However, with a name like “Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment With 2% BHA”, you would think it was a K-Beauty product, right next to other “ridiculously long product name” titleholders like the “Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Borabit Ampoule” and … well, too many others to list. Interestingly, Paula’s Choice does make Asia-exclusive versions of their products, but this isn’t one of them.
In this post:
- Product details
- Ingredients & how to apply
- How I was lured away from my usual BHA
- The good and the bad
I’m somewhat reluctantly reviewing this product, because I’m not a big fan of the company, but dodgy science demos and flip-flopping shade parades aside, they make some gooood acids.
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Full product name: Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment With 2% BHA.
Purpose: A daily-strength beta hydroxy acid chemical exfoliant, enabling you to clear clogged pores, slough off dead skin, and prevent new clogs from forming.
Scent: Unpleasant, but hard to describe. It’s not super potent, and it doesn’t linger, thank goodness.
Texture: Like water, which is a key difference from other variations they make.
Quantity: 3 oz
Rating: 4/5, because it works without drying out my skin too terribly, but they lose a point for trying to demonstrate that layering skincare doesn’t impact the pH of their products because their products don’t change when you mix them with water. Science fail demerit: that’s not how pH works.
Where to get it: Paula’s Choice Website (you can get $10 off your first order with this referral code if you need one.) | Amazon | eBay
Repurchase: If they do Black Friday sales or any sort of sale that drops this below $30, yes. Then I will go make a donation of the difference to a science education charity so I can feel less guilty about it.
Ingredients & how to apply
Interestingly, their website goes out of their way to explain purpose of many of the ingredients, perhaps to combat the “if a gradeschooler can’t pronounce it, avoid it” anti-chemical marketing hype out there.
Water (Aqua), Dipropylene Glycol, Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid exfoliating agent), Pentylene Glycol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Polysorbate 20 (texture-enhancing), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (skin-restorings)[sic], Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (skin-soothing), Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid (antioxidant), Oleanolic Acid (skin-soothing), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration/skin replenishing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Trehalose (hydration/skin replenishing), Panthenol (skin-conditioning agent), Glycerin (hydration/skin replenishing), PEG-60 Almond Glycerides (texture-enhancing), Sodium Metabisulfite (stabilizer), PEG/PPG-18/4 Copolymer (solvent), Methyl Gluceth-20, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane (hydration/texture-enhancing), Glycereth-26 (emollient texture-enhancing), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Carbomer (gel-based texture-enhancing), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Caprylyl Glycol (skin-conditioning agent).
I’ve periodically pH tested this exfoliant to see if it underwent any changes over time, and it’s stayed consistently at the correct range of just below pH 4. From what I’ve read, PC buffers their acids, making them more stable.
The site directions for application are:
Apply once or twice daily after cleansing and toning. Lightly soak a cotton pad and apply over the entire face, including the eye area (avoid the lower lash line and eyelids). Do not rinse. For daytime, follow with a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 25 or greater.
I don’t follow them. (Oooo, rebellious!) At $33 a bottle, there’s no way I’m wasting it on soaking a cotton square. And a cotton pad, no less? Nope. Since it has the consistency of water, it can be tricky to apply with your hands without it running everywhere.
I splash a few drops into my cupped palm, and then immediately stick my cheek down into it, then spread it over that side of my face with my palm and fingers. Then I repeat on the other side. I tend to apply it to each cheek/side of my face, and then down my t-zone (forehead, nose, around my mouth, chin) paying extra attention (and sometimes extra product) to my nose and the tyrannical sebaceous filaments that rule the pores there with a gritty fist.
I like to give it a good 20 minutes to chill on my skin, although it’s not strictly necessary, because I want to extract the maximum benefit from it + it tends to loosen crud from my pores that I want to wipe away with a toner-soaked cotton pad before applying my next skincare steps.
How I was lured away from my usual BHA
So how did I end up using a product from a company that had famously dragged Korean beauty in the past? (Sadly, the page in question has now been taken down, and PC has launched several K-Beauty-inspired products since.) After trying 11 BHAs in the name of science and skincare, fellow Snailcaster Tracy of Fanserviced-b sent me a birthday box of skincare, featuring her favourite PC acids to try. As someone who manages to snapchat chemical peels after a long night of drinking and has an acids routine that makes my pores blanch, I trusted her recommendations, and I was not disappointed.
Her package also included some other interesting things, such as this BHA body exfoliant and the AHA exfoliant I’m using as a spot treatment while I’m purging breakouts. She also sent me a bottle of their fancypants Vitamin C serum so I could compare it to our mutual standby, the OST C20 Vitamin C serum, which meant she didn’t need to test it herself. Full review is pending, but spoilers: it felt gross and broke me out, and is more than 4x the price.
The good and the bad
With all the aforementioned concerns over the company’s shady behaviour, not to mention the sketchy appropriation of a study unrelated to topical skincare to support an anti-alcohol-in-skincare-stance (but I digress, and leave that tangent to cosmetic chemist Kind of Stephen‘s future post on that bit of dodginess), you might wonder why I’m favourably reviewing this product at all. Also, it’s expensive. I’m not into expensive, unless it’s packaged so beautifully I have an eyegasm every time I reach for it on my counter. So, why does it get a good review? Frankly, it’s some good sh*t.
|pH results right where they should be.|
For me, a good chemical exfoliant should be:
- In the right pH range (less than 4.2)
- The required concentration of BHA to exfoliate (2% and up)
- A stable pH that does not widely change over time
- Minimally irritating or drying
- Effective at declogging my pores and preventing new ones
- Cosmetically elegant on the skin
This hits all of those requirements. The watery texture might be a pain to apply, but it feels weightless and ultra comfortable on the skin. (If I had very dry or sensitive skin, I would stick with my old staple, the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, available on: Amazon | eBay | Jolse | Bisou Beauty Bar | KoreaDepart | RoseRoseShop.) This product might be too drying for those with very dry skin, but for oily, combination, acne-prone or clog-prone skin, this texture is a relief.
I’m also digging the fact that it’s available on Amazon for cheaper than the official website, or the same price on Prime. Here’s crossing my fingers for a black friday sale, so I can grab my next bottle.
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**Disclaimer: All products I review on my blog are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I tested & reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever. Personal gifts from friends & family will also be identified, as it was in this post. This blog contains both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog may receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself. Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.