Disclosure: Samples provided by the company
At a glance
Discover my detailed review of the best-selling Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliating from the American skincare brand Paula's Choice.
You can’t really say I was super original in my Paula’s Choice product tests. I tried their absolute best-seller, the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. And you know what? It was definitely a great idea!
Exfoliating acids have been in my skincare bag of tricks for ages. A few years ago, I used them in serum or cream format and for a short amount of time (a few weeks), only 2 to 3 times a year.
And then, recently, I discovered exfoliating toners and I’ve been using one almost every day since!
There are several of them on the market but only a few have the cult skincare products status. There is the famous Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 (I did a review here), obviously.
And there’s also the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. An exfoliating toner, with a great amount of salicylic acid. It’s probably my favorite acid by the way (I have combination skin, so an acid that’s able to clean pores, I’m definitely interested!).
The Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant has been the brand’s best-seller for years, in every country they sell their products. Let me explain why it’s everyone’s favorite (including me!).
I won’t go back over the history and concept of the brand in this review. If you’re interested, feel free to read my interview with the founder of Paula’s Choice, the fascinating Paula Begoun:
I would like to point out that exfoliating acid treatments are the brand’s most popular products, and they have a lot of different options in this category.
BHA is an ingredient that Paula Begoun is particularly fond of (her favorite product is a spot treatment, the BHA 9 , which is sadly not available outside the US, as she explained to me in her interview).
She has very sensitive skin, swears by chemical exfoliation, and loves salicylic acid/BHA which works wonders on her complicated skin.
Because people with sensitive skin can also use exfoliating acids! All you need to do is find a well-formulated and balanced product, and that’s the case with this Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (which is also a Paula favourite, by the way!).
Product presentation: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is an acid exfoliating toner, not to be confused with a toner (which you usually use after you removed your makeup).
Exfoliating toners are a skincare treatment, usually recommended for uneven skin, with texture, and for their anti-aging effect. They’re also called peeling toners.
The formula of the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliating Lotion is very simple and focuses on 2 star ingredients:
– BHA or salicylic acid, which is an exfoliating ingredient (its concentration here is 2%). It removes dead cells and debris from the skin’s surface. Due to its lipophilic nature, it’s also able to go inside the pores to deeply cleanse them! Perfect if you tend to have blackheads! It also helps to accelerate skin renewal, which stimulates the skin and gives it radiance.
– green tea extract, a very antioxidant ingredient, and anti-aging. It’s also soothing, has a smoothing effect on skin texture and helps to reduce the size of the pores.
I ‘ve been using exfoliating acids for years and lately, I’ve been rather faithful to my Biologique Recherche Lotion P50. But I must admit that since I introduced some retinol into my routine, my skin is quite sensitive to it…
So of course, the first thing I did was to stop the acids until my skin got used to the retinol. But after a few weeks, I really wanted to start using them again. Retinol is very effective on the radiance of the complexion but on my skin, naturally quite “textured”, only acids are able to smooth it in the way I like it to be.
I didn’t feel ready to re-use the P50 Lotion, so I looked for an alternative option, still effective but less irritating than the P50. Then I remembered that I had a travel size bottle of Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant Lotion I received as a gift with an order I placed a while, so I started using it.
First twice a week, in the evenings when I wasn’t using my retinol, then I gradually increased because I had no irritation. Now I can use it 5 times a week without any issue, even with my retinol in the same routine and my skin loves this combo!
Recently, I tried to reintroduce the Lotion P50 into my routine twice a week because I don’t like the idea of stopping it (yes, I feel like I’m addicted to certain products…lol) but quite honestly, I’m not convinced. My skin still feels sensitized when I’m using it, so I think I’ll stick to Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, which gives me excellent results without any irritation.
While I’m using the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant or any other exfoliating products with AHA, BHA and/or PHA, I never forget to apply a sunscreen in the daytime (SPF30 minimum but in Dubai, I use at least an SPF50).
And I apply it every day, not just the day after I used my exfoliant. The reason is that exfoliating acids are great ingredients but they tend to make the skin more sensitive to the sun. I’m going to be brutally honest here, but if you’re not ready to apply a sunscreen product every day, it’s not a good idea to be considering this treatment. Yes, even if you live up in Canada. Yes, even in December. And no, sorry, your tinted moisturizer with an SPF is not enough. Unless you put a super thick layer, the kind that makes you look super cakey (not a good look!). A foundation is also not designed for that purpose, nor BB creams, nor the cushions foundations (sorry). Only sunscreens can give your skin the protection you need, and this only if you use enough, of course (= 1/2 teaspoon for the face, neck and ears).
Personally, I use my acids all year round, I don’t take a break during the summer because I usually don’t go into the sun. You won’t see me sunbathing anytime soon, it’s never been my thing!
Regarding the results, I find my skin smooth, my texture is almost gone and I’ve also seen an improvement in the size of my pores. I’ve almost no more blackheads left (I have a tiny one super occasionally, once or twice a year and that’s it!).
About the anti-aging effect, as is often the case, it must be considered over the long term and personally, I believe more in preventive than really curative action for this kind of treatment.
I also find it very soft, it has never caused me any irritation, even if I use retinol at the same time!
Contrary to what one might think, it’s not drying at all, on the contrary. It’s just a great overall product!
I bought it, the big size as soon as I finished my first sample and the brand was kind enough to gift me a second bottle when I met them in Paris. I’m all set! 🙂
Value for money:
IMO, the price of this product is very fair, especially when you consider that it does the job well and lasts quite a long time. A bottle lasts me about 4 months if I use it 5 times a week.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant retails for $29.50 (the Paula’s Choice website does promotions quite often, so you can avoid paying it full price quite easily).
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is mainly available online.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant isn’t a cult favorite without reason. I totally understand why it’s super popular!
It is super effective without being irritating, an ironfistina velvet glove! The fact that I can use it with my retinol is definitely a bonus, it would have bothered me to drop my dear acids that are so beneficial to my skin.
Product Review in detail
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
"Our #1 product worldwide + cult favorite, this gentle leave-on exfoliant quickly unclogs pores, smooths wrinkles, and brightens and evens out skin tone.
Clears & minimizes enlarged pores
BHA (Beta hydroxy acid) sheds built-up layers of skin
Fluid, lightweight texture absorbs quickly
Use twice daily after cleansing & toning."
I love that product!
- its efficiency, it really does the job!
- the radiance effect of the complexion,
- it evens the complexion, and helps to clarify the skin,
- the action on the skin texture, it really helps to reduce the size of pores,
- it's moisturizing,
- I don't find it irritating at all,
- its simple and short formula,
- a bottle lasts a long time (about 5 months).
- it's only available online.
Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
A black plastic bottle with a white cap, very simple.
Very liquid, like water, but you can feel the presence of a solvent in the formula (butylene glycol) that gives it an almost greasy feel. It doesn't stay at all and it absorbs in a few seconds.
For all skin types, and especially for:
– combination skin with visible pores,
– mature skin,
– tired skin,
– dull skin,
– acne prone skin (especially with blackheads).
– tired skin
– dull skin
– skin exposed to the pollution
– mature skin
– sagging skin
– wrinkles and fine lines
– dark spots
– large pores
– uneven texture
– blackheads, whiteheads, pimples.
I use it in the evening, between 3 and 5 times a week at the moment (but you can use it every day if you want to).
I apply it after I cleansed my face with a low pH cleanser (acids work best on the skin at a low pH) on a clean, dry face. If possible, I leave my face to dry a few minutes because wet skin is more sensitive to acids (if you have very sensitive skin, it’s even better to let the skin dry completely for 20-30 minutes).
For the first applications (the first two weeks in my case), the brand recommends applying it only once or twice a week and increasing the frequency if the skin supports it. I had no irritation with this product, so I was able to increase very easily.
You can use a cotton pad to apply it (by dabbing pressures) but I prefer to apply it directly with my hands on my skin, to avoid wasting product. I shake the bottle so that I have a small amount in the palm of my hand and apply it by pressing it into my skin, until it’s completely absorbed. I don’t forget the neck and decolleté.
Once the product is absorbed, I simply move on to the rest of my skincare routine, usually with the application of a moisturizing toner and/or an essence.
The formula is really simple and super short (only 8 ingredients!).
It mainly contains salicylic acid (BHA) which is an exfoliating ingredient (its concentration here: 2%). It removes dead cells and debris from the skin’s surface. Due to its lipophilic nature, it’s also able to go inside the pores to clean them! Very interesting when you have combination skin and/or blackheads.
It also contains green tea extract known for its powerful anti-oxidant effect, and also anti-aging action. It’s also a soothing ingredient and has an effect on skin texture and it helps to reduce the pore size.
Aqua, Methylpropanediol, Butylene Glycol, Salicylic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Sodium Hydroxide, Tetrasodium EDTA.
Ingredients not included
– mineral oils,
– synthetic fragrance,
– essential oils,