When these at-home rinse-off peeling products became popular, I found myself incredibly annoyed that I was unable to easily purchase them in Canada. After the irritation that many of us have faced from over-zealous use of acids and high-potency actives, I kind of understand why Canada has limited the sales of high percentage over-the-counter acids. The Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel ($39 US | 30 mL) was released as limited edition in 2020, but has recently become available again in a permanent capacity and I have to say that I have enjoyed using it. I do emphasize that using acids in this kind of concentration — even in a completely non-irritating and soothing vehicle — can be incredibly irritating and should be treaded with caution; the ten minute guideline should also be taken very seriously and literally.
This lavender-hued gel contains a 25% complex of alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, tartaric acid and malic acid), along with 2% beta hydroxy acid, sodium hyaluronate, and a number of soothing antioxidants. I can happily report that it doesn’t contain any fragrance or weird potentially irritating plant extracts. I will comment that on my more delicate skin, this can tingle and make my following products sting, which is to be expected on a routine involving a prescription retinoid while using a high-strength acid. I can happily report however, that I’m left with skin that’s noticeably brighter, smoother and resurfaced. It helps with congestion as well. I do note that I use this maybe once per week at maximum. I do, however, get instant results after I use this, as directed, of course. I suppose I use it as a mask-peel when I want exfoliation, instant gratification and visible results.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Aminomethyl Propanol (pH adjuster), Glycolic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Lactic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Mandelic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Isoamyl Laurate (emollient), Tartaric Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Propanediol (hydration), Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant,) Malic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Butylene Glycol (texture enhancer), Clitoria Ternatea (Butterfly Pea) Flower Extract (antioxidant/skin-soothing), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin replenishing), Glycyrrhetinic Acid (licorice-derived skin soothing), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Tocopherol (vitamin E/antioxidant), Bisabolol (skin soothing), Allantoin (skin soothing), Hydroxyethylcellulose (thickener), Hydrogenated Lecithin (skin-restoring), Xanthan Gum (thickener), Polyglyceryl-4 Laurate (emulsifier), Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6 (stabilizer/thickener), Titanium Dioxide (Cl 77891) (mineral-derived pigment), Mica (CI 77019) (mineral-derived pigment), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).
It’s formulated at a pH between 3.5-3.9, which keeps the acids functioning optimally as exfoliation agents, without being excessively irritating as exfoliants veering on the excessively acidic side of things. Along with the standard but effective 2% concentration of pore-penetrating salicylic acid, the formula contains 8.4% glycolic acid, 7.1% lactic acid, 5% mandelic acid, 2.5% malic acid and 2% tartaric acid. As someone who is sensitive to glycolic acid in higher concentrations, I enjoy using it in a medium-high strength in a rinse off product to minimize irritation from the deep-penetrating acid, while still getting its benefits. Other than the acids, this formula includes butterfly pea flower extract, which is a more novel antioxidant that has calming and redness reducing properties. Of course, it contains a hyaluronic acid, a number of antioxidants and some other soothing ingredients as well.
In Canada, my purchasing options are limited to the official website here. However, I like that they offer affordable quick shipping to Canada that’s free over quite a low minimum and have good sales. I know those in the US can also purchase from Amazon — with prime eligibility– , and will soon be able to purchase the brand from Sephora, along with some Nordstroms. I also believe in the UK, they can purchase from the official site for the region along with Cult Beauty. I can also happily report that Paula’s Choice ships to a wide variety of countries through different regional sites. Dermstore, Skinstore and Skincarerx are all authorized online retailers as well that run frequent sales.