that witch hazel toners are too strong for my skin. I’m a delicate flower.


Proactiv Ingredient #3: Benzoyl Peroxide

DIY Alternative: Benzoyl Peroxide

Revolutionary, right? When you’re at the drug store buying your witch hazel, you can also pick up a tube of generic benzoyl peroxide for $4.99. I slather it on my face every night and get great results.  Be sure to read the warning label. Benzoyl peroxide has the power to bleach your clothes and do unnamed bad things to you if you wear it in sunlight. But it does wonders for broken out skin.

So readers, tell me, do you have any favorite home remedies for acne?  Does the word “acne” make your skin crawl?  Any favorite frugal beauty products?

Bloggers, if you have a DIY post to share, please do so in the comments below!  

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  • Wow this is great! I’m going to try this.

  • I use baking soda as a scrub. It can be drying so follow it up with a bit of jojoba oil or a moisturizer. Honey is a simple yet fabulous cleanser. It has antibacterial components that clean the skin. While in the shower I rub it on my face and neck, finish my shower, rinse the honey off.
    I make all my own skin care and through prodding my dermatologist he told me these three things: 1) proactive contains the same active ingredients as many lower priced acne medication 2) when you use acne medications it’s as if you are declaring war on your skin. You want to get it balanced out. It may take longer but it has lasting effects 3) washing your face twice a day is the best thing for your face; especially at night when you have all the grunged of the day built up.
    On my old blog I wrote a series with my girlfriend on homemade skin care. It goes into more detail.

    • Lindy

      I have used honey on my face (though I stopped after my latest skin eruptions), and loved the results. I didn’t know it had antibacterial benefits, and that’s a great idea to keep it in the shower. I may just have to start doing that. Thanks Molly!

  • I only wish I had a DIY this week as cool as yours, Lindy. DIY something you need = frugal. DIY a gift for someone that you have to give for dumb reasons but otherwise wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money on = cheap.

    So I’m cheap – but only for the obligation presents, not the ones I REALLY want to give – sue me.

    This month’s DIY: The t-shirt bag that Pinterest and The Frugal Girl told me to make, versions one (meh) and two (less meh).

    • Lindy

      Ooh, I like this DIY Friday! :)

  • Interesting DIY lindy. Next time I feel transported back into middle school by medicine, i’ll keep this in mind.

    • Lindy

      Yes, and stay away from those steroids.

  • That’s one smart high schooler. I guess the really great lesson here is before you get sucked into the hype, read the label. I can’t believe proactive is just a glorified version of oxy clean.

    • Lindy

      I’m so glad I took two minutes to research it. Hype is definitely overrated.

  • Ann

    This is amazeballs! I was always suspicious of Proactiv, like, why is it only sold via infomercials? If it’s so great, why isn’t it sold in stores? And now the truth comes out – the drugstore version is way cheaper. Well done.

    • Lindy

      Amazeballs, indeed. And those are all valid questions one must ask when something is too good to be true. $4.99 tube of benzoyl peroxide will do it.

  • For really bad ones (I get cystic acne and yes, Proactiv is bs!), I dab a wet cotton ball with pure tea tree oil. It’s important that it be wet, b/c this dilutes the tt oil, which at full-strength would be way too strong and burn you. I hold it on the offending spot until it starts to burn. Tea tree oil is a proven anti-microbial compound, and the deeper it can soak into your skin, the more likely of it reaching the cause of the acne. I also use a product called DermaRoller, but I had to buy it through an esthitician, so it’s not quite DIY.

    • Lindy

      Thanks for the tip! I’ve heard about using tea tree oil too.

  • WELL played!!

  • jojoba oil! i’ve had acne problems all my life and recently came across OCM (oil cleansing method). if you look online there’s oodles and oodles of info on all kinds of oils and combinations of oils / essential oils you can use. i tried numerous combinations, and to be quite honest, the two that have worked the best are straight-up jojoba oil and straight up grapeseed oil. grapeseed can be drying so i use it in the summer when it’s hot, and jojoba oil in the winter. sometimes the simplest solutions are the best!

    add a clarisonic brush (pricey, i know, mine was a gift and i’d pay for it twice over if i had to), and my skin is baby soft smooth and clear :)

    • Lindy

      Interesting! Thanks for the tips, I’ll have to check those oils out.

  • When Proactiv was first introduced, a dermatologist told a friend that washing her face religiously with whatever product she liked would clear up the acne better than Proactiv. She just used a generic cleanser and a little Clearasil and Bam! Skin was clear.

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  • Progressive Atheist

    Wait! you said Proactive doesn’t work! So why would this work? I would love to try it though, how is it working for you?

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