The Review | Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel

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.

Any thoughts?
Maggie, x.

The Review | Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Smoothing Treatment

I didn’t realize that I enjoyed the Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA ($36 US/ 30 mLs) quite so much until I found myself repurchasing it at the Black Friday Sale. Unlike the discontinued Paula’s Choice RESIST Weekly Resurfacing Treatment 10% AHA, I don’t use it one night and instantly notice that my skin is so much smoother and brighter, and that my textural irregularities have been toned down notably. However, I do notice that this formula likely gets me to the same place whilst being even more gentle and having even a soothing action on my easily-angered skin with continued use. What I enjoy the most about the newer addition to Paula’s line is that it combines a gentle alpha hydroxy acid with enough salicylic acid (0.5%) to combat the clogged pores that I’m prone to around my chin and lower cheeks, whilst also being a skin-restoring serum. The most impressive part is that it does this without irritating my sensitive skin that I keep in check with prescription Differin and azelaic acid.

IMG_9990

This formula is different than most exfoliants on the market for two main reasons reasons: (1) It’s formulated without drying alcohol and irritants and is at the correct concentration and pH to be effective (2) It’s an effective mixture of the bog-standard glycolic acid and the larger molecule alpha hydroxy acids lactic acid, magic acid and tartaric acid. In more recent years, I’m happy to report that other effective gentle acids have come onto the market but few contain the restoring soothing ingredients that Paula’s do at her more reasonable price tag. I believe that this acid product’s brilliance is that it provides the potent 10% AHA concentration (that I can tell you is effective firsthand) but is gentler because it combines the slightly more gentler AHA’s along with the glycolic acid that features in most AHA exfoliants, along with skin repairing ingredients, antioxidants and anti-irritants. Now let’s segway into the ingredients in more depth:

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Glycolic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Glycerin (hydration/skin replenishing), Lactic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (texture enhancer), Malic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Tartaric Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 (skin-restoring), Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (skin-restoring), Ceramide NG (skin-replenishing), Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (skin-soothing), Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (antioxidant), Avena Sativa (Oat) Bran Extract (skin-soothing), Punica Granatum Fruit Extract (antioxidant), Lycium Barbarum Fruit Extract (antioxidant), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract (antioxidant), Sambucus Nigra Fruit Extract (antioxidant), Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (antioxidant), Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (antioxidant/skin-soothing), Peucedanum Graveolens (Dill) Extract (antioxidant), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Adenosine (skin-restoring), Hydrogenated Lecithin (skin-restoring), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Polyquaternium-10 (texture enhancer), Xanthan Gum (thickener/emulsifier), Carbomer (texture enhancer), Polysorbate 20 (cleansing agent), Sodium Bicarbonate (pH adjuster), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Aminomethyl Propanol (pH adjuster), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Benzyl Alcohol (preservative).

As previously mentioned, the formula’s basis is the 10% concentration of water binding alpha-hydroxy acids along with 0.5% salicylic acid to help penetrate the pores and aid with treating congestion. As with all Paula’s Choice products, it does this without fragrance, drying alcohols and plant extracts that are known to cause irritant reactions. The alpha hydroxy acids work to bind water to the skin and smooth its texture and diminish the look of imperfections and any sort of discolouration. Glycerin helps to bind water to the skin and the peptides theoretically help to normalize skin cell activity and reinforce the skin’s barrier. The ceramides that the formula contains play a significant role in repairing the skin’s barrier, which is important for everyone’s skin health but is especially important when you have a tendency towards eczema and naturally have an impaired barrier. The formula also contains a bunch of antioxidants and anti-irritants but I’ll talk most about the ones that appear in higher concentrations and are the most notable. Licorice root extract is anti-inflammatory ingredient that also plays a role in treating hyperpigmentation. Sidenote: this extract also appears to act against acne causing bacteria. Chamomile is antioxidant that also has evidence of extra anti-inflammatory ability.

The texture of the product is a lightweight but not watery gel thats effectively dispensed in a dropper. The product is fluid enough that I believe that the packaging is probably the most effective style that it could be and is definitely practical and a bit more sophisticated than Paula’s Choice packaging of the past. The packaging improvement and inclusion of so many beneficial ingredients makes the middle of the road price tag worthwhile for me. I do note that Paula’s Choice products have increased in price in the last several years but I do believe that their formulas have become more sophisticated, as has their packaging as a result. Even though you get very little product, I don’t find you need much and I appreciate that it functions as a nice serum as well as an exfoliant. For those wondering, this product is not clearly stated as vegan – see the Paula’s Choice animal testing page for the full details – but it’s certainly cruelty free.

Any thoughts?
Maggie, x.