If you’re tired of dealing with clogged pores, blackheads, breakouts, and uneven skin texture – you’ve probably come across this famous acid exfoliant.
But the good news is that some of your favorite skincare brands can help you tackle this problem.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid is one of the best-selling salicylic acid products. In the world.
In the following sections, I’ll review the chemical exfoliant in-depth and give you all the information you need to start using it effectively and safely in your skincare routine. Some of the points I cover include:
- What the product is and how to use this BHA for best results;
- How long does Paula’s Choice BHA take to work;
- How long does Paula’s Choice BHA last;
- How to layer Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant;
- Who is this product for and who should avoid it;
- Alternative products to try if this one’s not for you.
What is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid?
The Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid is a leave-on exfoliator with salicylic acid that can help take proper care of your epidermis because it can unclog pores, prevent breakouts, exfoliate dead skin cells, smooth wrinkles, and brighten and even out the skin tone.
It is suitable for all skin types, including oily, combination, dry, and normal skin.
This chemical exfoliant is also one of those products that’s very friendly to sensitive skin, too.
It’s an excellent addition to any skincare routine, as it’s so effortless to use in the morning or night.
Paula’s Choice exfoliant ingredients:
Water (Aqua), Methylpropanediol, Butylene Glycol, Salicylic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Sodium Hydroxide, Tetrasodium EDTA
The main hero in this chemical exfoliant is salicylic acid — there are no other beta hydroxy acids or alpha hydroxy acids in this formula, which contributes to the product’s gentleness.
If you have acne-prone skin, you should definitely include beta hydroxy acid in your skincare routine as it has a preventative and healing function for breakouts.
Besides, the active ingredients also include green tea extract which adds even more antioxidant and antimicrobial power to this exfoliant.
There’s also butylene glycol to help moisturize and hydrate the skin, so those of you with dry skin can rest assured that this is not overly stripping.
All in all, the active ingredients are straightforward, great for those of you who prefer a minimalistic product.
What does salicylic acid do for skin
Unlike AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), salicylic acid is a widely-used BHA (beta hydroxy acid).
Salicylic acid is a type of oil-soluble beta-hydroxy acid that can exfoliate dead skin cells and penetrate deep into the pores to unclog them from dead cells, dirt, and oils.
It is particularly effective at treating acne and blackheads since it can dissolve the debris that clogs the pores.
Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help calm redness and irritation. It is an excellent ingredient for anyone dealing with oily or acne-prone skin, and it even has some anti-aging benefits.
Salicylic acid can come in a variety of products: toners, bottles of serum, acids, moisturizers, masks, and more, but one thing remains consistent — it’s most effective in concentrations of 2%.
Of course, there are products with a lower percentage of the ingredient, but those would be great for those of you who can’t handle the effective concentration or who just need to upkeep your results.
Texture and finish of Paula’s Choice BHA liquid
This is why Paula’s Choice BHA liquid is so popular — its texture is one of the best out there!
When I first tried this exfoliant, I absolutely loved it. The Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid has a lightweight, non-greasy, liquidy texture that absorbs quickly into the skin, without leaving a greasy film on top.
It’s not sticky, it doesn’t pill, and it has no common irritants (drying alcohol, essential oils, or synthetic fragrance).
The finish is soft matte, leaving the skin feeling cared for and moisturized.
The acid applies quickly, making way for other products in your routine.
How long does Paula’s Choice BHA liquid last?
You can find this exfoliant in two different sizes: a small bottle and a large bottle.
The small bottle contains 1 fl oz or 30 ml of product, which you can stretch for anywhere between a month and two months of everyday use (once a day).
The large bottle contains 4 fl oz or 118 ml of product and can last you up to six months of daily use. If you have some backne you’d like to deal with, I suggest buying this size.
The exfoliating toner is packaged in a sleek and simple bottle with a dispenser cap, which makes it easy to apply the right amount of product without wasting any.
How to use Paula’s Choice BHA 2% Power Liquid
When it comes to using this leave-on exfoliant in a routine, a lot of questions arise.
Can you apply Paula’s Choice BHA with your hands?
Yes, you can apply the Paula’s Choice BHA 2% Power Liquid with your hands. This way you’ll prevent any waste of product. However, it is important to make sure your hands are clean before applying the liquid to avoid transferring dirt and bacteria onto your skin.
Do you wash off Paula’s Choice BHA?
No, you do not need to wash off the Paula’s Choice BHA 2% Power Liquid after applying it to your face. It is a leave-on exfoliant designed to be used after cleansing and before toning and moisturizing your face.
What’s the best way of applying Paula’s Choice BHA?
Paula’s Choice BHA 2% Power Liquid should be used after cleansing, but before applying any other treatments, moisturizer, or sunscreen. It is recommended to use it once or twice daily, depending on your skin type and tolerance towards acid-based products.
The more you’re able to use it, the faster it’ll unclog pores.
To apply the Paula’s Choice BHA 2% Power Liquid, dispense a small amount of the product onto your fingertips or a cotton pad and gently apply it to your face, avoiding the eye area. Start by applying it once a day and gradually increase it to twice a day if your skin can tolerate it.
It is important to note that a little goes a long way with this product, so don’t overdo it.
How should newbies introduce this BHA exfoliant?
So, how often should you use Paula’s Choice BHA if you’re using an exfoliating toner for the first time?
It’s best to incorporate it slowly and patch test before applying it all over your face. Previously, I’ve discussed how to patch test The Ordinary products, but the same tactics can be applied to this product as well.
To patch test, apply a small amount of the product to a small area of your face and wait 24 hours to see if you experience any adverse reactions, such as persistent redness or irritation.
If there are no negative reactions, you can gradually introduce the product into your routine.
There are no specific times that you should apply this exfoliant. Start by using it once every other day for a week — 2-3 times a week is enough to start seeing results.
Then increase it to once a day if your skin tolerates it.
Be patient, as it may take a few weeks to see the first results, and remember — always use sunscreen during the day to protect your skin from harmful sun rays.
How to layer Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid has a low pH of 3.2-3.8, which means it should be applied after cleansing, but before any other products with a higher pH.
This is because the low pH of the product allows the salicylic acid to penetrate the skin and work effectively. So if you apply another product before this one, it can diminish the effectiveness of the salicylic acid in the BHA toner.
When it comes to layering with other skincare products, it’s best to avoid using other exfoliating products simultaneously with the BHA exfoliant, as that can result in irritation and sensitivity if your skin is not used to such use.
These include chemical peels, strong AHAs like glycolic acid, retinoids (retinol, Adapalene, Tretinoin), and vitamin C.
Instead, use the BHA exfoliant in the morning or at night, and follow up with a hydrating or soothing toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen (during the day only).
Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant and purging
Some of you can experience initial purging when first using Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid. This is perfectly normal and is due to the exfoliating properties of the product, which can cause the skin to shed corneocytes (dead skin cells) more rapidly and bring impurities to the surface.
Paula’s Choice BHA purging can result in some temporary breakouts, but it’s a sign that the product is working. The pimples caused by exfoliation should dissipate after a few weeks of consistent use.
During that time, you can treat any breakouts with a 10% benzoyl peroxide wash to make the pimples go away faster.
Who is this product for
The Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid is suitable for people with all skin types, including oily skin, combination, dry, and normal skin.
It’s especially useful for those of you using other acne treatments, who suffer from enlarged pores, blackheads, and clogged pores.
Who is this product not for
While Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid is suitable for most skin types, people with very sensitive skin may find the product a bit of a challenge to use. For you, I have a good alternative listed a few sections below.
The exfoliating properties of the product can cause irritation and sensitivity, so it’s important to patch-test the product before applying it to your entire face.
Furthermore, those of you on a tight budget might find this amazing but way too expensive to purchase regularly. Scroll down for my list of effective salicylic acid products that will bring you similar results for a fraction of the cost.
Does Paula’s Choice 2% BHA live up to its claims?
Based on user reviews and personal experience, Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid does deliver on its claims.
It effectively unclogs and diminishes enlarged pores, exfoliates dead skin cells, smooths fine lines, and brightens and evens out the skin tone.
It’s gentle, non-abrasive, and can be used daily for optimal results.
However, results may vary depending on individual skin type, way of use, and other factors.
Price & availability
As I noted above, The Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid is available in two sizes – a 1 oz or 30 ml bottle and a 4 oz or 118 ml bottle.
The smaller bottle is priced at around $10-13, while the larger bottle costs about $29-35, depending on the retailer.
The product is easy to find and available for purchase on the Paula’s Choice website, as well as on major online retailers such as Amazon, Sephora, and others.
Similar products to Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
If you’re interested in trying out a product similar to Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, there are several great options out there.
I’ve chosen to highlight three products that I think will be particularly interesting because of their price and effectiveness, as well as the additional ingredients that bring extra benefits to the skin.
The first product I recommend trying is the QRxLabs 2% BHA Exfoliating Liquid. It’s available on Amazon.com and contains 2% BHA, niacinamide, and green tea extract to help regulate sebum production and reduce inflammation.
This formula is especially ideal for those with oilier skin who might prefer a product that helps control excess oil while still being effective on the pores.
It combines 2% BHA and a variety of soothing and hydrating ingredients, making it ideal for those with normal, dry, and even sensitive skin. I love this one as it’s particularly good at not drying out the skin yet not making it feel heavy or oily.
Finally, the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is another must-try alternative — for those who are too sensitive to salicylic acid, no matter the percentage.
The distinctive feature of this product is its lack of salicylic acid.
Instead, it incorporates a natural substitute — willow bark extract. Willow bark extract has salicin — the compound from which salicylic acid is derived. So, the extract has some exfoliating properties, reduces excess oil, clears pores, and helps maintain skin hydration while calming everything down.
Willow bark extract is often utilized as a substitute for salicylic acid in Korea since SA is limited to prescription-only products there. As a result, Korean cosmetics tend to be gentler compared to those found in the US market.
This product is particularly beneficial for those with highly sensitive skin unable to tolerate salicylic acid at all, and seeking an alternative solution.
Considering the price, this option offers a generous amount — two pumps are all you need for the entire face!
It can be comfortably used twice a day, and a single bottle typically lasts around 3-4 months, or even longer.
Can Paula’s Choice 2% BHA be used every day?
Yes, you can use Paula’s Choice BHA every day, but it’s important to start slowly and gradually build up the frequency to avoid any potential side effects.
If you’re still wondering how often to use Paula’s Choice BHA simply read the product instructions and make sure you give your skin enough time to adapt to the product.
How long does it take for Paula’s BHA to work?
The results of using Paula’s Choice 2% BHA can vary depending on individual skin concerns and conditions, but most users notice improvements in skin texture and clarity within a few weeks of regular use.
Does Paula’s Choice 2% BHA help with acne?
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA contains salicylic acid which has been shown to help improve acne-prone skin by exfoliating clogged pores and reducing inflammation, but results may vary depending on the severity and underlying causes of acne.
Does Paula’s Choice actually work?
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA has received positive reviews from many users and skincare experts for its ability to exfoliate and improve skin texture, but as with any skincare product, individual results may vary.
Try the travel size, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Can I use Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant with Tretinoin?
Since Tretinoin is a prescription-grade retinoid, it’s best to consult with your doctor or dermatologist when and how you can use both of these products without adverse effects.
You can also check my comparison of Paula’s Choice BHA liquid to The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2%. And I’ve also written about how to get rid of blackheads on breasts which, apparently is a common issue with people.
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