The “reactive element effect”, modified from its earlier representation of the “rare earth effect”, is a well known term within the oxidation community. It describes several beneficial outcomes on the oxidation behavior of alumina and chromia forming alloys. Any element can be considered “reactive” if it is more oxygen active than the scale forming element, namely that of Al or Cr. However, the relative effectiveness of each element can be quite different. Numerous scientific studies have been carried out on this topic since its discovery more than 70 years ago to gain understanding of the manifestations of and reasons for these effects. This paper gives an overview that summarizes current understandings on this effect and points to issues that warrant further studies.